Get Your Free Audiobook

  • How the World Really Works

  • How Science Can Set Us Straight on Our Past, Present and Future
  • Written by: Vaclav Smil
  • Narrated by: Stephen Perring
  • Length: 10 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (34 ratings)

1 credit a month to use on any title to download and keep
Listen to anything from the Plus Catalogue—thousands of Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks
Download titles to your library and listen offline
₹199 per month after 30-day trial. Cancel anytime.
How the World Really Works cover art

How the World Really Works

Written by: Vaclav Smil
Narrated by: Stephen Perring
Free with 30-day trial

₹199 per month after 30-day trial. Cancel anytime.

Buy Now for ₹888.00

Buy Now for ₹888.00

Pay using card ending in
By confirming your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and Amazon's Privacy Notice.

Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

We have never had so much information at our fingertips, and yet most of us simply don't understand how our world really works. Professor Vaclav Smil is not a pessimist or an optimist, he is a scientist, and this book is a much-needed reality check on topics ranging from food production and nutrition, through energy and the environment, to globalisation and the future. For example, the carbon footprint of meat is well known, but did you know that the equivalent of five tablespoons of diesel fuel goes into the production of each greenhouse-grown, medium-size, supermarket-bought tomato? The gap between belief and reality is vast. 

Drawing on the latest science, tackling sources of misinformation head-on and championing a rational, fact-based approach, in How the World Really Works Smil shows, for example, why the planet isn't 'suffocating' (even burning all the planet's fossil fuels would reduce oxygen levels by just 0.25 per cent) and that globalisation isn't 'inevitable' and nor should it be (the stupidity of allowing 70 per cent of the world's rubber gloves to be made in just one factory became glaringly obvious in 2020). 

Ultimately, Smil answers the most profound question of our age: are we irrevocably doomed, or is a brighter utopia ahead? Compelling, data-rich and revisionist, this wonderfully broad, interdisciplinary masterpiece finds faults with both extremes. Looking at the world through this quantitative lens reveals hidden truths that change the way we see our past, present and uncertain future.

©2021 Vaclav Smil (P)2021 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about How the World Really Works

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    16
  • 4 Stars
    14
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    1
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    11
  • 4 Stars
    8
  • 3 Stars
    2
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    11
  • 4 Stars
    7
  • 3 Stars
    3
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

The author has a very narrow lens to see world

It seems the author is in over confidence mode after the first successful book, he has a very narrow lens to see the world .
only from the 19th century to the 20th century.
For example the author dismisses that the end of oil is just a false claim by scientists based on 19th century predictions because oil is not ended now.
But author miss points that we need to look future and prepare for it, what if our kids will not have oil and what can happen to future.It seems author only interested in present.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good view points presented

A good take on the topic. Only issue is that there is a lot of data that gets mentioned.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
Profile image for ultrunner
  • ultrunner
  • 23-02-22

Tedious

This book is a good primer for aliens visiting planet Earth for the first time. Humans who have been living here for the last few decades and have been paying reasonable attention to what's going on will find the workings described here less revealing.

The first two chapters on energy and food production are interesting. The following chapters get increasingly tedious, as they are largely a rehash of known facts. A good sprinkling of numbers from statistical yearbooks helps the reader maintain some interest. But don't expect to find anything new here, if you've been keeping up with science and non-fiction literature in the past.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Martin
  • Martin
  • 07-07-22

Grounded in physical realities, yet accessible

Highly recommended. For once a book on energy and climate that is grounded in the reality of how agriculture, construction and other human activities are really conducted and what these processes require at physical level.

Smil clearly says Earth is warming, which to him is very old news. At the same time, he shows how woefully uninformed many vocal activists and politicians are.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile image for andrew
  • andrew
  • 15-06-22

Great but too many numbers

It's an enjoyable look at the world but for an audio book there are too many numbers given in succession for one example or case. It makes it difficult to grasp the comparisons. You know, there are examples in two orders of magnitude more numerous than in other books. Also, in some cases, the examples are not illustrative to a regular person. You know, the number of words in this audio book is two point seven to the power of six, which is one point seven times more than in other audio books while a regular listener consumes about 5 hours of audio content per week.
It may work in print version, or at least it's easier to ignore or skip, but in audio version it's just too much. Other than that, a great book and food for thought!

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Ironicist
  • Ironicist
  • 09-05-22

Nothing new, really tedious

Oil is used in everything, ok? just saved you the need to buy this book.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Paul O'Sullivan
  • Paul O'Sullivan
  • 25-08-22

Data-led Observation with a healthy dose of reality.

An neutral approach to quantifying the world we live in and the materials we rely on everyday. Neither pro-cornucopian or fatalistic, but a stark reality check.

It would be fantastic if world leaders dictating our future had even the slightest grasp on this data before composing their rallying-cry’s and furling polarisation.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile image for wamco
  • wamco
  • 28-05-22

Hope I never get this cynical

Interesting data based analysis of foundational principles of human existence but increasingly difficult to listen to due to poor understanding and cynical treatment of emerging technologies, particularly AI. Despite the authors claims of not making predictions about the future due to the vast array of possible outcomes making it impossible, he makes increasingly bold prophecies, especially about the near pointlessness of some technological pursuits in the face of fundamental resource and environmental imperatives - a self contradictory position reminiscent of the perfunctory judgement of everyone's 'favourite uncle'. The basic message is don't be dazzled by visions of a better technology enabled future, it's all about Amonia, Concrete, Steel and Plastic - perhaps but and he does not seem to understand the purpose of computer modelling as a means of rapidly exploring multiple future scenarios, constraints and opportunities - pointless bunk apparently.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile image for P. Amery
  • P. Amery
  • 25-09-22

brilliant book

worth a very close listen. Smil debunks all the guff that we read and hear on energy, the climate and human progress

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Mr. Mark Hanson
  • Mr. Mark Hanson
  • 29-08-22

Slightly depressing take on the world.

I can never understand whether Smil is optimistic or pessimistic about our future.
though he loves debunking some silly ideas so maybe we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile image for d s
  • d s
  • 27-05-22

Disappointed

Surprisingly dull, repetitive and unscientific.
Each chapter could have been one quarter of the length.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Anonymous User
  • Anonymous User
  • 27-11-22

A balanced account of where we stand

If you want a balanced account that takes a non-religious view of climate and the future of the world given where we stand now on our reliance upon fossil fuels, this is your book.

Also, I really appreciate the way the author addresses poor nations rights to using their own natural resources to improve their situation, something largely ignored by most of academia.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Callum Keating
  • Callum Keating
  • 17-11-22

Great book lots of figures

Great book for grounding yourself with realistic expectations for the future and climate change as a whole, sometimes in this book it does feel like you are looking through a figure sheet, but overall great.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Rafael Bautista
  • Rafael Bautista
  • 18-02-22

Numbers!

It’s a very interesting take of how the world is and what it really takes to save it. A must read for everyone, especially policy makers.

Although the performance was great, a fair bit of numerical figures are presented in this so it’s not easy to appreciate the gravity of the message just through audio. A book may have been a better medium for me.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
Profile image for Marc Fearby
  • Marc Fearby
  • 27-08-22

Mind-numbingly boring

If you like listening to statistics being rattled off ad nauseam to lend weight to whatever point is being made, then this audiobook is for you. I regret wasting a credit on it.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
Profile image for billy
  • billy
  • 27-02-22

good information but very very dull

unbelievably dull to listen to has lots of good information but will put U to sleep as presentation is just so boring