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Jeffrey Sachs argues for holistic approach to global development

| Friday, February 27, 2015

The Kellogg Institute for International Studies hosted economist Jeffrey Sachs on Thursday to discuss universal approaches to sustainable development using morality and compassion.

Sachs directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University and has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders twice.

According to a University press release, Sachs has traveled to more than 125 countries and advised leaders such as the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pope Francis. He is currently a special adviser for millennium development goals to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Sachs said he sets himself apart from normal economic writers with his adherence to the application of a moral framework to classical economics.

“We are in a new period in history,” Sachs said. “Humanity has put Earth into an unprecedented new phase.

“The scale of human activity is so great we are imperiling the survival of the human species.”

Sachs said technological advancement, starting with the invention of the steam engine, has been both positive and negative in advancing the human condition.

“We have now the capacity to transmit, to process, to store data and all information that we know of,” he said.

Sachs attributed the global warming epidemic the world now faces to the boom in technology. He said the application of that technology to everyday human life will decide how the world fares moving forward.

“It is feasible … to eliminate extreme poverty in our community,” Sachs said. “If we do care, [the poverty rate] will come down to zero in the next 15 years.”

Sachs said economic, social and environmental crises can only be solved by global solidarity. This solidarity, he said, must come from the awakening of the world to the realities of the detriments humans are currently causing through environmental depletion and social injustice.

“Economic growth and poverty reduction are hampered by three large hurdles — growing income inequality and social exclusion, [the] continued poverty trap in parts of Africa and Asia and growing economic crises,” he said.

Sachs said the only way to overcome these hurdles is to utilize sustainable development with a moral grounding, unlike the technological and economic developments of the past.

“Sustainable development is the holistic integration of economic, social and environmental objectives in an approach to scientific analysis, governance, problem solves, and human action,” he said.

Sachs said sustainable development currently exists at the forefront of worldwide organizations’ agendas, highlighted by the negotiation of sustainable development goals by the United Nations in September. He said the only way to continue to live in this world is to utilize sustainable development in a way that changes the trajectory of the destruction of the environment and of social conditions.

“We know how to make an economy grow, but that’s no longer the issue,” he said. “… The hard part is to do that in a way that meets people’s needs. We are destabilizing the planet, and we are destabilizing it everywhere.”

With the sustainable development the world has already seen, people have the resources and technological development to alter the effects of these different crises, Sachs said.

“We are all going to be driving Teslas in 10 years,” he said. “At the United Nations, we are trying to show that it is very practical to decarbonize even a major economy like the United States.”

Sachs said it is possible for the world to alter its current path of imperilment, but a change with sustainable development as a framework must occur. This can only be employed if world leaders and the overall population overcome its indifference toward global issues, he said.

“Our greatest challenge, ladies and gentleman, is the globalization of indifference,” Sachs said. “I have no doubt that Notre Dame will be leading the way.”

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