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Illustrated portrait of Hannah Ritchie Lauren Tamaki for Vox

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Hannah Ritchie fights climate doomerism with facts

Ritchie believes we can be the first generation to build a sustainable world.

Rachel DuRose is a Future Perfect fellow, covering climate change, housing, mental health, and more. Rachel previously wrote about the workplace, hiring, and executive leadership for Business Insider.

In many ways, 2023 has been a record-breaking year. Since January, the world experienced the hottest day on record, the continent of Africa faced its deadliest flood in over a century, and Canada withstood its most destructive wildfire season ever.

This series of tragic headlines paints a dire picture. Yet, a wholly pessimistic view of the future of the planet is incomplete. Alongside these devastating stories are ones of hope: Solar and wind power prices have plunged, deforestation rates have slowed, and natural disaster-related deaths are lower than they used to be.

For these reasons, and because we can’t afford to let Earth be a lost cause, Hannah Ritchie, the deputy editor and science outreach lead at Our World in Data, believes there’s reason for optimism.

In her debut book, Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet, which will be published in early 2024, Ritchie aims to dispel defeatist worldviews and energize people in the fight against climate change. Ritchie, a Vox contributor, does so by proposing research- and data-based solutions to solve climate change, air pollution, biodiversity loss, and more.

“It often feels like our environmental challenges are insurmountable — for many years I felt a deep anxiety about where these trends would take us,” Ritchie told the Bookseller magazine in 2022. “But if we zoom out and look at the data, we can see the massive strides we have already made. In this book, I want to show not only where we’ve come from, but lay out a vision of how we build a sustainable world for this generation and those that follow.”

Until the book comes out, you can peruse how Ritchie masterfully showcases data trends at Our World in Data. Ritchie — who has an undergraduate degree in environmental geoscience, a master’s degree in carbon management, and a doctorate in geoscience — focuses on food supplies, agriculture, energy, the environment, and their compatibility with global development. She also helped launch the organization’s coverage of animal welfare.

A sustainable world will likely rely on sustainable energy, and according to Ritchie, it’s the technology of the last two decades that will help us build that world. Becoming the first sustainable generation entails making low-carbon technologies, like wind turbines and solar panels, more affordable and more efficient than their alternatives, Ritchie said in an April TED Talk. The world is beginning to make these changes, according to Our World in Data, with solar and wind energy adoption on the rise.

But “none of this is inevitable,” Ritchie cautioned in her talk. “It’s not even inevitable that we’d have this opportunity in the first place. We’re only here because of the relentless work of environmentalists, activists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, communicators, determined to make the world a better place. They have brought us here, and we need to take that forward.”

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