I am Jeffrey Sachs, Professor and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. I’ll be teaching a free online class on sustainable development starting this month. Ask me anything!
Hi, I'm Jeffrey Sachs. I've been a professor for the past three decades, at Harvard and Columbia, as well as the Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals to UN Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon. I've traveled to more than 125 countries and seen extreme poverty and impacts of climate change firsthand. Our generation can indeed end the ancient scourge of extreme poverty. Yet it can also destroy the earth¹s life-support system through human-induced environmental devastation.
By necessity, then, we have entered The Age of Sustainable Development, an era in which we must have economic growth that is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. So I am enormously excited to be launching a free, global, online university course by the same name on January 21, 2014. (Those interested in joining the course can register https://www.coursera.org/course/susdev) I hope that people all over the world will join the course and then join the generation-long quest to achieve sustainable development.
I'll be available for the next 90 minutes, so please ask me anything
My Proof: https://twitter.com/JeffDSachs/status/423485514230939648
Great to chat with all of you. I'm afraid that I'm going to have to close the convo on my side (as it's geting a bit late in Moscow). Your questions and observations are absolutely terrific. We'll continue, with a discussion board on the Coursera Website and with more Reddit sessions during the semester. Keep the great questions flowing!
Best to all of you. And see you in class!
Prof. Jeffrey Sachs
The TPP draft is not heartening. There is very little about SD and very much about corporate power. Not happy at all with the secrecy. This is not good governance and fair to the public!
Hello Dr. Sachs, I was wondering if you could respond briefly to a few questions I have had for awhile. I was in the military and deployed overseas when I read the Shock Doctrine and could verify everything that she claimed when I was in the Middle East. I have since been discharged and I pursued an Economics degree during which I took an Economic Development course. In the course, we reviewed your new and refined writings/theories and I had also wished to ask you these questions: 1) What is your retort to what Naomi Klein so succinctly documented about Free Market reforms and the subsequent repression to maintain them the world over. “The idea is to get the guys heart beating again. And it’s a bloody mess. But you don’t have any choice.” Do you still hold to this rational? 2) In your revamped understanding, you state that it is immoral to experiment because you would be withholding funds from a given population, but how do you reconcile this as an academic who is trying to solve poverty without the faintest idea of what works because of a lack of data? Secondly, do you not see that the big push is a logical fallacy if the only reason as to why it could fail is from there not being enough?
Thanks for asking. I don't think that Naomi Klein understood my own work and ideas (which by the way are all on the record). She lumped me, for some reason, with extreme free-market economists, which I am obviously not. I've been concerned with social justice from the very start of my work, and therefore argued for debt cancellation and social spending in Bolivia, for example. She overlooked all of those complexities, to make her story line go smoother. I certainly agree with much of what she wrote in general, but she did not depict my own ideas and approaches accurately.
Professor Sachs thank you so much for doing this AMA. I've always argued that if agricultural subsidies were cut around the world it would be more effective in lifting people from poverty than all aid combined. It seems that lately developing countries have also gotten into the ag subsidy trap. Is it possible we've reached a point where reducing global ag subsidies might hurt the poor more than it helps them?
Bonus question: Have you seen signs of open source playing a larger role in economic development? If so could you give us some examples? I think it'd be a huge long-term boon to developing countries if they leapfrogged proprietary software and focused on open source instead (similar to how they leapfrogged landline telephones for cellphones).
There is a lot of use of open source, and a lot more on its way. Free apps. IT-based service delivery. Some really great stuff. I think the classrooms will also be transformed through online curricula.
Ending AG subsidies, while generally a good idea, won't solve as much as one might think, because the main beneficiaries will be large food-exporting countries, such as Brazil, not the poorest countries. Still, it's typically a good thing to do. The subsidies are rarely fair or effective.
If automation moves to the point where sweat shops are no longer needed for the labor intensive goods produced in developing countries, do the people of developing countries have a real alternative to becoming serfs?
The question of how automation, robotics will affect development is crucial and UNSOLVED. I will discuss it in class. There is as yet too little thinking about this.
Hello Professor Sachs,
Sustainability seems to have become a somewhat ambiguous term that can take on multiple meanings depending on who you ask. I am curious to know how you define sustainability.
We'll discuss that at length in class. I am using the term "Sustainable Development," meaning a holistic approach that combines economic, social, and environmental goals.
