Found via Simoleon Sense.
The most-published and least-known thinker in Canada doesn’t want to be interviewed. He says he has 77 deadlines to meet (perhaps an exaggeration, but probably not) before he flies off to a scientific conference in Europe. Besides, he thinks media interviews are pointless. He detests our sound-bite culture, which shrinks enormously important and complex subjects into meaningless bits of info-kibble. “All I want is to be left alone to write my books,” he insists.
That may be one reason why hardly anyone in Canada has heard of Vaclav Smil. But Bill Gates has. He believes Prof. Smil is one of the smartest guys around today. He plugs several of Prof. Smil’s recent books on his website, and says that he has “opened my eyes to new ways to think about solving our energy and environmental issues.”
Prof. Smil, born and educated in the former Czechoslovakia, has the kind of hard-headed skepticism you often find in Eastern Europeans. He and his wife, Eva, landed in the United States in 1969. But Canada was more congenial, so they settled here in 1971. As someone who was rigorously schooled in all the sciences, he regrets people’s widespread ignorance of science, technology and basic economics. As he told energy writer Robert Bryce, “Without any physical, chemical, and biological fundamentals, and with equally poor understanding of basic economic forces, it is no wonder that people will believe anything.”
Prof. Smil’s 24th book, Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years, has just been published in Canada. It offers a numbers-heavy but compact guide to all the main things we should be worrying about (or not), from natural disasters to population trends. Although he deliberately stays away from predictions, he concludes from the evidence that climate change is nowhere near the top of the list. What is? A genuine flu pandemic, which, he says, is a 100 per cent certainty. What we can’t predict is how bad it will be. Prof. Smil is no alarmist, but he warns that even a least-worst-case epidemic “would pose challenges unseen in most countries for generations.”
Bill Gates has read it, and says it’s great.
Related book: Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years