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Zooming Out: Big Picture Data with Hannah Ritchie

Season 2, Episode 1

We often think of progress and failure as mutually exclusive. Hannah Ritchie of Our World in Data (OWID) says otherwise: there can be single catastrophic events within larger narratives of human progress. At OWID, Hannah couches rigorous, data-driven analyses into big-picture trends; the online publication has become the go-to reference for anyone looking to gain a basic understanding of what’s going on in the world. They cover topics from poverty to energy, food prices to technology adoption. Hannah’s focus is on food, environment, and energy; most recently, she put together a report on plastic pollution: where it comes from, how it’s managed, and why to fix it. (Click here for Breakthrough's piece on banning plastic straws.)

Hannah’s journey began with a traditional environmental degree, where the overarching message she heard again and again was one of human’s destructive influence on the planet. Encountering the work of Hans Rosling of the Gapminder Foundation made her realize she had a huge blind spot: what about the stories of progress and human wellbeing? Today, you can find her looking for compatibility between the two narratives, motivated by the thought that the world could be a really good place. Tune in to hear why the public has come to distrust micro-level environmental action, how to bring data to life, and why Hannah is so passionate about open-access resources.

Here's a full transcript of the interview.

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