The Jacana Library
Lectures

 

 

 

 

The Reith Lectures, 2007

By Jeffrey Sachs

 

Lecture 1, 11 April 2007, “Bursting at the Seams”

SUE LAWLEY: Hello and welcome to the Royal Society in London, a place where, since its foundation in 1660, great minds have gathered to discuss the important scientific issues of the day. It's a fitting place to introduce this year's Reith lecturer, a man who believes we need a new enlightenment to solve many of the world's problems. The American press has hailed him as one of the world's most influential people, a plaudit due in some measure no doubt to the fact that he's not afraid to put his theories to the test. Like one of his great heroes, John Maynard Keynes, he's moved between the academic life and politics, working successfully with governments in South America and Eastern Europe to help restore their broken economies. In this series of Reith Lectures he'll be explaining how he believes that with global co-operation our resources can be harnessed to create a more equal and harmonious world. If we cannot achieve this, he says, we will face catastrophe; we'll simply be overwhelmed by disease, hunger, pollution, and the clash of civilisations.

In this, the first of his series of five lectures, he begins by setting the scene, describing an over-populated world on the brink of devastating change, a world that, as the title of the lecture says, is bursting at the seams. Ladies and gentlemen will you please welcome the BBC's Reith Lecturer 2007 - Jeffrey Sachs.

JEFFREY SACHS: Thank you very much Sue, thanks to BBC, thanks to the Royal Society, and thanks to all of you, ladies and gentlemen. Sue Lawley has it right that this is a house that has assembled the world's greatest minds throughout modern history, and many of them, as I look out, are in the room tonight. What an extraordinary gathering, a unique gathering of leaders of thought and action from so many disciplines, and it is with profound humility that I speak to you, but also profound hope that maybe, by the conversation that will commence tonight, and this fabulous opportunity of the Reith Lectures to have a global conversation, we can move forward to a world that is a bit safer than the one that we are now inhabiting. This is a lecture series about choices, choices that our generation faces, choices that will determine the nature of our lives and the lives of our children, and of generations to come. We have some momentous choices to make and I hope to describe them tonight and in the future Lectures.

I want to start with my favourite speech of the modern American Presidency and I think one of the most important statements made in modern times, one that truly did change the course of history. I'm referring to John Kennedy's Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963. It was an address that helped rescue the world from a path of self-destruction. It came in the immediate wake of the Cuban missile crisis, when Kennedy and the world had peered over the abyss, and what President John Kennedy said on that day I think resonates today and is important for all of us in all parts of the world. If you'll permit me to quote from it a little bit at length, just at the beginning. I do believe it helps to set the stage.

He said:

First examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible, too many think it is unreal, but that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man, and man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute infinite concept of universal peace and goodwill of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams, but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.

Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to this peace, no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation, for peace is a process, a way of solving problems.

I want to talk about the challenge of our generation. Ours is not the generation that faced the challenge of Fascism, ours is not the generation to have first grappled with the nuclear demon, though we still grapple with it today. Ours is not the generation that faced the Cold War. Ours is not the generation incidentally in which the greatest problem is the war on terror, or Iran, or other ideas that are current. Our challenge, our generation's unique challenge, is learning to live peacefully and sustainably in an extraordinarily crowded world. Our planet is crowded to an unprecendented degree. It is bursting at the seams. It's bursting at the seams in human terms, in economic terms, and in ecological terms. This is our greatest challenge: learning to live in a crowded and interconnected world that is creating unprecedented pressures on human society and on the physical environment. As John Kennedy said, we will need to solve these problems, the ones that are unique to our generation, if we are to find peace. Obviously we are not just in a cold war, we are in a hot war right now, because we have failed to understand the challenges and we have failed to take appropriate measures to face them. We don't need to dream. I am going to talk about concrete actions, I am going to discuss, I hope, effective agreements, and most importantly I want to talk about a way of solving problems. It's a fascinating and crucial concept for us - peace as a way of solving problems. We clearly are not on a path of problem solving now with the world, we are on a path of increasing risk and increasing instability, and by all objective measures the path of increasing hatred as well. We have not yet found a way of solving problems that our generation faces now.

