Full Name
Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities

Growth is a systematic investigation of the development of nature and society—from tiny organisms to the trajectories of empires and civilizations. It examines a wide variety of topics: from bacterial invasions through animal metabolisms to mega cities and the global economy. Beginning with organisms whose mature sizes range from microscopic to enormous, Growth also covers human growth from infancy to adulthood. This book also explores the growth of energy conversions and man-made objects that enable economic activities―developments that have been essential to civilization. Ultimately, Growth looks at growth in complex systems, beginning with the growth of human populations and proceeding to the growth of cities.

"An epic, multidisciplinary analysis of growth."


"Smil, whose research spans energy, population and environmental change, drives home the cost of growth on a finite planet. It is high: polluted land, air and water, lost wilderness and rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.... growth urges us to think differently. That is desperately needed to manage the trade-offs in making renewables more efficient, improving economic incentives for fast adoption, minimizing environmental degradation and bettering lives in a swelling population."


"Growth, whether biological, social or economic, may be normal, [Smil] says, but the exponential Growth in economies and lifestyles we have seen in recent decades isn't, and can't continue without disastrous consequences."

New Scientist

"Growth is filled with numbers, graphs and mathematical notation. Yet it's written to be easily understood by non-mathematicians, making brilliant but accessible use of statistics to illustrate salient features of Growth in all its terrestrial forms (the book's scope is limited to Earth). In short, Growth is a compelling read."

Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses

"A somewhat eccentric but really rather compelling read. The subtitle indicates its ambition. We do literally go from the growth dynamics of archaea and bacteria all the way to empires.... The joy of this book is less in the big picture than in the detail. And what a lot of it! The mind boggles at Smil's extensive reading and absorption of information. We get the speed at which marathons are run – over the entire course of human history; the growth rates of piglets and weight of chickens over time; sales of small non-industrial motors over time; the envelope for the maximum speed of travel; Kuznets cycles; Zipf's law for city size.... The middle section of chapters offer a fantastic overview of technical progress over long periods in a wide range of technologies. I love all this detail."

Diane Coyle, The Enlightened Economist

"A rich and unique work from one of the leading interdisciplinary minds in the world today.... An outstanding reference guide for growth in its many forms, I don't hesitate to say that growth should find its way onto the bookshelves of everybody interested in understanding the complexity of growth and how it affects the urban landscape."

Spacing Vancouver

"In his new book, Growth ― a dense, 500-page treatise that covers everything from 'microorganisms to megacities,'... Smil makes perhaps an even-more-off-putting proposition: that in order to 'ensure the habitability of the biosphere,' we must at the very least move away from prioritizing Growth and perhaps abandon it entirely."

New York Magazine