The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change

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9780262194723: The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change

Received Honorable Mention in the category of Geography and Earth Science in the 2002 Professional/Scholarly Publishing Annual Awards Competition presented by the Association of American Publishers, Inc.

In his latest book, Vaclav Smil tells the story of the Earth's biosphere from its origins to its near- and long-term future. He explains the workings of its parts and what is known about their interactions. With essay-like flair, he examines the biosphere's physics, chemistry, biology, geology, oceanography, energy, climatology, and ecology, as well as the changes caused by human activity. He provides both the basics of the story and surprising asides illustrating critical but often neglected aspects of biospheric complexity.

Smil begins with a history of the modern idea of the biosphere, focusing on the development of the concept by Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky. He explores the probability of life elsewhere in the universe, life's evolution and metabolism, and the biosphere's extent, mass, productivity, and grand-scale organization. Smil offers fresh approaches to such well-known phenomena as solar radiation and plate tectonics and introduces lesser-known topics such as the quarter-power scaling of animal and plant metabolism across body sizes and metabolic pathways. He also examines two sets of fundamental relationships that have profoundly influenced the evolution of life and the persistence of the biosphere: symbiosis and the role of life's complexity as a determinant of biomass productivity and resilience. And he voices concern about the future course of human-caused global environmental change, which could compromise the biosphere's integrity and threaten the survival of modern civilization.

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About the Author:

Vaclav Smil is Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba and the author of many books, including Energy at the Crossroads: Global Perspectives and Uncertainties (2005), Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems (2007), Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years (2008), and Why America Is Not a New Rome (2010), all published by the MIT Press. He was awarded the 2007 Olivia Schieffelin Nordberg Award for excellence in writing and editing in the population sciences.

Review:

"A lovely book, in both content and execution."
Mitchell K. Hobish, Science Books & Films

"The breadth of discussion is remarkable...The Earth's Biosphere is unconventional."
M. Cowell, Annals of the Association of American Geographers

"... written by an author who does not allow facts to be obscured or overshadowed by politics."
The New York Review of Books

"A superior, comprehensive survey."
Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"Finally we have an accessible, highly integrated account of the environment: wise rather than clever, responsible rather than glib, comprehensive rather than confused, comprehensible rather than new. Smil's unique biospheric narrative, devoid of hype and patriotism, transcends academic apartheid. This immensely learned story of the past history and current state of the third planet is destined to become required reading for anyone who seeks the environmental context for human activity."
Lynn Margulis, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and recipient of the National Medal of Science

"This extremely comprehensive book is more than an encyclopedia. It presents integrative, selective, and good quality information with a point of view informed by up-to-date sources and spanning a dazzling array of fields. I doubt anyone other than Vaclav Smil could have produced such a work."
Martin Hoffert, Professor of Physics, New York University

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Smil, Vaclav
Published by The MIT Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 0262194724 ISBN 13: 9780262194723
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