Public Health advancements stand out among the successes of the Millennium Development Goals. Does the international community’s recent failure to raise the bare minimum $5 billion for the Global Fund indicate that global health will not factor prominently in the Sustainable Development Goals?
The Global Fund is still trying to close the $5 billion. I'll be speaking with several governments over the next few weeks as well to help close the deal. The name of the game is PERSISTENCE. It takes time to convince governments!!!
I read 'The End of Poverty' and I have to say, I am a huge fan of that book. I often cite your work to support ideas like that sweat-shops aren't necessarily the evil they're portrayed to be. Since the book, how much, in you eyes, has changed in the world? Do you feel like leaders sat up and took notice? Also, from your perspective, what is going well or not so well with the US economy?
The most important thing that's happened since 2005 is that the idea of ending extreme poverty has actually begun to take hold. People see the success of China in ending poverty, the start of real poverty reduction in Africa, and the power of the new ICT technologies. Because of this optimism, the World Bank Development Committee voted in April to take on the goal of ending extreme poverty globally by 2030. So the idea is there, step by step.
Does the Millenium Development do any work within the United States to alleviate the poverty that goes unrecognized or undereported?
The Earth Institute, which I am very honored to direct at Columbia University, is beginning several projects right here in NYC. Some of them involve, for example, using a community-health-worker model to reach underserved populations. Also, scaling up public health screening in NYC schools.
Do you believe that, if our basic instinct as humans is to adapt and survive, then the most logical course of action to tackle the 'big issues' we face is to harness the power of greed within an acquisitive framework of business? I.e. the Triple Bottom Line approach, using models to create multiple value effects yet based on the inherent need to further one's position to create security and success.
In short, can or must greed be good?
I think that starting with "human nature" is right (as did Aristotle, by the way). But we are more than greed. We are a mix of greed, compassion, honesty, cheating, and much more. Humanity in all its complexity. Therefore, greed (markets) are one motivator, but so too is morality a crucial key to success.
I saw you in "Commanding Heights" and learned that you advised several countries face their staggering economies. Quite amazing! Thanks for doing this AMA!
Do you see need for the US and EU to face the trouble their currencies are in, especially after measures taken since 2007/8?
Have you had time to dive into bitcoin and what are your thoughts?
You know, I've worked on currencies for 30 years but not yet on Bitcoin, but many (many!!!) people have been asking me about Bitcoin recently, so I need to start my own education on it. Sorry to be a laggard!
Greetings and thanks for offering what promises to be a fascinating course! My question would be: what do you see as the biggest global challenges to implementing Sustainable Development and where do you see the most inspiring innovations that look like they might overcome those challenges and where do you see the UN within this framework? Thanks.
Have a look at the website for the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (www.unsdsn.org) to have a look at the report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (http://unsdsn.org/files/2013/11/An-Action-Agenda-for-Sustainable-Development.pdf). That describes, I hope, a good summary of the SD challenges will be discussing in class!
Dear prof. Sachs
I wonder if you consider the following case a "resource curse"
Since the end of WWII, Greece (actually its elites) has received various money injections. Marshal Plan, "Jacques Delors" assistance, EEC and EU money, and €300bn on cheap loans.
We have a situation with of great malfunctioning of institutions and citizens having no trust in them. We also have countless fraud cases, as well as a largely destroyed production base, since all our growth was on imports with borrowed money.
Would you consider easy money as kind of a resource curse?
I love Greece, I have to say. Gift to the world. Beautiful country, wonderful culture (and food!), unbelievable history, great friends. But alas, soft governance, corruption for too long, and now a harsh crisis that Germany should do more to ease. I am a believer that Greece would recover much faster if the government puts forward a clear growth strategy to motivate export-led growth and new business startups.
Many developing countries attempt to let Western nations extract resources in hopes of establishing a rentier state, but this often just provides a bottleneck of corruption which flocks to the one large resource.
For nations with few resources (or no resources not already tapped and exhausted) do you think there is potential for a single set of policies to be enacted that would propel a state into pull in revenue with minimal negative impact to its population?
I’m specifically thinking of how casinos are used in the US to generate tax revenue, or Iran’s Kish Island.
There is no single trick. Generally, when a country has few or no natural resources it has to rely on its labor power (e.g. labor-intensive manufactures). This is getting harder, though, in a world of automation and robotics. We'll discuss the problem in class.