Most importantly for us on this crowded planet, facing the challenges of living side by side as never before, and facing a common ecological challenge, has never been upon us in human history until now. The way of solving problems requires one fundamental change, a big one, and that is learning that the challenges of our generation are not us versus them, they are not us versus Islam, us versus the terrorists, us versus Iran, they are us, all of us together on this planet against a set of shared and increasingly urgent problems. By understanding those problems, understanding them at their depth, understanding what we share with every part of this world in the need to face these challenges, we can find peace. But we are living in a cloud of confusion, where we have been told that the greatest challenge on the planet is us versus them, a throwback to a tribalism that we must escape for our own survival.

I'm going to talk about three common problems that we face. They are inter-connected, they build on each other in ways that amplify or create abrupt change, abrupt risk, and highly non-linear responses to the threats we face. The first challenge that I'll talk about is the challenge of what Paul Crutzen has magnificently called the Anthropocene. That is the idea that for the first time in history the physical systems of the planet -- chemical fluxes, the climate, habitats, biodiversity, evolutionary processes -- are to an incredible and unrecognised extent under human forcings that now dominate a large measure of the most central ecological, chemical and bio-physical processes on the planet - the hydrological cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the location and extinction of species, and basic physical habitats. Of course human forcings have always played their role. We know that the hominids already controlled fire a million or more years ago, and therefore changed landscapes, even before the rise of homo sapiens. But never has the control of such fundamental processes been determined by human forcings, and we've barely awakened to that reality.

The second common challenge is a challenge of geo-politics, a challenge that I'm going to call the Age of Convergence. In many ways it's wonderful news. It's the notion that in a world that is more connected than ever before, a world where economic development, at least for the last two hundred and fifty years, has been driven by technology, and now a world where those technologies diffuse rapidly around the world, we have the fabulous prospect for the rapid closing of economic gaps that now exist between the rich and the poor. One result is that there will be in our time a fundamental shift of economic power, and the political power that goes along with it. We started this decade with a fantasy, the fantasy of the United States as the world's sole superpower, the fantasy of the United States as the sole indispensable power, it was called, the fantasy which we should have known from history always to be wrong and dangerous, of the United States as the New Rome, being urged on to take on the imperial mantle even by some who ought to know a lot better. But it was a fantasy because just as this was being proclaimed, China, India, and other regional powers were bound to be increasing their influence and their economic weight in the world by virtue of the shared capacity to benefit from technology, which is the foundation of economic development. As an economist, I subscribe to a philosophy that was first initiated by Adam Smith in 1776, which is why I'm so happy that these Reith Lectures will take us to Edinburgh - no accident. Smith talked about how global markets and international trade can be a fundamental diffusion mechanism for these technologies, and now that is happening. But we're not ready for it.

I want to call the third of our common challenges the challenge of the weakest links. In an interconnected world, all parts of the world are affected by what happens in all other parts of the world, and sometimes surprisingly so. We cannot be surprised when events in some far off and distant place - and I'm not talking about Central Europe, I'm talking about halfway around the world in the landmass of Eurasia - can be of fundamental significance even for survival, for the spending of hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars for the direction of global politics. In an interconnected world we have great need and basic responsibility, for our own survival, to attend to the weakest links. By that I mean those places in the world that suffer, those places in the world where people die because they are too poor to stay alive, those parts of the world which -- by virtue of physical geography, epidemiology, climate stress, rain-fed agriculture and drought-prone savannah climates for example -- face horrific challenges to even get onto the ladder of development. One billion people on the planet are too poor, too hungry, too disease-burdened, too bereft of the most basic infrastructure even to get on the ladder of development. The rich world seems to be believe, despite all the fine speeches (and there have been many), that this doesn't really matter, because the actions of the rich countries don't begin to address this problem. We are leaving ten million people to die every year because they are too poor to stay alive. Fine speeches will not solve that problem.

Our challenge is to understand these common problems, to see that the whole world is arrayed on the same side of them; to understand that a leader in Iran, or in Korea, or in Sudan, or in other places where we've made it a point not even to have a conversation, much less a negotiation or an attempt at peaceful solution, is facing problems of water supply, climate change, food production, poverty, and disease burden, many of which impinge directly on us. Can it be true incidentally that because we don't want to talk to Iran, H5N1 won't pass through Iran, that we won't have to deal with avian 'flu in places we don't want to speak to, where we have put pre-conditions to negotiations, because we can't see the commonality of our problems? Can it really be, ladies and gentlemen, that the solution to Darfur, one of the most urgent crises on the planet, is all about peacekeepers and troops and sanctions, when we know that in Western Darfur the rebellion started because this is just about the poorest place on the whole planet, because there is not enough water to keep people alive, the livestock have no veterinary care, there's no basic infrastructure, and the electricity grid is hundreds of miles away? Can we really think that peacekeeping troops and sanctions will solve this problem? I do think we have a fundamental re-thinking to do in each of these areas.

