What makes the modern world work? The answer to this deceptively simple question lies in four "grand transitions" of civilization—in populations, agriculture, energy, and economics—which have transformed the way we live.
Societies that have undergone all four transitions emerge into an era of radically different population dynamics, food surpluses (and waste), abundant energy use, and expanding economic opportunities. Simultaneously, in other parts of the world, hundreds of millions remain largely untouched by these developments.
Through erudite storytelling, Vaclav Smil investigates the fascinating and complex interactions of these transitions. He argues that the moral imperative to share modernity's benefits has become more acute with increasing economic inequality, but addressing this imbalance would make it exceedingly difficult to implement the changes necessary for the long-term preservation of the environment. Thus, managing the fifth transition—environmental changes from natural-resource depletion, biodiversity loss, and global warming—will determine the success or eventual failure of the grand transitions that have made the world we live in today.
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About the Author
Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba. He is the author of forty books, including Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses and Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing, both published by the MIT Press. In 2010 he was named by Foreign Policy as one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers. In 2013 Bill Gates wrote on his website that “there is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.”
About the Narrator
Robert Fass is a veteran actor and twice winner of the prestigious Audie Award for best narration. He has earned mulltiple Earphones Awards, including one for his narration of Francisco Goldman’s Say Her Name, which was named one of AudioFile magazine’s Best Audiobooks of 2011. He has given voice to modern and classic fiction writers alike, including Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Isaac Asimov, Jeffrey Deaver, and John Steinbeck, as well as to nonfiction works in history, memoir, health, journalism, and business.