jeudi 1 mai 2008

Thoughts on reading Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey D Sachs: Common Wealth, Economics for a Crowded Planet, Penguin Press, New York, 2008, 339 pages + glossary, notes, reference, index. 28 $ US

Reading Sachs is leaving me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I feel, well, sort of vindicated: "I could have written this book!" (obviously, I refer to his general analyses, not to the wealth of info arising from his professional work in his specialty..)

Sachs, director of the Earth Institute (Columbia U., New York), writes well and convincingly. He ties facts and analyses from various disciplines together with facility, offering illumination. I would probably recommend this book to beginning green activists as a general survey of the situation of Sustainable Development (SD) at the present moment.

I especially like Sachs' emphasis on linking SD and the war against terrorism. Poverty, underemployment, unemployment and forced emigration are factors feeding terrorism and fanaticism (religious, political, racial, ethnic). In the long run, I argue, the costs - human, environmental, economic and cultural - of defending ourselves against terrorisms (external and internal) will far outweigh money spent for well designed, equitable (redistributive) SD. Such projects, which would aim to promote local entrepreneurship and participatory modes of decision making and governance, are sorely needed in our energy short world full of willing hands and of minds attuned to local needs and resources. In short, if well designed, decentralized, participatory SD could probably deliver the biggest bang for the development / aid buck.

Well designed, therein lies the hick! For what we lack, I feel, is the will to act or even, it seems, to realize that what happens on the other side of the world is our business (Global Warming, Climate Change, poverty-bred terrorism..). What will it take to wake people in the West up to this - to me - evident reality of the interconnectedness and interreactivity of the modern world system? For unless we realize that interconnectivity we cannot, I think, get a handle on the future. Thus our world continues to spiral into chaos..

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