I'll discuss the Anthropocene in Beijing, China, which soon will be the country that is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide on the planet, and one that faces its own profound challenges of water stress, which will worsen, perhaps immeasurably, as the glaciers of the Himalayas melt and as the seasonal timing of snow melt from the Himalayas changes the river flow of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers and other rivers of Asia. The Anthropocene tells us that it's not just about one problem, as Sir Nicholas Stern, one of the intellectual leaders of our time, has brilliantly exposed in his report for the UK government. It's not only the problem of mass extinctions, or only the problem of the mass destruction of fisheries in the North Atlantic and in many other parts of the world. We are weighing so heavily on the Earth's systems, not only through carbon dioxide emissions changing climate but through carbon dioxide emissions acidifying oceans, through destruction of habitat, which is literally driving perhaps millions of species right off the planet. We are over-hunting, over-fishing, and over-gathering just about anything that grows slowly or moves slowly. If we can catch it we kill it. Our capacity in the Anthropocene is unprecedented, poorly understood, out of control, and a grave and common threat.

The illusions about geo-politics which I mentioned prevent us from solving these problems as well. The United States, my own country, has been in a fantasy of "going it alone," when our problems are so fundamentally global and shared. How do you address climate change, even if you recognised it, by yourself? The U.S. Government solved that problem temporarily by not recognising it. But when they do recognise it they're going to have to recognise it in a shared and global way.

And how can it be, ladies and gentlemen, that we think we can be safe? We think we can be safe when we leave a billion people to struggle literally for their daily survival, the poorest billion for whom every day is a fight to secure enough nutrients, a fight against the pathogen in the water that can kill them or their child, a fight against a mosquito bite carrying malaria or another killer disease for which no medicine is available, though the medicines exist and are low cost, thus letting malaria kill one or two million children this year. How can this be safe? How can we choose, as we do in the United States, to have a budget request this year of $623 billion for the military - more than all the rest of the world combined - and just $4.5 billion for all assistance to Africa and think that this is prudent? One might say it is science fiction that a zoonotic disease could arise and somehow spread throughout the world, except that AIDS is exactly that. How many examples do we need to understand the linkages, and the common threats, and the recklessness of leaving people to die -- recklessness of spirit, of human heart, and of geo-political safety for us?

President Kennedy talked about a way of solving problems, and that too will be a theme of these Lectures. We are entering I believe a new politics, and potentially a hopeful politics. I'm going to call it open-source leadership. If Wikipedia and Linux can be built in an open source manner, politics can be done in that manner as well. We are going to need a new way to address and to solve global problems, but our connectivity will bring us tools unimaginable even just a few years ago. I'm going to try to explain how this can be done, how without a global government we can still get global co-operation, how initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals can be an organising principle for the world -- though there is no single implementing authority -- and how it is possible to coalesce around shared goals. I am going to explain how scientists can play a fundamental role in this, such as they do in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The world is hungry for serious knowledge, for the information from what are sometimes called epistemic communities - that is communities of expertise - that can help to bring the best information to bear on the most crucial problems that affect the survival and the livelihoods and the well-being of people around the world. I'm going to talk about how our governments can be re-organised and need to be re-organised because we are living with nineteenth and twentieth century government structures for twenty-first century problems. Our governments simply do not understand the nature of these problems. Ministries generally are like stove pipes, narrowly defined. That's often true in academia as well. But the problems I will discuss cross disciplines and areas of knowledge, and inherently require cross-disciplinary and novel thinking, whether they are problems of poverty, disease, climate change, energy systems, war and peace, or Darfur. These problems cannot be left to the normal ways of operation, but that is what we are doing. That is why we see our governments flailing about blindly. These are not just "intelligence" failures, in the sense of our spy agencies, though surely those exist and are serious. We are experiencing the deep incapacities of our government to understand these challenges. We need some fundamental re-organisation, which I'll discuss.

We need, as President Kennedy said, concrete actions. I will discuss those, because there is no sense in theory if there is not something to do, starting today. There are things to do in all of these areas that can make a difference, a life and death difference. We need -- this is the possibility of our inter-connected, socially networked internet-empowered age --involvement from all of us. We all play a role. It doesn't just go through government, and if government remains as impervious to evidence and knowledge and capacity as it is right now, we're going to have to go increasingly around government. Perhaps that's inevitable, perhaps that's just a particular failing of our immediate times, I'm not sure. But we are going to have to play unique roles in terms of corporate social responsibility, civil society, and as individuals as well.