Hi Professor Sachs, believe it or not I'm writing this from Nairobi! I'm a Columbia College senior, and I've been spending the past week here at the CGC getting to see some of the great work that's being done with the MVPs.
My question is what your goals are for this course, and what you think students stand to gain from taking it?
Great to hear from you. (I'm in Moscow now, myself). So good that you are visiting the CGC.
The course will offer an intro to the marvelous field of SD. And as I'll explain, I believe that Sustainable Development will be a central theme of our age, and especially for your generation. A world of 8-9 billion people will need to learn how to live productively and peacefully together, and at peace with the planet itself. That will be the subject of the course.
Dr Sachs, there's a growing movement in international development to study impact empirically, and a good amount of the evidence coming back so far has shown ineffectiveness in many aid projects. Your book posits that this is because we are not investing enough in the projects we have, while other theorists (like Easterly) would rather invest in different projects.
Do you think there is a middle road in this discussion for sustainable development? And how far do you think empirical studies can be trusted when so much of developmental success is context-specific?
We need to be smart in our aid policies, using knowledge, experience, and EXPERTISE outside of economics (such as in public health). The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and GAVI are examples of aid success. We should measure and evaluate programs, but use methods that are appropriate to the circumstances. There is too much of a one-size-fits-all strategy to evaluation these days (too much on randomized trials, excluding other means of evaluation).
Hi Professor Sachs- I just wanted to say that I've read some of your work and I really admire it. I was wondering how you would respond to some of William Easterly's arguments, such as that made in "Democracy and Good Government", where he claims that there is an inherent contradiction in giving money to sitting governments (which is in and of itself a political act) and expecting them to reform. Also, it seems in a lot of your work that you believe that governments will work in the interest of their people, rather than for themselves. What is it that has drawn you to that conclusion so firmly? What do you believe will happen to the villages of the Millennium Village projects once the project term ends? To what extent are measures being made to equip government officials with the skills they may need to govern?
I believe that aid can be designed in ways that promote accountability and transparency. This is how the Global Fund has worked most of the time. It's been a good and successful model. Yes, we should promote a high degree of transparency. Remember that much of the corruption starts from the side of the rich countries and their companies.
What would you consider to be the strategies to end poverty while increasing sustainable development in third world countries?
I think that the key to ending poverty and increasing sustainable development is "investment-led growth," with investments in people (health, nutrition, education, training), plus investments in infrastructure (such as low-carbon energy), plus investments in "smart" systems using information technologies.
What would you consider to be basic steps, it even crucial steps, that those of us living in the industrialized work should pursue to lessen our drain on global resources?
We need to focus on ending the environmental damage were causing. This means, for example, converting our energy system from fossil-fuel dependence (oil, coal, and gas) to low-carbon sources, such as hydro, solar, wind, and in my view, some nuclear power (though that one, of course, is the most controversial). It also means changing agricultural patterns that deplete soils and groundwater.
What's your take on the Affordable Care Act? How do you think it compares to a single payer approach, as seen in Canada and the UK?
Give me single-payer ANY DAY!!!! It's the lobbies that block it.
Dear Prof Sachs, thank you for doing this AMA.
If I understand correctly you once stood in favour of big-package approach to development, rather than very targeted randomized trial, which due to their narrower focus, have the benefit of being easier to evaluate (they can be randomized).
Where would you stand today on this debate? What do you think of the Banerjee-Duflo approach to development?
I think we have many ways to knowledge, and should limit ourselves to things that fit randomized trials. That would be an arbitrary and unnecessary barrier to tacking great challenges. That's the point I've been making, e.g. regarding public health. I'm happy to say that the evidence on public health is supporting the ambitious agenda. There is a place for RCTs (randomized controlled trials) but only one place among many methods.
what happend with africa, they have lot of resources but, war and bad politics doesnt permit a good way to work.
Africa has faced many difficulties. Of course the period of slave trade and then a century of colonial rule was awful. Africa faces many other difficulties associated with a heavy tropical disease burden (e.g. malaria), and very difficult transportation conditions (since there are so many landlocked countries and populations far from the ports).
I'm fascinated by the new environmental technologies like billboards pulling drinking water from the air, or Mexico City's smog eating paint. What technology do you look at as having great potential?
