The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis
Environmental geographer Ruth DeFries, a pioneer in studying how humans have transformed earth’s surface, is author of the new book The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis. She argues that we have continually created new technologies that allow our numbers to grow. But each new invention creates a new problem—which we solve with yet another innovation that creates the next problem. Will we be able to sustain this so-far successful cycle past the great leap in technology and population of the last century? DeFries, who co-directs the Earth Institute’s undergraduate program in sustainable development, discussed this and other questions recently.