Vaclav Smil

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Vaclav Smil
Vaclav Smil
Born 1943 (age 73–74)
Plzeň, Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia
Nationality Canada
Fields Environmental science, public policy studies
Institutions University of Manitoba
Alma mater Charles University in Prague
Thesis Světová a československá energetika (1969)

Václav Smil is a Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst.[1] He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus[2] in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical and public policy studies, and he had also applied these approaches to energy, food and environmental affairs of China. His name pronounced as "vah:tslahf" and "smeel".


He was born during WWII in Plzeň, at that time in the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic). He completed his graduate studies at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University in Prague and at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of the Pennsylvania State University. Following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he emigrated first to the USA in 1969 and eventually to Canada in 1972.[3]

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy)[4] and the recipient of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology in 2000.[5] He has been an invited speaker in more than 300 conferences and workshops in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, has lectured at many universities in North America, Europe and East Asia and has worked as a consultant for many US, European Union and international institutions. His wife Eva is a physician and his son David is an organic synthetic chemist.

When asked about Thomas Friedman's influential globalization book The World Is Flat, which argues that the economic playing field is being leveled in the 21st century, Smil replied:

The surface may seem to be getting flatter (the same brands, cars, e-gadgets, the world of Sony, Toyota and LG, are encountered from Seoul to Soweto). But underneath, the differences (economic but also cultural and, most distressingly, the religious ones) are actually getting greater. This is not only in People's Republic of China and India (where the proverbial tide lifts all boats, but those of the new urban class float now relatively lot higher than decades ago) but for the past generation even in the U.S. and Canada, where inequality is increasing. Think of nearly 50 million Americans living on food stamps: hard to believe how Friedman could get it so wrong.[6][7]

In 2010, he was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of FP Top 100 Global Thinkers.[8] In 2013 he was appointed by the Governor General to the Order of Canada.[9] He reads 80 books a year but does not have a cell phone. Included among Smil's admirers is Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates,[10] who has read all of Smil's 36 books.[11]

In the fall of 2013, he was the EADS Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin.



  • 2015 : Natural Gas: Fuel for the 21st Century. Wiley ISBN 9781119012863
  • 2015 : Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses The MIT Press ISBN 9780262029148
  • 2013 : Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization Wiley ISBN 978-1119942535
  • 2013 : Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing The MIT Press ISBN 978-0262019385
  • 2013 : Should We Eat Meat? Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory Wiley ISBN 978-1118278727
  • 2013 : Harvesting the Biosphere; What We Have Taken from Nature The MIT Press ISBN 978-0262018562
  • 2012 : Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts The MIT Press ISBN 978-0313381775
  • 2010 : Prime Movers of Globalization: The History and Impact of Diesel Engines and Gas Turbines The MIT Press Cambridge, 261 p. ISBN 978-0-262-01443-4
  • 2010 : Energy Myths and Realities: Bringing Science to the Energy Policy Debate The AEI Press, Washington, D.C., 212p. ISBN 978-0-8447-4328-8
  • 2010 : Energy Transitions: History, Requirements, Prospects. Praeger Santa Barabara, CA, 178 p. ISBN 978-0-313-38177-5
  • 2010 : Why America is Not a New Rome MIT Press Cambridge, 322 p. ISBN 978-0-262-19593-5[12]
  • 2008 : Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xi + 307 p. ISBN 978-0-262-19586-7
  • 2008 : Oil: A Beginner's Guide Oneworld Publications ISBN 9781851685714
  • 2008 : Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex Systems, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xi + 480 p.
  • 2006 : Energy: A Beginner's Guide Oneworld Publications ISBN 9781851684526
  • 2006 : Transforming the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations and Their Consequences, Oxford University Press, New York, x + 358 p.
  • 2005 : Creating the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations of 1867-1914 and Their Lasting Impact, Oxford University Press, New York, xv + 350 p.
  • 2004 : China’s Past, China’s Future, RoutledgeCurzon, New York et Londres, xvi + 232 p.
  • 2003 : Energy at the Crossroads Global Perspectives and Uncertainties, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xiv + 427 p.
  • 2002 : The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics and Change, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xxviii + 360 p.
  • 2001 : Enriching the Earth: Fritz Haber, Carl Bosch and the Transformation of World Food Production, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xvii + 411 p.
  • 2000 : Feeding the World: A Challenge for the 21st Century, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xxviii + 360 p.
  • 2000 : Cycles of Life: Civilization and the Biosphere, Scientific American Library, New York, x + 221 p.
  • 1998 : Energies: An Illustrated Guide to the Biosphere and Civilization, The MIT Press, Cambridge, xi + 217 p.
  • 1994 : Energy in World History, Westview Press, Boulder, xviii + 300 p.
  • 1993 : China's Environment: An Inquiry into the Limits of National Development, M. E. Sharpe, Armonk, xix + 257 p. Winner of the 1995 Joseph Levenson Book Prize.
  • 1993 : Global Ecology: Environmental Change and Social Flexibility, Routledge, London, xiii + 240 p.
  • 1991 : General Energetics: Energy in the Biosphere and Civilization, John Wiley, New York, xiii + 369 p.
  • 1988 : Energy in China's Modernization, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, xiv + 250 p.
  • 1987 : Energy Food Environment: Realities Myths Options, Oxford University Press, Oxford, ix + 361 p.
  • 1985 : Carbon Nitrogen Sulfur: Human Interference in Grand Biospheric Cycles, Plenum Press, New York, xv + 459 p.
  • 1984 : The Bad Earth: Environmental Degradation in China, M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, xvi + 245 p.
  • 1983 : Biomass Energies: Resources, Links, Constraints, Plenum Press, New York, xxi + 453 p.
  • 1982 : (in collaboration with P. Nachman and T.V. Long, II) Energy Analysis in Agriculture: An Application to U.S. Corn Production, Westview Press, Boulder, xvi + 191 p.
  • 1980 : (in collaboration with W. E. Knowland) Energy in the Developing World, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 386 p.
  • 1976 : China's Energy: Achievements, Problems, Prospects, Praeger Publishers, New York, xxi + 246 p.


