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Vaclav  Smil

Vaclav Smil

Renowned Expert on Energy, Environment, Food & Technical Advances


Professor Vaclav Smil is regarded as being among the most important thought leaders of our time. One of Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2010, Smil has spent his career exploring new ground in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment and public policy. Read More >

Publishing 35 books and over 400 papers, many of which Bill Gates mentions in his blog and has recommended to audiences for many years, Smil has revolutionized the way the world thinks about its future energy and food needs. In addition to his published research, he has also worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions.

Smil believes it is his duty to bring hard numbers and hard facts to public debates on energy, environmental changes and feeding the world, using them to moderate exaggerated expectations of rapid innovative solutions. An expert on a vast number of global issues, one of Smil’s major concerns has been the history of technical innovation and the speed of energy transitions. In his fascinating work, Smli points out that the modern energy industry constitutes the world’s most massive, most indispensable, most expensive and most inertial infrastructure.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Vaclav Smil is the range of his expertise. In 2013 alone, he published four new books on a wide array of global issues. Harvesting the Biosphere looks at the extent in which we exploit the world’s resources for food and raw materials. Should We Eat Meat? provides a systematic look at the evolution of human carnivorism and modern meat production. Made in the USA: The Rise and Retreat of American Manufacturing explains how manufacturing made the U.S. a superpower and how that achievement is threatened by that sector’s serious weakening. Finally, Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization focuses on material foundations of modern civilization and on more efficient uses of materials.

Smil’s newest release is Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities, where he offers systematic investigation of growth in nature and society, from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations. Smil takes readers from bacterial invasions through animal metabolisms to megacities and the global economy. 

Engaging and energetic, Vaclav Smil has taken his messages to hundreds of conferences and workshops around the world. This interdisciplinary scholar leads audiences step-by-step through some of the most important issues facing our rapidly changing world. Wishful thinking, Smil believes, is no substitute for recognizing the extraordinary challenges posed by our future energy and food needs and by the necessity to maintain a habitable biosphere. Tirelessly providing the most cutting-edge information on these challenges, Vaclav Smil remains one of worlds the greatest guides to a better future. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities

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. Read More >

Smil examines the growth of energy conversions and man-made objects that enable economic activities―developments that have been essential to civilization and looks at growth in complex systems, beginning with the growth of human populations and proceeding to the growth of cities. He considers the challenges of tracing the growth of empires and civilizations, explaining that we can chart the growth of organisms across individual and evolutionary time, but that the progress of societies and economies, not so linear, encompasses both decline and renewal. Read Less ^

Energy: Energy Transitions; Global Energy Outlook; Energy Demand and Technical Advances

Environment: Global Environmental Change; Environmental Risks; Harvesting the Biosphere

Food: Feeding the World; Future of Meat Consumption

Technical Innovation: History of Engineering Progress; Energy Innovations

Current Affairs: Population Growth; Manufacturing and National Prospects