I'm an optimist, though you might not detect it! You might not hear it in this first lecture, because I want you to sit up, with open eyes. You know many or all of the things I'm saying, and certainly if there is one introductory note it is that we must not for one moment think that we're on an acceptable course right now. I want to stress, however, that fundamentally we have choices, and we actually have some terrific choices. We have the ability to do things at much lower cost, and much greater efficacy, than almost any of us can know, unless we are lucky enough to be engaged in epistemic communities that allow us to hear the wonderful news. I'm a partisan, for example, of anti-malaria bed nets, and I'll just give you one fact. There are three hundred million sleeping sites in Africa that need protection from malaria. Anti-malaria bed nets last five years, and cost a mere five dollars - one dollar per year. Often more than one child sleeps under a net. Economists are reasonably good at multiplication, so for three hundred million sleeping sites at five dollars per net, I calculate $1.5 billion. I also am acceptably good at long division. $620 billion of military budget, divided by 365 days, tells me that we are now spending $1.7 billion per day on the Pentagon. John Kennedy said in his world changing speech, "for we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty and disease," and my little calculation has shown you that one day's Pentagon spending could cover every sleeping site in Africa for five years with anti-malaria bed nets. And yet we have not found our way to that bargain, the most amazing one of our time. We do have choices -- they are good ones if we take them.

I want to close with what President Kennedy said about that. I regard these among the most beautiful lines ever uttered by a world leader. First he said, "In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace, and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours, and even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and to keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest." He uttered those words and within a few weeks the limited test ban treaty was negotiated. He changed the course of history by showing that there was a path for peace that was mutually acceptable. But then he said this, and what could be more important for the challenges of our generation?

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests, and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity, for in the final analysis our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal.

Thank you very much.

  

Lecture 2, 18 April 2007, “Survival in the Anthropocene

SUE LAWLEY: Hello and welcome to Beijing for the second in this year's series of Reith Lectures entitled 'Bursting At The Seams'. Today we're in the Room of the Ten Thousand Masses, at the China Centre for Economic Research at Peking University - and yes, the university is still called Peking University. It's the first time the BBC has recorded a Reith Lecture in China, and we couldn't be in a more appropriate place at a more appropriate time. Last week our lecturer Jeffrey Sachs, the international economist, set the scene for his argument, that all the world's great powers can and must co-operate if our planet is not to descend into disease-ridden, poverty-stricken devastation. Nowhere is more important in this process than China, a country of 1.3 billion people, now being transformed into a global power of enormous influence and strength. What China chooses to do, and more importantly how she chooses to do it, will be crucial in the next phase of the world's development.

This recent great leap forward of China's has already come at a price, not least in the damage that's been done to its environment. It's still a one party state without democratic elections, and many in the West believe that it can't play a full part on the world stage until it address matters of individual liberty and human rights. Peking University has a reputation in the People's Republic for revolutionary thinking, and with us in our audience tonight are many of its students, as well as academics, journalists, and businessmen, with whom we'll discuss these issues. But first, will you please welcome this year's BBC Reith lecturer, Jeffrey Sachs.


JEFFREY SACHS: Good evening everybody, and what a thrill it is to be at Peking University, and to be together with you. And what a thrill it is for me to have the chance to give this unique lecture series, the Reith Lectures, and to take part in a global discussion, a discussion that we must have in the beginning years of our new century, if we are to achieve what we hope to achieve -- shared peace and prosperity around the planet. I think we all sense that we are at very important decision points in the planet, with obvious risks and huge opportunities. As Sue just said, there is no place on the planet of more significance for these choices -- for its own sake as well as for the world's sake -- as China today, a country that calls for superlatives in its role, its dimensions, and the stakes for the world. Here we are in the famous, beautiful, magnificent Hall of the Ten Thousand Masses, as it's called, but to account for China's vastness we would need a hundred thirty thousand such halls of ten thousand people each to accommodate the 1.3 billion people of this country, which makes up one fifth of the world's population and is quickly becoming an absolute epicentre of the global economy as well as many of the challenges that I'll discuss tonight.

