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Book Review #68

‘Growth must end’, says Vaclav Smil whose book entitled,Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities‘, that you can buy here, is an evaluation of growth-and the message that growth must stop.

Growth is the ultimate book on the growth of the world, humanity, and everything within by the interdisciplinary genius. The book is for every urbanist, every economist, every biologist and anyone interested in reading a perfectly rich history of the growth of the world, and a unique message to stop it.

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities is a comprehensive book and Vaclav Smil offers a methodical examination of growth in everything. He talks about nature, civilization, micro-organisms, leading to trajectories of empires, societies and urban development. The book will take you on a journey from microorganisms to megacities, from the start of civilization to urbanization, and from past to future.

Smil brings it all in one book – a rich study of 200,000 words, from the growth of life, organisms, vertebrates, and humans to the growth of the world, agriculture, construction, GDP and population.

The book is divided into six chapters:

  • Trajectories: or common patterns of growth
  • Nature: or growth of living matter
  • Energies: or growth of primary and secondary converters
  • Artifacts: or growth of man-made objects and their performance
  • Populations, Societies, Economies: or growth of the most complex assemblies
  • What Comes After Growth: or demise and continuity?

As you can see in the list of chapters, the book follows a normal flow starting from nature and building to populations. Each chapter is full of rich data, and Smil interconnects everything throughout the book.

  • Trajectories: or common patterns of growth

In ‘Trajectories’, he deliberates the basic patterns of growth. The information is methodological but Smil has made it digestible with graphs and imagery. The focus stays in the standard measures of growth when they are used as well as their historical contexts.

The methodological part stays in this chapter only, and the next chapters refer to the information in ‘Trajectories.’ From here, the book glides in a well-structured manner.

  • Nature: or growth of living matter

In ‘Nature,’ Smil talks you through the beginning of the growth including microbes and trees. He talks about the developments in agriculture and animal husbandry. The advancement in agriculture and plantation then has a direct impact on the formation of cities, populations and growth patterns.

As humans started progressing, the focus shifted to finding means for transforming one type of energy into another. This had a huge impact on human development. This progress helped in shaping the past, present, and future of the human environment.

  • Energies: or growth of primary and secondary converters

This progresses in the third chapter. Here, we look at the various methods of growth. These included innovative systems of combining water and wind energies, utilizing new sources of energy like steam and ignition.

Then came the electric lights, electric motors, photovoltaic cells, and nuclear reactors. With the development of each technology, human growth expanded around the world.

  • Artifacts: or growth of man-made objects and their performance

In this chapter, Smil does a deep analysis of the developments of man-made objects. He introduces patterns of infrastructure, architecture, and transportation.

  • Populations, Societies, Economies: or growth of the most complex assemblies

Smil now talks about populations and discusses demographic transitions. He also talks about food production, sources of energy and economic growth. The sections in this chapter lead to megacities. This is one of the most important chapters in the book.

  • What Comes After Growth: or demise and continuity?

Another interesting topic-what comes after the book-serves as a strong conclusion to the previous chapters in the book. The chapter starts with describing how the future forecasts of growth, the curves and trajectories had common errors.

Talking about the future of everything, in this final chapter, Smil revisits the previous chapters. He tackles each topic from a futuristic viewpoint and tries to determine which categories will continue and which will crumble in the future.

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities is an extraordinary and rare book. The inter-disciplinary interrogation of growth is matchless in its magnitude. Smil provides the right amount of technical analytics as it is necessary to provide all the information and evidence to cross-examine growth. The rest of the book is a specimen of his articulate, straightforward manner. It diminishes the technicality to provide an eloquent reading experience.

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities is not just a book written with immense effort and massive research. This is the ultimate book for growth and readers of multi-disciplinary interests can benefit from it. It makes it possible for people to comprehend the complex concepts of growth from a historical and urban perspective.

Reviewed by;

Tonny Rutakirwa,

Chairman,

Tonniez Group Holdings,

Serving since 28th December 2008.

Entrepreneur

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