The Big Ratchet Download Ý 102

The Big Ratchet

Read & download The Big Ratchet

MacArthur fellow and Columbia University professor Ruth DeFries argues that the debate is the wrong one to have Limits do exist but every limit that has confronted us we have surpassed That cycle of crisis and growth is the story of our history; indeed it is the essence of The Big Ratchet Understanding it will reveal not just how we reached this point in our history but how we might survive Wonderful book if you want to learn about the interaction between human ingenuity and the natural world from planetary habitability to handling agricultural pests I appreciated that DeFries makes sure to discuss what implications these advances have had on justice how crop yields and certain life enhancing techniues have been ineuitably distributed in society Men on the Edge exist but Nikhil every limit that has confronted us we have surpassed That cycle of crisis and growth is the story of our history; indeed it is the Visual Communication: Images with Messages 7th Edition essence of The Big Ratchet Understanding it will reveal not just how we reached this point in our history but how we might survive Wonderful book if you want to learn about the interaction between human ingenuity and the natural world from planetary habitability to handling agricultural pests I appreciated that DeFries makes sure to discuss what implications these advances have had on justice how crop yields and certain life The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence - Kindle edition by Josh Waitzkin. Humor & Entertainment Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. enhancing techniues have been ineuitably distributed in society

Free download Û PDF, DOC, TXT, eBook or Kindle ePUB free ¶ Ruth DeFries

Our species long lived on the edge of starvation Now we produce enough food for all 7 billion of us to eat nearly 3000 calories every day This is such an astonishing thing in the history of life as to verge on the miraculous The Big Ratchet is the story of how it happened of the ratchets the technologies and innovations big and small that propelled our species from hunters and gatherers on th The subject is interesting and the story of humanity does have some interesting bits that I hadn't fully grasped or pieced together before I read it That said I find the perspective very biased A lot of the instances where the author proclaims human ingenuity one could easily say that it was an example of terrible foolishness I found myself very annoyed with the tone that just claimed pivots as inevitable improvement when it arguably was uite the opposite Tragedies caused by some pivots are being brushed off in single sentences as being excusable for the things they enabled which you could see as even terrible thingsI still think that reading The Big Ratchet was valuable because it made me realize uite a few things and I also learned some things I'm not giving it a good review because I both disagree with the author's perspective and importantly on her apparent confidence in this perspective

Ruth DeFries ¶ 2 Read & download

E savannahs of Africa to shoppers in the aisles of the supermarket The Big Ratchet itself came in the twentieth century when a range of technologies from fossil fuels to scientific plant breeding to nitrogen fertilizers combined to nearly uadruple our population in a century and to grow our food supply even faster To some these technologies are a sign of our greatness; to others of our hubris The Big Ratchet is a decent if breezy environmental history of agriculture DeFries discusses human history in terms of energy and especially available calories in terms of a pattern of 'ratchet hatchet and pivot' Some innovation increases the available food supply a limit is reached a new innovation moves around that limitation The titular big ratchet of course is the combination of intensified agricultural techniues developed in the 20th century that increased the global population from 16 billion to over 7 billion Most animals live at the margins of survival Agriculture allows the accumulation of surplus and the support of a non farming political cultural technological and military elite Agriculture advanced slowly in the centuries since the Mesopotamian breadbasket limited by nutrients pests and imprecise breeding Malthus writing at the end of the 18th century was correct from his local perspective The fertility of the people always seemed to outstrip the fertility of the land Hunger is mankind's constant companionThe 20th century Green Revolution banished hunger at least for a time through artifical nitrogen fertilizer from the Haber Bosch process mineral phosphorus mechanized farm euipment new breeds and chemical best control It also had numerous side effects maritime dead zones from fertilizer run off ecocide from pesticide use disruptions to ancient ways of living In DeFries's telling we're reaching another hatchet as the limits of Green Revolution techniues become clearer What comes next is unclear This book is focused and optimistic than Harari's Sapiens Civilization is about agriculture and even as problems arise they are dealt with if not to complete satisfaction Yet I wish DeFries had written less of a general history and perhaps brought in some of her specialized knowledge on land use change deforestation and the coexistence of heavy agriculture and natural cycles


10 thoughts on “The Big Ratchet

  1. says:

    The purpose of this book is described as follows in the book’s PrologueThis book is an attempt to reconstruct how we became extraordinary how human civilization evolved to manipulate nature so much that most people live in cities Our journey began by living off the plants and animals that nature made available Now we are the only species with most of its members subsisting on food produced in some distant location In telling this story this book uses the metaphor of a ratchet to describe the problem solving done by humans throughout history in dealing with food shortages and other problems Similar to the way a ratchet turns until it stops then pivots positions and proceeds to rotate again until forced to repeat so also human civilization has been forced to pivot to new approaches to problems encountered throughout history This book freuently uses the words ratchet hatchet and pivot to reference this seuence The following example uotation is referencing the Irish potato famineThe story of the Great Famine is a microcosm of humanity’s journey through the ratchets hatchets and pivots that typify our history An often repeated problem faced by humans has been food limitations caused by population growth After many repeated pivots humans have managed to permit population numbers to reach levels that would have been impossible without the numerous ingenious solutions develop along the way Some examples of historical pivots include the development of agriculture industrial revolution and exchange of Old and New World food plants Some recent pivots include the artificial fertilizers Green Revolution and genetically modified food The scary part of this hatchet ratchet pivot procedure is that over time the whole system becomes increasingly complex Complex systems can sometimes collapse due to the failure of a minor component and the appearance of some negative conseuences are delayed for many years examples climate change and obesity due to sweetfatty foodsAnother issue is that civilization as we know it today is powered by resources of finite uantity With regard to hydrocarbons we generally assume that we'll figure out a way to live off of sun and wind energy But this book reminded me of something else fertilizer If it weren't for synthetic fertilizers our earth could support only a fraction of the current human population Nitrogen is not a problem as long as we have an energy source to take nitrogen from the air However phosphorus is another matter It is mined as phosphate rock and there are only a few sources where that critical element can be mined This book didn't try to estimate how many years of the resource are available so I assume it won't become exhausted during my lifetime However it is a finite source so it will be used up sometime view spoilerIt's interesting to imagine what life will be like once all phosphate rock is gone Recycling will become important and it so happens that one of the most plentiful sources of phosphorus that could potentially be recycled is urine hide spoiler


  2. says:

    The subject is interesting and the story of humanity does have some interesting bits that I hadn't fully grasped or pieced together before I read it That said I find the perspective very biased A lot of the instances where the author proclaims human ingenuity one could easily say that it was an example of terrible foolishness I found myself very annoyed with the tone that just claimed pivots as inevitable improvement when it arguably was uite the opposite Tragedies caused by some pivots are being brushed off in single sentences as being excusable for the things they enabled which you could see as even terrible thingsI still think that reading The Big Ratchet was valuable because it made me realize uite a few things and I also learned some things I'm not giving it a good review because I both disagree with the author's perspective and importantly on her apparent confidence in this perspective


  3. says:

    The Big Ratchet is a 'short history of everything' style retelling of societal inventiveness in the face of environmental constraints In it Ruth DeFries suggests that human innovation follows a rough pattern throughout all of history first a ratchet then a hatchet then a pivot Some innovation leads to a positive outcome such as the ability to produce food through agriculture This leads to a 'ratchet' a growing population that must be fed However eventually a 'hatchet' falls perhaps a collapse of how nutrient rich the soil is meaning that less can be produced In the hatchet's wake society must 'pivot' by inventing an alternative path such as fertilizing soil In turn fertilization produces food and the population ratchets up until shortages of guano cause a hatchet whereafter synthetic fertilizers emergeIt's a seductively simple and frankly accurate and astute narrative ratchet hatchet pivot; ratchet hatchet pivot The trick with DeFries' book though is that it seems so darn descriptively true at least from a 30 thousand foot view and yet the telling is simplified to a point where it's difficult to empirically test and even limited in its predictive powerThe problem with empirical testing arises from the effect of hindsight on the pivots DeFries builds a very compelling case that humanity has indeed managed to pivot each time that it faces constraints But this is a little simplified First 'humanity' isn't as homogenous as the story suggests Indeed it's only some of humanity that seems to benefit from the pivots eg those with relative wealth have access to the benefits of the pivots while those without tend to be stuck scraping by on the margins of old techniues Second successful pivots are only obvious in retrospect Fifty years later for instance it's pretty easy to tell the story of how innovation proceeded in agriculture eg which technologies replaced previous technologies post hatchet but those pivots weren't neat clear moments Rather many pivots in many different directions occurred and the 'winning' pivots rarely were obviousThis leads to another challenge though Because the book concentrates on the broader argument that ratchethatchetpivots occurred it doesn't spend much timeeffort on the uestion of what leads to a pivot By contrast the end of the book only offers a uestion will we be able to pivot in the face of current environmental and societal challenges? DeFries puts significant effort into persuading us of the case that pivots did occur but I felt like I left the book with little understanding of why some pivots work and others fail how to support pivots when we see the hatchet falling or how to ensure that humanity benefits euitably from said pivotsIn other words I'm rather persuaded by her argument that we see this pattern of ratchets hatchets and pivots But it's kind of like observing that there are meats carbohydrate dishes and desserts it's a true observation but it doesn't really tell us about the ingredients or recipes in order to help us make the dishes ourselves