China has been at the centre of world history for millennia, and for large stretches of world history China has been the leading power. Roughly from 500 AD to 1500 AD China was clearly the dominant economic power and the dominant progenitor of fundamental and leading technologies of all sorts, which empowered the world and changed it in magnificently positive ways. And of course we all see and expect China to play that role in the twenty-first century as well. After a long period of difficulty, economic hiatus and internally and externally caused disarray, China clearly is in the ascendancy in this century. It is far and away the most dramatic case of economic growth in the history of the world. Never before have we seen rates of economic progress, and what they signify -- deep improvements of human well-being taking place at not only the pace but obviously the scale that we're seeing now, with each decade bringing a doubling or more of living standards -- in a country of these vast proportions.

So the superlatives of the economy are well known and they cross lips around the world every day, but we're going to talk about another aspect of that challenge this evening, and that's the superlatives of the environmental challenge that China faces. Not only is it the world's most populous country, it is one of the world's most crowded countries, and it is certainly one of the world's most environmentally stressed regions. This is a challenge that has existed throughout China's history, but what has happened in recent decades and what will happen in the decades to come poses qualitatively new challenges that are emblematic of the unique environmental stresses that we all face on the planet together -- some because of the special role that China will play in the future, and some because China is experiencing the same kinds of phenomena as in other parts of the world.

I called my lecture today 'The Anthropocene' - a term that is spectacularly vivid, a term invented by one of the great scientists of our age, Paul Crutzen, to signify the fact that human beings for the first time have taken hold not only of the economy and of population dynamics, but of the planet's physical systems, Anthropocene meaning human created era of Earth's history. The geologists call our time the holocene --the period of the last thirteen thousand years or so since the last Ice Age -- but Crutzen wisely and perhaps shockingly noted that the last two hundred years are really a unique era, not only in human history but in the Earth's physical history as well. The Anthropocene is the period when human activity has overtaken vast parts of the natural cycles on the planet, and has done so in ways that disrupt those cycles and fundamentally threaten us in the years ahead.

Now considering how we're going to face the dual challenge of continued economic progress, which we dearly hope for in this country and in other parts of the developing world, and continued economic well-being of course and progress, in today's high income world, with the profound and growing environmental dangers that we face, is the subject of our Reith Lecture today.

Let me set the stage. Our era is unique. We've never before experienced anything like the human pressures on the environment as well as the human successes in sustained and broad-based improvements of well-being. Ensuring that we can continue those successes without going right over the cliff will prove to be our generation's greatest challenge. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, which we could date roughly to the beginning of the nineteenth century - 1800 or so, perhaps a few decades earlier by some historians' accounts, a couple of decades later in most places in the world - the human impact on the environment has increased approximately one hundredfold. Human population has risen from six or seven hundred million in the middle of the eighteenth century to our 6.6 billion today, roughly a tenfold increase. Per capita economic activity -- that is how much each of us on the planet consumes, produces, draws upon natural resources for our sustenance and well-being -- has also risen by typical statistical account, as hard as it is to compare over the course of two centuries, roughly tenfold as well. With ten times more people, each of whom is engaged in ten times more economic activity, we have two orders of magnitude, or one hundred times, the influence of human activity on the planet. And this is coming at unprecedented cost to physical earth systems. What's absolutely striking, and the puzzle we need to solve, is this basic fact: What we are already doing on the planet in terms of effects on physical systems is unsustainable. We cannot go on doing what we're doing. We have already reached a point of literal unsustainability, in the sense that if we continue on our current path, using resources the way we use them now at the scale we use them now, we will hit very harsh boundaries that will do great damage to human well-being, to the earth, and to vast numbers, literally millions, of other species on the planet. But we have an even harder problem to solve than that one, and that is that we do not want to stop here in terms of consumption or economic activity. The developing countries -- and we're in the most populous of them today -- which together make up five sixths of humanity, rightly and understandably and from my point of view absolutely accountably and responsibly, say they would like their place in the sun as well. If the high income world has achieved certain levels of wealth, comfort, safety and life expectancy, what about the rest of humanity? From my point of view as a development economist, something absolutely wonderful is happening, something that I think we could even dub the Age of Convergence, and that is that the measure of economic development, the methods, the institutions, the processes, the adaptation of advanced technologies, are becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Now tragically not every part of the world is yet part of that phenomenon, and I will have the chance to discuss that in a later lecture, when we talk about the poorest of the poor who are still not part of this dynamism. But the wonderful news is that large parts of the planet are part of this dynamism - China of course is at the very forefront in an unprecedented manner -- catching up in technology, economic activity, and human well-being. Let's not doubt the improvements of living, not only of conventionally measured living standards but of human well-being and life expectancy, in nutrition, in opportunities, in chances to fulfill life's hopes that come along with this economic improvement.

