This post was originally published on Eco-Libris blog on September 15.
Globe, we have a problem. With an increasingly crowded planet, how can we achieve sustainable development? And do it in time? Our book today might be of assistance, providing the keys to face the global challenges that will take center stage in the 21st century and shape mankind future. Our book for today is:
Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet
Author: Jeffrey D. Sachs.Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and special adviser to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of The New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty, and is internationally renowned for his work as an economic adviser to governments around the world.
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published on: March 18, 2008
What it is about (from Powell’s Books website):
The global economic system now faces a sustainability crisis, Jeffrey Sachs argues, that will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. The changes will be deeper than a rebalancing of economics and politics among different parts of the world; the very idea of competing nation-states scrambling for power, resources, and markets will, in some crucial respects, become passe. The only question is how bad it will have to get before we face the unavoidable. We will have to learn on a global scale some of the hard lessons that successful societies have gradually and grudgingly learned within national borders: that there must be common ground between rich and poor, among competing ethnic groups, and between society and nature.
The central theme of Jeffrey Sachs’s new book is that we need a new economic paradigm — global, inclusive, cooperative, environmentally aware, science based –because we are running up against the realities of a crowded planet. The alternative is a worldwide economic collapse of unprecedented severity. Prosperity will have to be sustained through more cooperative processes, relying as much on public policy as on market forces to spread technology, address the needs of the poor, and to husband threatened resources of water, air, energy, land, and biodiversity.
The soft issues of the environment, public health, and population will become the hard issues of geopolitics. New forms of global politics will in important ways replace capital-city-dominated national diplomacy and intrigue. National governments, even the United States, will become much weaker actors as scientific networks and socially responsible investors and foundations become the more powerful actors. If we do the right things, there is room for all on the planet. We can achieve the four key goals of a global society: prosperity for all, the end of extreme poverty, stabilization of the global population, and environmental sustainability. These are not utopian goals or pipe dreams, yet they are far from automatic. Indeed, we are not on a successful trajectory now to achieve these goals. Common Wealth points the way to the course correction we must embrace for the sake of our common future.
Why you should read it:
- This book deals with one of the main global challenges of this century – the challenges of sustainable development (defined by Sachs as “protecting the environment, stabilizing the world’s population, narrowing the gaps between rich and poor, and ending extreme poverty”). Each of these issues is not an easy task to handle, not to mention all of them together. So how do we do it? I’m not sure if Sachs has the right answer, and some critics actually believe he’s far from having it, but with his 20+ years of experience in international and economic development and his expertise and close acquaintanceship with these problems, it’s definitely worthwhile to listen to his ideas and offered solutions. You will find out that many of them just make a lot of sense!
- Sachs explains that “humanity shares a common fate…that will require new forms of global cooperation”. It sounds so clear and simple,but at the same time it’s also clear that it’s so difficult given the way the world is acting today. Sachs adds that “our global society will flourish or perish according to our ability to find common ground across the world on a set of shared objectives and on the practical means to achieve them.” Maybe if more decision makers will get their hands on the book and learn some of its lessons, there’s a better chance that we’ll enjoy the first option.
- All in all, Sachs stays optimistic, which given all the bothering data presented at the book, makes you feel that maybe it is possible after all to succeed and solve these problems after so many years of failure after failure.
What others say about the book:
“Common Wealth explains the most basic economic reckoning that the world faces. We can address poverty, climate change, and environmental destruction at a very modest cost today with huge benefits for shared and sustainable prosperity and peace in the future, or we can duck the issues today and risk a potentially costly reckoning in later years. Despite the rearguard opposition of some vested interests, policies to help the world’s poor and the global environment are in fact the very best economic bargains on the planet.” Al Gore, Winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and Former Vice President of the United States
“Sachs condenses a bewildering volume of statistical data into an accessible form, neatly sums up his core arguments in bullet-point lists, and somehow manages to leave one feeling optimistic about the future of the planet.” Booklist
Want to learn more on the ideas an concepts Sachs presents in the book? Check out the video below of a talk he gave about this subject at UC Santa Barbara last May.