What Would Nature Do?: A Guide for Our Uncertain Times

February 23, 2021
What Would Nature Do?: A Guide for Our Uncertain Times

Not long ago, the future seemed predictable. Now, certaintyabout the course of civilization has given way to fear and doubt.Raging fires, ravaging storms, political upheavals, financialcollapse, and deadly pandemics lie ahead—or are already here. Theworld feels less comprehensible and more dangerous, and no one,from individuals to businesses and governments, knows how tonavigate the path forward.Ruth DeFries argues that a surprising set of time-testedstrategies from the natural world can help humanity weather thesecrises. Through trial and error over the eons, life has evolvedastonishing and counterintuitive tricks in order to survive.DeFries details how a handful of fundamental strategies—investmentsin diversity, redundancy over efficiency, self-correctingfeedbacks, and decisions based on bottom-up knowledge—enable lifeto persist through unpredictable, sudden shocks. Lessons for supplychains from a leaf's intricate network of veins and stockmarket-saving "circuit breakers" patterned on planetary cyclesreveal the power of these approaches for modern times. Withhumility and willingness to apply nature's experience to ourhuman-constructed world, DeFries demonstrates, we can withstanduncertain and perilous times. Exploring the lessons that life onEarth can teach us about coping with complexity, What WouldNature Do? offers timely options for civilization toreorganize for a safe and prosperous future.