The processes now are made powerful by the strong winds of globalization -- the market forces and the ability of ideas and technology to flow across national boundaries at an unprecedented rate. The world economy is now growing at approximately five per cent per annum, and that is four per cent approximately of per capita income increases, and one per cent per year roughly of global population increase. That means we are on course for a massive increase of economic activity, just what we would like to see in the still poor countries of the world, those who aspire to have the chances that technology and science have brought us. It is fair to say that, given current trends, we have a powerful force of economic convergence in most parts of the world, and if the processes of convergence continue to operate as they have in recent decades, one could expect that perhaps the average per person income on the planet could rise as much as four times between now and mid-century. If the average income as measured by economists, statisticians, taking into account the purchasing power of income in different parts of the world, is roughly eight thousand dollars per person, one could expect perhaps that that would reach thirty thousand dollars by mid-century, given the powerful and positive forces of economic development.

Population of course, though increasing more slowly in proportional terms than it did in the second half of the twentieth century, is still increasing in absolute terms by an astounding amount of 70 to 80 million people per year. And on the medium forecast of the UN Population Division, that leads to a projection of roughly an increase of another two and a half billion people on the planet by the year 2050. That is a world population increase of roughly fifty per cent, with income on a path, barring various disasters, to increase approximately fourfold. Multiplying one and a half by four suggests that the current trajectory would lead to an increase of world economic activity of six times between now and 2050. That is the goal from the point of view of economic development, but think about the paradox, if we already are on an unsustainable trajectory and yet China, India, and large parts of Asia are successfully barrelling ahead with rapid economic development at an unprecedented rate. We are asking our planet to somehow absorb a manyfold increase of economic activity on top of an already existing degree of environmental stress that we've never before seen on the planet.

It is possible that we will not be able to increase sixfold in economic activity with current technologies before the environmental catastrophes would choke off the economic growth. The hardships in water stress, deforestation, hunger, and species extinction, would cause this process to go awry, even before we are able to do more damage to the planet. But that does pose the fundamental question - what will give in the end? Many people think the only thing that can give are living standards in the high income world, whereas others believe that we are bound for a bitter struggle between the rich and the poor in the years ahead. I want to argue that the only viable, peaceful way forward is a change of the way we live that allows for continued improvement of living standards in all parts of the world and for catching up, but that also permits us to square the circle of environmental stress and economic development.

The Anthropocene is felt in so many areas -- habitat destruction, rising greenhouse gases that are changing the climate and threatening us profoundly, water stress, human dominance of the natural nitrogen cycle through heavy use of manmade fertilisers that allow us to feed a world population of 6.5 billion people on its way to 9 billion, new diseases that emerge when human populations and animal populations come into contact in new ways, and of course in the vast over-fishing, over-hunting, over-gathering, and over-exploitation of natural resources in large parts of the planet, leading to population collapses and species extinction.

I want to touch on one of these many aspects, because it is not only of central importance, but helps to illuminate the challenge of squaring the circle of development and environmental sustainability. Climate change, a vast challenge that reflects at the core the fact that modern economic growth since the Industrial Revolution has been built on the use of fossil fuels , which leads to the emission of carbon dioxide and , through the greenhouse effect, the warming of the planet and fundamental changes to the earth's climate. The effect was identified more than a century ago, in 1896, but it has only come to our attention in recent years, because it is only in the last couple of decades that we have come to understand just how big the human effect is on the growing concentrations of carbon dioxide and a number of other such greenhouse gases, and on our changing climate.

This is a case where what we are doing today is not sustainable, because each year we are raising the carbon concentration in the atmosphere by two or more parts per million of molecules in the atmosphere. When projected over the course of this century, that rate of emission would lead to such a high level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the climate would be changed, we now understand, to the point of dire risk for us and for vast parts of the global eco-system. Species extinction, extreme weather events, massive changes of precipitation, grave risks to food production, disease transmission and the like, would all reach harrowing levels later in this century if we merely continue to do what we're doing now. But here comes the puzzle. With the world economy barrelling ahead, the amount of energy use is also rising dramatically, and so too the use of fossil fuels, which will be in sufficient abundance long enough for us to wreck the climate before we run out. And so if the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing by roughly two parts per million each year, it could easily be four parts per million in a few decades, with the rate increasing over time. The projections are that by mid-century we might have doubled the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide. By the end of this century, if we continue on a business as usual course with the economic development we so hope for in this country and in the rest of the developing world, perhaps the concentration will have tripled or quadrupled. We know, as we learned once again by the recent scientific consensus of the inter-governmental panel on climate change, which reported in its fourth assessment round beginning in February of this year, that the effects of that kind of increase pose risks to this planet that we simply cannot afford to take.

