SCIENCES

Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation To Build a Sustainable Planet

Little, Brown Jan. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780316536752. $30. SCI
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This energetic book argues that while humanity has significantly altered the natural world, surrendering to despair about that fact is not only counterproductive but unrealistic. Ritchie (senior researcher, Programme for Global Development, Univ. of Oxford) demonstrates that although it’s hard to escape grief about climate change and the despoiling of the Earth, over-generalizing can miss certain subtle but still significant efforts toward stopping and reversing human-caused environmental disasters. For example, she unpacks the dataset showing the near-extinction of black rhinos in eastern and southern Africa, and argues that the dominant narrative ignores that one of the two black rhino populations is showing significant growth. Ritchie takes great care to be informative about the specifics of human environmental impacts but discourages consuming narrowly defined statistics as absolute truth. She does not, however, let society off the hook; her book makes clear that it’s up to humanity to repair and improve its relationship with the natural world.
VERDICT Ritchie expertly coaxes readers out of the pit of despair and into a metaphorical lab that’s bright, working, and committed to ecological problem-solving.
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