Probably the single most important breakthrough in recent years has been the dramatic decline in price of photovoltaics, which have fallen by a factor of 100X since 1977. 1 Watt of PV now costs less than $1 dollar. This will make possible an enormous upscaling of solar power in many parts of the world.
Do you think sustainable developers can learn from the the infrastructure advances that corporations such as Coca-Cola have made in Africa? For example, in many villages Coca-Cola has found a way to deliver their products to the most remote villages making their product available to the African people, yet we are having trouble distributing everyday medicine to villagers. It seems like we have the ability to give medicinal access to the extremely poor in Africa, but we are not using the same creativity as multinational corporations.
You are absolutely right. With new IT technologies it is possible to improve tracking, logistics, oversight, etc., cutting down on waste, lost time, and corruption. Can be done!
I live in the developed country of Canada and yet within such a resource rich country, there is abject poverty. We don't seem to want to address that but look to "Save" developing countries.
In Canada, the US, and many other high-income countries, there is poverty in our midst. This is both a policy failing and a moral failing, in my view, since it certainly would be possible to banish poverty in this day and age.
Unlike Dambisa Moyo, I believe that aid is needed and can be organized effectively and respectfully. I am very happy with the successful scale up of aid for public health in the past decade. It has saved millions of lives and helped to promote economic development.
How do you think microfinance (and microcredit in particular) can help alleviate poverty? Is that of any help to the poorest people, or only tho those slightly above that level?
Microfinance is a proven useful tool, but not a single magic solution. it can help households to start small business and to smooth income fluctuations. Some people thought it was a single panacea, but alas, it's not powerful enough for that.
What do you think of LEED?
LEED (green building standards) has played an excellent role in improving energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings. Excellent initiative.
I have read most of your books & am currently reading 'The Great Escape' by Angus Deaton. I am curious to get your review of his work & especially his view of the impacts of international aid since it seems very contrary to your views.
I did not agree with his very blanket statements against aid. In my view, such statements are contrary to the evidence. When somebody declares so categorically that all aid fails, raise your doubts. Such generalizations are not accurate. Much aid is very important. We need to understand why some aid succeeds and other aid fails, so that we can improve the design of aid programs.
As many borders in Africa were established in Europe in the 19th century, do you think that an AU/UN guided attempt to re-draw borders peacefully (and democratically) would increase the overall cohesive structure of most nations on the continent?
The borders are often very arbitrary, carving Africa up into 54 countries on the continent itself, plus islands. The carving has left 14 landlocked countries (I believe that's the number), plus incredibly arbitrary divisions of ethnic groups, spread across countries. Yet solving this by redrawn borders is probably not feasible. More feasible is to increase economic and social integration in Africa, so that borders matter much less. Also, more investment in good transport infrastructure!!!
Dear Prof. Sachs, will you address the discussions about switching from the classical economic growth paradigm to a transition period towards a way down? thanks from Brazil
Yes, we will talk about new growth paradigms, certainly!
Professor Sachs the third world countries are in the developing rute. But they are doing this as India and China did it: sacrificing the natural resources. What are the options to new nations in order to have a real sustainable development?
One key is to use the new information and communications technologies to the maximum, and to use renewable energy -- especially solar power and wind power -- to the maximum. Technology will be crucial for sustainable leapfrogging.
Hi Professor, thanks for doing this. What role would you say access to family planning has on alleviating poverty at the aggregate level? Also its impact on sustainable development? Full disclosure: I am looking into doing an MSc dissertation on this topic over the summer.
Family planning is very important. Development success has almost always depended (in part) on a voluntary reduction of high fertility rates. When fertility is reduced, then each child is able to get a better start in life. Economists call this the "quality-quantity" tradeoff in number of children in a poor household. Many countries in Africa still have fertility rates even above 5 children in poor households, and the poor parents are unable to provide adequate nutrition, healthcare, and education for such a large number of children.
I believe you’re writing a book on John F. Kennedy. Do you believe Kennedy’s calls to public service are more or less relevant today? Given the lure of fast money and prestige on Wall Street, is it still possible to attract bright, articulate college graduates to careers in government?
Yes, yes, yes. Kennedy inspired a whole generation, and it can happen again. Wall Street may be fast money, but what a mess, with new lawsuits and fines everyday. They still haven't cleared up their act. And yes, enjoy JFK's words in my book "To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace."