What can we do? Do we have to end economic growth? Do we have to end the hopes of the developing world? Do we need dire cutbacks in living conditions, inevitable in today's rich world? I believe that there is another course, and it's the course we must take. There are at least three ways out of this conundrum. First of course is fuel and energy efficiency, so that we can get more economic output with less direct use of fossil fuels. Second of course is the substitution of non-fossil fuels for fossil fuels, so that per unit of energy the emissions of carbon dioxide can be reduced, whether it's with safely deployed nuclear power, or more economical solar power, or wind, or bio-mass, there's definitely a role, though perhaps not as dramatic as we might hope, for non-fossil fuels.

There's a third alternative as well, and that is to learn to use our existing fossil fuels safely. And for China and India this is perhaps the single most important hope for these countries and for the planet. One idea on the drawing board which needs to get into demonstration and production in this country as soon as possible - and that means nearly immediately - is the idea of power plants that burn coal to generate electricity, capturing the carbon dioxide that they would otherwise emit, pumping it into pipelines and safely storing it in safe geologic reservoirs in the earth.

The big question for the planet is the unprecedented challenge to move to a sustainable energy system, requiring a great degree of co-operation, foresight, and planning, over a time span of decades. Can we do it? Can we find that level of public understanding, political consensus, direction and determination? We may fake it with nice speeches, but the climate will change whether we fake it or not. There is no spinning this one. This one is dependent on what we actually do, not what we say we do.

I want to mention one hopeful analogy, and that is how we have successfully as a world avoided what was another desperate risk, and that was the depletion of the ozone layer. That was also discovered by Paul Crutzen, the scientist who brought us the Anthropocene. He and two colleagues, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, discovered, accidentally as it were, that the chemicals that we use for refrigeration and for our aerosols, the chloro-fluorocarbons, or CFCs, posed a grave risk to survival on the planet because of their accidental interactions in the stratosphere that could have destroyed the ozone layer. It was an accidental, brilliant discovery. It took some years for the public to become aware of it. When the scientists said it, the makers of the CFCs said that it was junk science, that they'd heard it before. They went into denial. But then NASA in the United States snapped a picture from one of its remarkable satellites, showing the hole in the ozone layer. In a way it may be the picture that saved the world, because as soon as people saw that hole with their own eyes, they weren't listening to the Chairman of DuPont anymore, they were thinking about their survival and the survival of their children. The public awareness soared, the pressure for action increased. At that point DuPont and other companies' scientists went to work. They determined there was an alternative to the CFCs, there were other safer chemicals that could be refrigerants and aerosols. Then a fourth step took place. The companies whispered in the ears of the politicians, "it's okay, you can reach an international agreement, we can handle this." And quickly, -- from the basic science to the international agreements took about fifteen years -- by 1990 a global framework was in place that called for the phasing out of the chloro-fluorocarbons and has put us on a path of at least relative safety with regard to that risk.

With climate I believe we have the same prospects now. It is a much more difficult issue, a problem that gets to the core of the functioning of the world economy, so it cannot be solved from one day to the next, requiring a basic change of our infrastructure and our energy systems which will take decades to complete, but a process nonetheless that I think is underway in the same way. First came the science, back in 1896, and then the modern science in the last twenty-five years. And as soon as the science came, came the companies with the vested interests claiming junk science, because their instinct is to start lobbying. But you don't lobby against nature. Nature has its principles: it doesn't matter what the boards of these companies say. What matters is the actual physical mechanisms. The science was right, it becomes more and more known.

Now like the ozone crisis, public awareness has been the second step. For a long time climate change was discussed as something for the far future. Now it's understood as something that imperils us today as well. The heatwave in Europe in 2003, claiming more than twenty thousand lives; Hurricane Katrina, a storm of devastating proportions, shocking the American people and the world about what climate can do; the mega-drought in Australia that took place this year, and destroyed a substantial part of Australia's export crop; the massive typhoons being experienced by this country, as well as the warming taking place in large parts of this country, and severe droughts in the interior of China - have all made climate change an immediate issue, an understandable issue, and one that of course will get worse, no matter what we do right now, for a while, because we are on a trajectory of worsening climate change stresses that is locked in place for the near term.

