Pessimism and fatalism do not make good long-term stock market investors. I have always believed that to remain present on the stock market in all circumstances, you have to be a hardened optimist. Only the optimist will be able to weather crises such as those of 2008–2009 or the pandemic at the start of 2020.

To do this, we must be wary of headlines and social networks, which serve us sensational, if not false, news. Instead, we must rely on the data. In this sense, I particularly appreciated the book Factfulness, by Hans Roslin, which clearly demonstrates all the progress we have made over the last decades on social, economic, and environmental levels.

However, I was lucky enough recently to come across the book Not the End of the World, by Hannah Ritchie, to which I gave a five-star rating (*****). A disciple of Roslin, Ritchie wrote a book based on data, facts, to give us a better reading of the situation and the evolution of the health of our planet. Ritchie is a data scientist and senior researcher at Oxford University and an associate editor at the online publication Our World in Data.

In her book, Ritchie addresses seven major areas of the environment: air pollution, climate change, deforestation, food, loss of biodiversity, plastics in the oceans and overfishing. It thus intends to show us, for each sphere, how we got to where we are today and what are the best tools to solve each problem.

Let’s briefly look at four of these topics.

Climate change

Still according to Ritchie, “The time for debating whether climate change is or isn’t happening is over. We need to move past it to the question of what we’re going to do about it.” The peak of emissions per capita is already behind us. Here again, technologies for producing electricity from wind and solar sources, without CO2 emissions, are less expensive today than those using fossil fuels. Furthermore, these technologies will continue to improve over the coming years while this will probably not be the case for fossil sources. And here again, electric cars which already promote a reduction in CO2 emissions will continue to improve, both in terms of efficiency and costs. Furthermore, to have a significant impact on the climate, the author recommends reducing (not eliminating) our consumption of beef and dairy products. According to her, these technologies and certain changes in our habits should allow the planet to reach the peak of its CO2 emissions during the 2020 decade.

Air pollution

​​​​​​According to Ritchie, “In fact, in many parts of the world, the air we breathe is the cleanest it has been for thousands of years.” To continue to improve the quality of the air we breathe, we will have to continue to burn less and less fossil fuels. The technology for producing electricity from wind and solar sources is increasingly efficient and competitive compared to fossil sources. Less developed countries in the world will be able to switch directly to energy from renewable sources. Nuclear energy will also have to take over from fossil fuels. The same observation applies to electric cars which are increasingly competitive with combustion cars.


Despite worrying headlines about Amazon forests, deforestation rates peaked in the late 1990s and have continued to decline since. That said, according to Ritchie, as of 2018, the land surface of our planet is 38% covered by forests, while 46% is used for agriculture and livestock. Ten thousand years ago, around the time agriculture began, 57% of the earth’s surface was forest and 42% covered by grasses and shrubs. Although deforestation rates remain too high, particularly in tropical countries (where 95% of deforestation occurs), overall deforestation rates began to decline a few decades ago. Better farming methods in developed countries allow less arable land to be used for equivalent production. The use of these technologies in tropical countries would greatly contribute to reducing deforestation there. Another relatively easy way to reduce deforestation is to reduce our consumption of beef, its breeding requiring (along with sheep) the largest area of arable land of all meats.


Unfortunately, hunger and famines still exist, but according to Ritchie, they are caused by political and social problems. “The limits to us feeding everyone are entirely self-imposed.”Modern techniques, including the use of synthetic fertilizers and improved crop species, allow us to produce more food than some eight billion or more humans need to survive. “The world produces 3 billion tonnes of cereals every year. Less than half of this goes towards human food; 41% is fed to livestock, and 11% is used for industrial uses, like biofuels.”

As Hannah Ritchie writes, many of the solutions to each of these big problems will be used to solve the other problems. For example, increased electricity production from green sources would reduce both air pollution and CO2 emissions. Another example: reducing our beef consumption would both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to reforestation.

Of course, there is a long way to go! There is still much work to be done to resolve the various environmental challenges that threaten our planet. But this book gives us confidence in a sustainable future. Thanks to these efforts, our generation could very well be the one to solve our planet’s environmental problems sustainably.



Philippe Le Blanc’s Blog is published in