Dr Sachs, I am a fan of your works that I have read (The End of Poverty and The Price of Civilization) and wanted to thank you for taking the time to do this and for generally forwarding developmental economics around the world.
My question is: if you could instantaneously achieve any one of your development goals which would you choose and why?
I'd start with the health goals, since those are life and death. And then (or simultaneously) the hunger goal (obvious reason) and then education. Of course once people are alive and properly nourished, education becomes the KEY!
Water is often a scarce commidity in very poor areas. Do you see any possibilities of treating salt water to make it potable and/or so that it can be used for irrigation? Also, how do you see water scarcity leading to violence in areas with little or no rain?
There are many technologies to recycle water, or desalinate, or to use mildly saline water in some cases. Yet the local specific are crucial. Water scarcity can absolutely lead to poverty, famine, and conflict. The evidence is very clear on that.
What do you recommend to switch to a career in sustainable dev? Located in NYC, already in a masters program, but having trouble being useful. Thx!
The great thing about SD is that many fields can contribute -- business, law, public health, social worker, nursing, medicine, etc. So if you've got some good Masters skills, that's a great start to searching out some opps in business, government, or NGOs.
What will happen to the Millennium Villages after the MDG's expire? Will the program be sustained at its current level or are there any plans for expansion?
The MVs will be evaluated at the end of 2015, and we will make course corrections and improvements as needed in several national programs underway to scale up the MV model. So the basic notion of using community-based rural development will continue past 2015, for sure. It's working in many powerful ways, but will have even clearer evidence in 2015 on many important detailed issues.
Do you see the world shifting to a more eastern centred focus? By this I mean, the BRICS and the rising economic powers of the east will rise high enough to not be so dependant on the west?
This could also values, like suggested by Kishore Mahbuban
Yes, the center of gravity of the world economy is tending to shift from the North Atlantic, where it's been for centuries, to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Basin. The rise of China is a great game changer, together with the economic strength of Japan, Korea, Singapore, and others.
Prof. Sachs: Thank u for the work of EI at Columbia re Larry Burns and Autonomous Vehicle. Q: How can we go in direction of shared fleets as modelled in 2012/2013 Study from EI by Burns et al, RATHER than everybody owning. We are projecting 5.9B vehicles to provide VMT after 2100 (when peak pop.=9B) if world achieves its claimed "aspiration" to "be like Americans"). We are working models showing the world can have "american levels" of VMT with a world fleet not much larger than now if a significant % were shared (instead of owned) as modelled by Burns.
Bravo, yes we need new business models of shared vehicles, like the electric zip cars that are now starting in many places. In Paris, this is already well advanced I'm told.
When the government or culture in an area does not support elimination of poverty, have you seen other ways to make substantial progress, or is the government/leadership really the key to success or failure?
Government is necessary. The tools of policy (taxes, regulation, public subsidies of science, public investment) are indispensable. They are not the only things that matter, but without government, broad-based and sustained development is not really possible. Of course, governments do not need to be perfect. Thank goodness!!!
Your book "economics for a crowded planet" was the reason I went to study economics at university!
My question is how would you go convincing corporations that are fixed on increasing the value of their stocks, to actually care about the environment?
Many companies are already on side I'm happy to say. They see the future, and also the need to protect their reputations. Many CEOs actually want to do good. We still have to get more oil companies on board, that's for sure. And we need a sound regulatory policy in any event.
on a lighter note - what are some of your favorite novels?
The most recent, wonderful, piece of fiction I just read was R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by Karel Capek. He was a hundred years ahead of his time, but the time of robots has arrived!
Dr. Sachs, what are your thoughts about birth control and how it affects countries, positively or negatively, struggling with poverty?
Voluntary fertility reduction, with universal voluntary access to birth control methods, plays an important role for helping poor households to escape from poverty and for overall economic development.
Hi Mr. Sachs. I go to Fieldston and I heard incredible things about your graduation speech. My question is pretty simple. Are you optimistic about the future of the United States economically?
Thanks. I had so much fun that Graduation Day at Fieldston! Yes, I am optimistic. I am very happy that our new Mayor Bill de Blasio is taking on some of the great challenges facing NYC (and the country). Say hi to your great teachers at Fieldston for me!!!
