What You'll Learn:
The insights contained here are just a smattering of the 71 snapshots Vaclav Smil offers us in his book Numbers Don’t Lie. Each story offers an opportunity to sharpen low-resolution ideas about population, civilization, globalization, energy usage, technology, and the environment using the most reliable statistics available on the subjects. The internet is already bursting with facts and figures—most of which are misleading, outdated, outright false, or fail to offer a sense of scale, proportion, and context. Smil goes to great lengths to be objective, pulling statistics from only four kinds of primary sources: “worldwide statistics published by global organizations, yearbooks issued by national institutions, historical statistics compiled by national agencies, and papers in scientific journals.” Taken together, these figures help us better understand our world and current moment in history.