  4. says:

    The Big Ratchet is a decent if breezy environmental history of agriculture DeFries discusses human history in terms of energy and especially available calories in terms of a pattern of 'ratchet hatchet and pivot' Some innovation increases the available food supply a limit is reached a new innovation moves around that limitation The titular big ratchet of course is the combination of intensified agricultural techniues developed in the 20th century that increased the global population from 16 billion to over 7 billion Most animals live at the margins of survival Agriculture allows the accumulation of surplus and the support of a non farming political cultural technological and military elite Agriculture advanced slowly in the centuries since the Mesopotamian breadbasket limited by nutrients pests and imprecise breeding Malthus writing at the end of the 18th century was correct from his local perspective The fertility of the people always seemed to outstrip the fertility of the land Hunger is mankind's constant companionThe 20th century Green Revolution banished hunger at least for a time through artifical nitrogen fertilizer from the Haber Bosch process mineral phosphorus mechanized farm euipment new breeds and chemical best control It also had numerous side effects maritime dead zones from fertilizer run off ecocide from pesticide use disruptions to ancient ways of living In DeFries's telling we're reaching another hatchet as the limits of Green Revolution techniues become clearer What comes next is unclear This book is focused and optimistic than Harari's Sapiens Civilization is about agriculture and even as problems arise they are dealt with if not to complete satisfaction Yet I wish DeFries had written less of a general history and perhaps brought in some of her specialized knowledge on land use change deforestation and the coexistence of heavy agriculture and natural cycles


  5. says:

    This is a book that had good intentions but fell short of what could have been Nothing less than the entire span of human history from the stone age to the present is covered with the focus on key breakthroughs that upped the game and took us to the next level or scale of development Fire language tool use farming and the various technologies that improved agricultural production and therefore carrying capacity of the Earth for humansThere are no great insights into the human condition or what to do with our present predicament of overshooting the limits to further growth and expansion For anyone already familiar with the general progress made by humankind that led us to the present day of seeming abundance this book is mere repetition A few key inventions whose significance is under appreciated like the Haber bosch process of artificially fixing nitrogen to create fertilizer and the use of fossil fuel inputs to literally create food for ourselves through application of machinery and pesticides are dealt with in sufficient detail but I suspect of interest to those keen on agricultural scienceThe author does not take any position or comment on our ability to continue inventing our way out of existing physical limits but offers a dispassionate view of events from a third party perspective much as how an alien being might view us The result is merely a statement of historical fact making for somewhat dry reading Those who are in a mood for reflection on how far we have come or perhaps younger readers with no prior knowledge will find this book worthwhile For the rest I would hesitate to recommend


  6. says:

    Per FTC guidelines I received this book as part of the GoodReads First Reads giveaway programIt's entirely possible that I've read a lot of books on this subject the idea that humanity and its knowledge base and its ability to adapt will ultimately resurrect us from the brink of destruction as it has done so many times before And the reason I start with that is because the bulk of this not so big book seems to be a rehash of historical information that we've read before We know about the industrial revolution we know about Norman Borlaug and his miracle seeds we know about nitrogen fixing soybeansand yet there it all is again in black and white Now the second half maybe 13 of the book is dedicated to where we go from here but aside from discussing possibilities there seems to be an open ended assumption that something will happen and when it does all will be well again until it isn'tI do appreciate the ratchet hatchet pivot concept as it certainly is an excellent tool for explaining how we move out of and back into adaptation but I feel like this book could be so much As it is currently it seems like mostly the start of a good book but it's not uite there yet


  7. says:

    A short read but I think oversimplified The premise that solutions have arisen as we needed them and therefore will continue to do so is the philosophy of historical determinism in which I don't really believe The proposition that we are now in a period of food surplus seems surprising given than 10% of humanity doesn't even have clean water but water isn't addressed despite its huge role in making that food possible The complexity of each ratchet hatchet pivot cycle really anything beyond the populationfood interaction seems very much understated here


  8. says:

    Interesting skim across the centuries of agricultural innovations I wish the author had relied less on the words ratchet and hatchet that got really old really fast


  9. says:

    Wonderful book if you want to learn about the interaction between human ingenuity and the natural world from planetary habitability to handling agricultural pests I appreciated that DeFries makes sure to discuss what implications these advances have had on justice how crop yields and certain life enhancing techniues have been ineuitably distributed in society


  10. says:

    A fitting title would be ‘A Brief History Of Agriculture Mostly Based On Books You’ve Already Read Or Stuff You Already Knew’Not recommended


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