What do you think are the most important aspects that we need to take up in the United Nations post-2015 development agenda?
The key is to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that cover all three major areas of sustainable development: economic development (including the end of poverty); social inclusion and lower inequality; and environmental protection. I'm hoping for a set of 10 concise SDGs to help guide the world during 2015-2030.
USAID's Feed the Future is meant to align itself with the MDG and assist in reaching its goals with its own goal of eliminating severe hunger globally by 2020. Hunger like poverty seems to have expert generated accepted levels. What I find so disturbing in decades of working in developing communities around the world including in the US is "do people actually know what it is like to live at those levels that we deem OK or tolerable that just sneak over the poverty and now hunger line?" I am sure that this issue will be discussed at some point. Glad to be onboard.
Thanks for great question. The reason I focus so much on extreme poverty is that it is a life-and-death issue. Of course we need to help countries beyond just the poverty line! Great to have you in class.
Mr. Sachs, If you have a data, I would like to know what distribution of poverty by religion in the world is. Also, do you have any research that shows or explain correlation between religion and poverty and comes with a solution? I have done some research regarding poverty and religion specially Islam. I would like to show you my research and explain some very interesting things that I have found in the Quran Muslim’s holly book that can be used to prevent poverty. I contacted to your assistance regarding this but never get an answer yet. Thank you.
Great question. I've never seen such data, but will look for it certainly. What is true is that within any religion, such as Islam, there is a huge range of development realities, from rich to very poor. Also, when religious groups are minorities in countries they often face terrible discrimination.
Hello from Western Australia. Thanks for offering this online course! Practical questions: (hope I did not just overlook pertinent info on main page). a) a course book is mentioned - what book is that? Is it referring to the 'free, online text'? b) Will the times of the various video hang-outs be at various times of the day - to cater to the from around the world crowd? c) Will the weekly video links remain active for the rest of the course, once they are up? Thanks.
All the details will be available once the course https://www.coursera.org/course/susdev goes live on January 21. a) Yes, the course book will be a free, online text on sustainable development to accompany the class b) Exactly – the times of the video hangouts will vary in order to accommodate as many time zones as possible, and the specific times will be posted ahead of time. They will be conducted in English, Spanish, French, Hindi, and Chinese. c) Yes, the links will remain active for the rest of the course once they are posted. Please do tune in to the class, more information will be up once it is live next Tuesday!
Thank you for your dedication and persistence! And thank you for this course - I am very excited to participate in this collaborative intention. For a number of years I have been exploring what I call Transformational Global Leadership, defined as "the ability to generate fulfillment of a seemingly impossible vision for every human being.". What are your thoughts on the need for new models of leadership designed to deal with current global challenges?
Yes, we need transformational leadership, and can look at great examples in history: the fight against slavery, the fight against colonialism, the fight for civil rights, the fight against apartheid, the fight for human rights, and so on. In each case, bold, clear, powerful leadership played a key role.
Hi Professor, thanks for the AMA. I've spent time working with World Bank employees on several projects. While not going into specics, do you think change must be instituted through large institutions such as World Bank? Our political system is inherently disabled in many ways abroad, and it seems that economics are the key force at play and will remain the major motivator in developing a sustainable future. Thoughts?
The World Bank can play an important leadership role, and I know that the new World Bank President Jim Kim is committed to doing so. I'll do my best to help the institution fulfill its new commitment to work to end extreme poverty by 2030.
Professor Sachs, how have developed countries succesfully implemented environmental tax policy?
Several countries have successfully implemented a carbon tax, e.g. Norway and Sweden. It has made a difference in energy efficiency and deployment of low-carbon energy systems.
Do you thing we can use some indigeneous vision as "Good living" to adapt them as sustainability solutions ?
Yes, the question of "good life" or "happiness" is essential. Please see the 2013 World Happiness Report (online), which discusses this approach.
First of all, thank you for your time. What is a good indicator of sustainable development?
Our team at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, http://unsdsn.org/) is just now looking at several dozen indicators to cover economic, social, and environmental aspects of sustainable development. There will not be just one indicator, but probably dozens. Part of the challenge of Sustainable Development is that it is a complicated field, linking economics, social dynamics, and Earth systems.
Prof. Sachs, it's always fascinating to read the endless retorts you and William Easterly have on the subject of development economics. Aside from what we're exposed to in numerous essays, how would you describe your relationship with him?
