“In Harvesting the Biosphere, Smil gives as clear and as numeric a picture as is possible of how humans have altered the biosphere. The book is a bit dry and I had to look up a number of terms that were unfamiliar to me, but it tells a critical story.
“Smil starts with a big question: How much life is there in the biosphere? By “biosphere,” he means everywhere on earth where there are living things: in the air, on the ground, and in the oceans. I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about measurement this year, and I was very impressed with how rigorously he thinks about this problem. Ultimately he concludes that the dry mass of all living things on Earth is about 1.6 trillion metric tons. (Because living things contain different amounts of water, Smil makes these calculations using dry mass, which leaves out the water.)
There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil.
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