  • "A Skeptic Looks at Alternative Energy," by Vaclav Smil, IEEE Spectrum, July 2012
  • Energy innovation as a process: Lessons from LNG. Master Resource: A Free-Market Energy Blog. January 11, 2010.
  • Two decades later: Nikkei and lessons from the fall. The American, December 29, 2009.
  • The Iron Age & coal-based coke: A neglected case of fossil-fuel dependence. Master Resource: A Free-Market Energy Blog. September 17, 2009.
  • U.S. energy policy: The need for radical departures. Issues in Science and Technology Summer 2009:47-50.
  • Long-range energy forecasts are no more than fairy tales. Nature 453:154; 2008.
  • Moore’s curse and the great energy delusion. The American 2(6): 34-41; 2008.
  • Water news: bad, good and virtual. American Scientist 96:399-407; 2008.
  • On meat, fish and statistics: The global food regime and animal consumption in the United States and Japan. Japan Focus, October 19, 2008. .
  • James N. Galloway, Marshall Burke, G. Eric Bradford, Rosamond Naylor, Walter Falcon, Ashok K. Chapagain, Joanne C. Gaskell, Ellen McCullough, Harold A. Mooney, Kirsten L. L. Oleson, Henning Steinfeld, Tom Wassenaar and Vaclav Smil. 2007. International trade in meat: The tip of the pork chop. Ambio 36:622-629.
  • The two prime movers of globalization: history and impact of diesel engines and gas turbines. Journal of Global History 3:373-394; 2007.
  • Global material cycles. Encyclopedia of Earth, June 2, 2007.
  • The unprecedented shift in Japan’s population: Numbers, age, and prospects. Japan Focus, May 1, 2007.
  • Light behind the fall: Japan’s electricity consumption, the environment, and economic growth. Japan Focus, April 2, 2007.
  • 21st century energy: Some sobering thoughts. OECD Observer; 2006.
  • Peak oil: A catastrophist cult and complex realities. World Watch 19: 22-24; 2006.
  • Naylor, R., Steinfeld, H., Falcon, W., Galloway, J., Smil, V., Bradford, E., Alder, J., Mooney, H. Losing the links between livestock and land. Science (journal) 310:1621-1622
  • The next 50 years: Unfolding trends. Population and Development Review 31: 605-643; 2005.
  • Feeding the world: How much more rice do we need? In: Toriyama K., Heong K.L., Hardy B., eds. Rice is life: scientific perspectives for the 21st century. Proceedings of the World Rice Research Conference held in Tokyo and Tsukuba, Japan, 4–7 November 2004. Los Baños (Philippines): International Rice Research Institute, pp. 21–23.
  • The next 50 Years: Fatal discontinuities. Population and Development Review 31: 201-236; 2005.
  • Improving efficiency and reducing waste in our food system. Environmental Sciences 1:17-26; 2004.

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