There are days when I'm happier and days when I'm less happy. We're colleagues and friends, but sometimes I'm simply amazed (and not happy) when he declares that "aid has failed." This is simply NOT RIGHT!!! :-)
There's been a push over the past few years to "buy American" (wares made in America). To me, this goes against Globalization (a trend that would ultimately make the world a the manufacturers and drive down prices). Whats your stance on the protectionist attitude and buying only made in America wares?
This kind of protectionism is especially damaging, and is seen by poor countries are a kind of "cheating." How are they supposed to develop if the rich-country markets are closed to them?!
What role do you see art play in a sustainable society?
Art plays a vital role for the health of the soul, for our wellbeing, which is a key purpose and part of Sustainable Development!
What is the active participation expect from third world countries which are rich with biodiversity, in achieving millennium development goals?
The countries rich in biodiversity (e.g. Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, etc.) hold that biological heritage for all the world. We should helping those countries, including with financial assistance through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to preserve and protect the biodiversity.
For me, money in politics explains the lack of real progress in addressing extreme poverty and climate change thus far. Do you see a possibility for real reform in these areas without first addressing the issue of how politicians finance their campaigns?
I think we need to find ways for progressive candidates to win elections without the need for large financial war-chests, e.g. by relying on massive numbers of volunteers and on free social media. This is a great experiment, but I think it's possible. I'd like to see a third party committed to winning elections WITHOUT big money.
I just read The Price of Civilization. It really opened my eyes to the depth of the problems facing the US and the world. How optimistic do you feel about the future given that the US has gone more or less in the opposite direction of those goals you outlined two years ago?
We need a political movement akin to the Progressive Era, and I hope that young people in particular will help to lead that effort. Our government needs to be rescued from corruption and excessive corporate power! This can be done with the right social movement and successes at the ballot box.
Hello Professor Sachs. In the chapter on sustainable cities talk sometime naturalization systems such as green roofs and vertical walls?
Yes, we'll be talking a lot about sustainable urban strategies, such as the much greater use of smart buildings, just as you suggest.
My name is Nikolas Tsaousis. I'm from Cyprus Professor ill follow your course on line and i have questions 1.How many times in the week the lectures it will take place and when? 2.Can we have access to the videos at any time because we are +7h EST time? 3.The interactions can happen verbally or only by text in the time of the lectures? 4.Who we are going to add in Hangout TAs to place our questions? 5.All the information's they will send to us by mail so we have the correct sides? Personal quest: On 20 of January I'm flying back to my country from USA and still up 21st GTM time 19:00 i reach Cyprus how I will be able to follow lecture 1?
Glad to hear you’ll be following! All the logistical information regarding the posting schedules, etc, will be up on the coursera course page (https://www.coursera.org/course/susdev) once the course goes live next Tuesday January 21. The videos will be posted weekly, every Tuesday. Once the lecture videos are online they will stay up for the duration of the course, so you can watch whenever you’d like. There will be weekly google hangout videos with myself and the course staff, where you can submit any questions; the details of how to join will be on the website. Even if you can’t join at the time, you can go back to watch the videos later. There will also be discussion boards, and I’m looking forward to answering more of your questions and having interesting discussions there! The information will all be available on the coursera website, and you will also receive email updates if you’re registered.
Are you pesimistic about the european future because of the aging population and its impact in the economy and sustainability, or not?
Ricardo from Spain.
I'm optimistic about Europe (and love European culture, cities, and heritage). I'm also not against aging. :-) I believe that Europe still has the best model of social democracy, combining high productivity with social justice and environmental protection. Yet clearly some EU institutions and processes really need fixing!
Prof. Sachs, what do you think is the best way to engage companies so that they contribute to the sustainable development of the countries where they work?
Each company should have a sustainability division and a code of good conduct. Companies should not create damage to the communities where they operate, or to the planet, EVEN if such behavior is "legal." Companies have responsibilities not only to shareholders but to stakeholders (communities, workers, suppliers, customers, and the planet!)
I was present at an ECOSOC retreat that you attended back in November at the Greentree Foundation. I simply wanted to thank you for your thoughts and inputs. It is always refreshing in those contexts to hear people speak practically without the jargon. Speaking colloquially, you're the man!
