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Not the End of the World summary

Hannah Ritchie

How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet

4.5 (19 ratings)
21 mins
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    Not the End of the World
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    Urgent optimism

    What does it mean to be afraid of the future? 

    The author knows firsthand the paralyzing effects of climate anxiety. As an environmental science student, she internalized a narrative of inexorable decline on the planet. Every lecture seemed to be yet another reminder of ecological catastrophe. She became despondent and considered leaving the field altogether. 

    All that changed when the author discovered the work of Swedish statistician and physician Hans Rosling. Rosling’s work upended many popular assumptions about global development. On metric after metric, from the number of people living in poverty to the number of girls receiving education, the statistics showed an overall trajectory in global development that is remarkably positive.

    Take a moment to imagine a world where clean water is a luxury. Imagine knowing that half of your children will most likely die before reaching adulthood. Imagine a world where living past 40 makes you an elder. For most people, for most of human history, this was the norm. 

    In a shockingly brief period, global fortunes have changed course. In the last century alone, thanks to medical advances, child mortality plummeted 90 percent. Access to electricity went from a rare privilege to near-universal. Extreme poverty has rapidly declined too – from over 75 percent of all people in 1820, to under 10 percent now. And for the first time in history, humanity now produces enough food to feed everyone on earth. 

    The point? Transformative change isn’t just a possibility – it’s an undeniable reality. Daily headlines provide a distorted picture. To see the bigger trends, you need to zoom out beyond the day-to-day and take in the long view. And the way you do that is with data. 

    For the author, applying this approach to the environment has yielded a clear picture. While substantial work remains, humanity has made significant progress. Take renewable energy, for instance – twenty years ago, almost no one thought wind or solar stood a chance against fossil fuels. They were simply too expensive, it was thought. Today, renewables are the cheapest form of new electricity across most major markets. 

    If we’re to build on our current momentum, it’s imperative that we develop a new mindset – a mindset of urgent optimism. Narratives of doom typically backfire. While such fear-mongering may have positive intentions, scaring people typically leads to paralysis rather than action. Instead, we should try to inspire hope – pragmatic, realistic hope – that’s grounded in an understanding, both of what is working and where we still need to improve. 

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    What is Not the End of the World about?

    Not the End of the World (2024) argues for radical hope amid environmental crisis. Recent data show that, contrary to the usual gloom and doom, tremendous progress towards sustainability is being made. By focusing on well-defined and tractable issues, we can shift our collective behavior and avert climate disaster.

    Not the End of the World Review

    Not the End of the World by Hannah Ritchie (2021) explores the resilience of humanity in the face of global challenges. Here's why this book is a captivating read:

    • Offers a wide-ranging perspective on various global crises, from climate change to inequality, provoking thought and reflection.
    • Intertwines fascinating data with personal stories, creating a rich tapestry of human experience amidst adversity.
    • Highlights hopeful solutions and inspiring examples of individuals and communities coming together to create positive change, keeping readers engaged and motivated throughout.

    Who should read Not the End of the World?

    • People looking for signs of hope about climate change
    • Concerned citizens seeking pragmatic solutions to the climate crisis
    • Fans of science and careful research

    About the Author

    Hannah Ritchie is a Scottish data scientist and researcher at Oxford University’s Martin School. Ritchie examines issues of sustainability including climate change, energy, and public health. She also serves as Deputy Editor at the online publication Our World in Data. 

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    Not the End of the World FAQs 

    What is the main message of Not the End of the World?

    The main message of Not the End of the World is resilience in the face of environmental crises.

    How long does it take to read Not the End of the World?

    Reading Not the End of the World takes a few hours, while the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Not the End of the World a good book? Is it worth reading?

    With its insightful look at climate change impacts, Not the End of the World is a worthwhile read.

    Who is the author of Not the End of the World?

    Hannah Ritchie is the author of Not the End of the World.

    What to read after Not the End of the World?

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