Not long ago, the future seemed predictable. Now, certainty about the course of civilization has given way to fear and doubt. Raging fires, ravaging storms, political upheavals, financial collapse, and deadly pandemics lie ahead—or are already here. The world feels less comprehensible and more dangerous, and no one, from individuals to businesses and governments, knows how to navigate the path forward.
Ruth DeFries argues that a surprising set of time-tested strategies from the natural world can help humanity weather these crises. Through trial and error over the eons, life has evolved astonishing and counterintuitive tricks in order to survive. DeFries details how a handful of fundamental strategies—investments in diversity, redundancy over efficiency, self-correcting feedbacks, and decisions based on bottom-up knowledge—enable life to persist through unpredictable, sudden shocks. Exploring the lessons that life on Earth can teach us about coping with complexity, What Would Nature Do? offers timely options for civilization to reorganize for a safe and prosperous future.
Endorsements for What Would Nature Do? A Guide for Uncertain Times
"DeFries is an excellent writer, using elegant storytelling to offer a hopeful delineation of pathways to a sustainable future. She builds on evolutionary history, the theory of complex adaptive systems, and examples of the emergence of cooperation in biological systems, including human societies—distilling a complex topic for a broad audience."- Simon A. Levin, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
"Our world has become more interconnected yet less diverse, increasing our vulnerability to the unforeseen. To defend against catastrophe, Ruth DeFries says we must capture the lessons of evolution: how nature and humans have coped with the messy challenges they have faced over millennia. In What Would Nature Do?, she connects the dots with beautiful writing and rigorous research that will make you smile and say, “aha.”"- Len Baker, Partner, Sutter Hill Ventures