Thanks. That was a good meeting. I'm glad that ECOSOC is getting organized for the post-2015 SD era. And thanks for joining the class!
Thanks for this opportunity, Prof.Sachs. What do you think of greatly rapid penetration and quick turnover of smart phones in the world in terms of resource consumption instead of communication improvement particularly in emerging countries ? Very look forward to have your view also considering coexistence with ecology and economy.
Smart phones are CRUCIAL for success. This is a wonderful technology (as we all know), and will play key roles in health, education, business, and of course quality of life.
Hi Jeffrey, I had the pleasure of taking a class from Lisa Cook at MSU, and we actually studied a paper you two wrote together. My question is how would you recommend oil rich countries in Africa harvest their resources without degrading their environment? Do you think that's even a likely achievement?
Oil development can be done effectively, with the money used for true development. It requires far more transparency of financial flows, far more policing of environmental abuses, and far more long-term policy planning. I am working with several governments to try to stop the resource curse and turn it into a resource blessing.
Hello Professor, thank you for taking the time to answer questions today! My question is in concerns to your work on the Millennium Village Project, which I think brought a lot of young people into the development arena around in 2006. I am wondering what your response is to those who criticize the MVP as grandoise, who believe that the $120M could have been used to foster more targeted development projects in Africa? I am also wondering if you would address the MVP's success/failure in Africa, as you see it? Some, such as the Center for Global Development, believe that the effectiveness of the Villages cannot be measured with normal growth in Africa accounted for, due to the project's refusal to compare the growth in MVP Villages with other villages. It would be great to hear your take. Thank you for your time again!
The project has had enormous positive impacts, way beyond the villages themselves. Governments have taken the successes of the villages as a basis for national policy, e.g. the control of malaria and the scale up of community health workers. There were originally 10 countries in the program, but its so useful for governments that the program is now operating directly or indirectly (through policy advice for example or as a template) in 23 countries. Please see www.millenniumvillages.org By the way, there will be a comprehensive evaluation of the project, and a comparison with other places nearby, in 2015, to be reported in 2016. It will be interesting for all, including of course the project participants, to learn from these results!
Which country teaches sustainable development in schools? Is this an effective way to know the importance of this topics for the world? How can we do it?
When the world adopts Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, we should all work to ensure that SD and the SDGs are taught in all schools as part of the curriculum. This will be an important step in global problem solving!
Hi, Mr Sachs:
Good to know and be able to exchange, biar knowledge on a subject that is more complicated every day for the world, good to share with people around the world and apply different thematic know, there is much to learn and do.
The sustainability of the world is in each of us as human beings ....
I am Colombian, there is much to do in our country,
I'm in a learning English, grammar faults apology ..
Thanks for joining the class!
Why are you not devaluing education through free courses? As an economist, I would think you'd be very wary of removing price signals from any product, especially one with so much investment as a college-level course.
I am thrilled that anybody can join in my lectures through an online experience. The marginal cost of that is essentially zero, so I'm happy to be supplying that "service" to anybody that's interested.
Hello from Spain. My name is Elodie, I'm french but living in Spain at this moment. I have already joined the course and I really look forward to starting it. I'm working in cooperation área, developing multilateral Project so we work every day in development, specially in developing countries. Which book would you advise to introduce in the on-line course?
I'll be introducing a new book, chapter by chapter, for free on line. You may be familiar with my books End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth (2008) and Price of Civilization (2011), in which I have tried to spell out my vision of sustainable development. Yet of course I keep learning new things, and am eager to share my thoughts in the class. :-)
Hello Prof. Sachs,
I indeed look forward to the course. I wanted to know as to how you view 'cities' as a factor in sustainable development.
Cities will be key. The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (www.unsdsn.org) is recommending a Sustainable Cities Goal among the Sustainable Development Goals.
What is the most extreme, ridiculous proposal you've ever seen to fix climate change that is just crazy enough to work?
It sometimes seems that the most "ridiculous" idea is that the governments actually agree to do something, and do IT. 21 years later, that's not yet happened. The goal now is for a comprehensive agreement in Paris at the 21st meeting of the signatories of the climate change agreement (COP21, so called), to take place in December 2015. Working now towards success of that.
Content question: Wikileaks is leaking increasingly from TPPA draft docs. Anything in there yet that 'scares' you - with respect to SustDev, ending poverty, creating more equality.
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