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Publisher's Summary

Growth has been both an unspoken and an explicit aim of our individual and collective striving. It governs the lives of microorganisms and galaxies; it shapes the capabilities of our extraordinarily large brains and the fortunes of our economies. Growth is manifested in annual increments of continental crust, a rising gross domestic product, a child's growth chart, the spread of cancerous cells. In this magisterial book, Vaclav Smil offers systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations.

Smil takes listeners from bacterial invasions through animal metabolisms to megacities and the global economy. He begins with organisms whose mature sizes range from microscopic to enormous, looking at disease-causing microbes, the cultivation of staple crops, and human growth from infancy to adulthood. He examines the growth of energy conversions and man-made objects that enable economic activities - developments that have been essential to civilization. Finally, he looks at growth in complex systems, beginning with the growth of human populations and proceeding to the growth of cities.

©2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (P)2020 Gildan Media

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  • Sebastian
  • 22-04-2020

PDF should come with this book...

Great book BUT where is the pdf for all the charts and numbers mentioned? (which is the key info to understanding the context)

Please improve this!

20 people found this helpful

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  • Simon Y.
  • 11-06-2020

Needs PDF for figures

Quite tough, narrator sounds like a computer. He refers to figures but PDF is not available. This would greatly increase its value

10 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-01-2021

Not for an ordinary/lay reader!!!

This book is 100% for academics. It is a continuous, monotonous, never-ending recital of economic and statistical formulae that cannot be of interest to any ordinary listener. Even for an academic, there are so many formulae and statistics rattled off that it's impossible to absorb 99% of it. If the subject of the book and the review interests you, buy the hard copy. Don't, under any circumstances by the audio!

3 people found this helpful

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  • AnnieDH
  • 03-05-2020

Unmatched detail and analysis

Growth covers such a broad subject matter to make the book have something for everyone interested in how the world works. Chapters on society, economics and the future were most meaningful to me.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 26-03-2021

Informative and somewhat frightening

At times felt like an overload of information and stats but ultimately I enjoyed how it paints the picture of the danger of our unconstrained consumption and growth on the planet and to ourselves as a species.

1 person found this helpful

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  • 16-11-2020

Excellent book; condescending narrator

Enlightening, data-rich book with excellent foundations in engineering and history, like Smil's other works.
Must read for those in the arts and social studies (especially economics).
Only negative is the Narrator; he oozes condescension and detracts from the book.

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  • Armin Lalui
  • 18-10-2020

fascinating

it's long so I listened at 1.5 speed but still took a long time to get through. important insights into growth of everything and implications for how we think about out future

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  • gary c.
  • 25-04-2020

Need accustomizing

Narration seems to progress in staccato fashion. I listen at x1. 3 to try to smooth over the minute pauses

1 person found this helpful

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  • Olawale J. Ogundana
  • 29-07-2021

Didn't bring all topics together effectively

The book is quite informative about the mechanisms for growth of different organisms and technologies. However, it didn't do a good enough job of linking the disparate subjects to the conclusion. For example, I don't see the connection between the historical growth in the power of turbines or in the length of suspension bridges and the growth in world population or world gross domestic product.

It also breezes through the growth mechanisms of several systems in ways that only those with prior knowledge of those fields would follow. The issue is that so many topics were discussed, very few readers can be familiar with all of them.

Since I wasn't planning to read a textbook or technical paper, I didn't need the literature reviews in the book.

Prior reviewers complained about the accompanying pdf file not being available. I was therefore surprised that it still wasn't available while I was listening. The book also referred to the death toll from a pandemic in Hamilton, Ontario in 2018. I believe the author meant 1918. These lapses should be corrected.

I suggest more significant breaks between chapters, so the listener knows she is moving to the next chapter. Stating "Chapter X" at the beginning of each chapter is one way to do this.

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  • Tim Montgomery
  • 16-08-2020

Infinite growth is not sustainable!

Connecting the dots from virtually all areas of reference... Vaclav makes the point clear for all who want to understand: progress cannot continue forever without serious impact on the biosphere.

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  • coz
  • 04-12-2020

challenging!

I stuck it out all the way to the end! I didn't think I would during the first section on different graphs and growth patterns but it gets much better when you get into the meat of the book. it does have A LOT of figures in it...most of which washed over me a bit, particularly as I usually listen in my car. there were lots of interesting themes and nuggets to take away-plus some useful words if I ever go on Pointless (concatenation is a goodie, I'm not telling you the rest just in case you happen to be on it too!). the chapters at the end looking at complex things like economies, population and civilisations and the "what comes after growth" were probably the most interesting, a reward for the other 20ish hours of listening!

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  • farren
  • 17-04-2021

too much going off

please don't purchase on audible...great book but too many facts to grasp...then reading from a book

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