Vaclav Smil: Harvesting the biosphere: What we have taken from nature
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I promise, this sample is representative.
Harvested residues have low density, with cereal straws rating just 50–100 kg/m3 (compared to more than 500 kg/m3 for wood); uncompressed corn stover weighs just between 21 and 111 kg/m3, and sugarcane bagasse leaving the final mill averages about 120 kg/m3 p. 44.
What Smil attempts in the book is no mean task: his aim is to ‘review the entire spectrum of harvests and present the best possible quantification of past and current global removals and losses as a way to assess the evolution and extent of human claims on the biosphere’ (p. viii). In other words, he attempts to quantify—in percentages and kilograms—the effect the human population...