The good news is that the scientists and the engineers are now scurrying. Technological alternatives are being developed. Carbon capture and sequestration is beginning to be put into place in demonstration projects. So too are alternative non-fossil fuel energy sources, and so too remarkable breakthroughs in energy efficiency, such as hybrid and plug-in hybrid automobiles, which promise us vast efficiency gains, more distance per unit of fuel.

The good news is that those technological breakthroughs are similarly leading the companies to whisper in the ears of the politicians - "it's okay, we can handle this." And that's the best news of all. Companies around the world are now in the lead of their politicians. In fact they're telling the politicians we have to act, we want a framework, we need an incentive mechanism, we need a price structure so that we can move ahead with sustainable energy. I believe we're going to get there. Global negotiations on a truly global framework open in December of this year, in Bali, Indonesia. We've agreed in principle on a Framework Convention on Climate Change, that we must stabilise greenhouse gases. We took an early small step in the so-called Kyoto Protocol, but this only involved a very small set of commitments for a limited part of the world - mainly Europe, because the United States did not even join. Now in December we must have the US and China, and India, and the European Union, and other parts of the world, all coming together and saying we must do this for ourselves and for the future. Nature has spoken more loudly than vested interests. This is not a matter of vested interests, it is a matter of common interest. These steps, from the science to the public awareness, to the technological alternatives, to the international agreements, are the very steps that we will need for all aspects of the Anthropocene. This will be the mark of our new era - science-based global policy-making based on worldwide public awareness. That's going to be true for saving the rain forests, for saving our oceans from over-fishing, for managing water stress, and for choosing population alternatives that are sound for the planet and sound for individuals as well. We don't have to accept the population trends, because people would choose fertility reduction voluntarily in large parts of the developing world, if the alternatives were made available to them. We can do this, and we will learn that the costs of action are tiny, compared with the risks of inaction. Climate change can be solved, according to the best current estimates, for less than one per cent of world income each year, and perhaps well under that, where the potential costs are a devastating multiple of several per cent of world income if we continue on the business as usual trajectory.

I want to end where I started the first lecture, with my favourite speech by President John F. Kennedy. He talked about the challenge of peace. That is our biggest challenge on the planet. And peace is also threatened by environmental risk. But he also told us in that speech that we have chances. He said, and I repeat because I think it is our common thread: "Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again."4 That is the spirit of the Anthropocene.

Thank you very much.
 

Lecture 3, 25 April 2007, “The Great Convergence”

SUE LAWLEY: Hello and welcome to New York for the third in this series of Reith Lectures. We are at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, whose Director is this year's Reith lecturer, Jeffrey Sachs. The Earth Institute was set up to analyse, investigate, and most importantly, try to find solutions to the environmental and economic problems facing the world today. In his first lecture, Professor Sachs set out his argument that through international co-operation, the world can rid itself of disease, poverty and pollution. Last week in China he explained the role that it, the world's most rapidly developing economy, needs to play in this process. Tonight, on his home territory, he'll talk about the United States, a country at the zenith of its economic power, facing colossal changes as the emerging nations of Asia seek to take their turn on the world stage. What must America do? How should it behave? Here to discuss these questions is an audience of politicians, academics, students, and, if there is such a thing, ordinary New Yorkers. But first ladies and gentlemen please will you welcome the BBC's Reith lecturer 2007, Jeffrey Sachs. Our generation's challenge is of a planet bursting at the seams. There are 6.6 billion of us crowded on the planet today, and the numbers continue to rise. The UN has recently estimated that we will total 9.2 billion by 2050 if we maintain our current demographic trajectory. Unprecedented economic growth in Asia offers the vista of a richer world, indeed of shared prosperity around the planet. The end of extreme poverty is within reach. But unless we come to grips with the dangerous aspects of our technological prowess and demographic trends, we might instead face the prospect of an ecologically wrecked planet, one gripped by man-made climate change, the massive human-led extinction of other species, and the grave insecurity of a planet divided as never before between the extreme rich and the extreme poor. The hopes of shared prosperity could instead become a nightmare of shared insecurity.


JEFFREY SACHS: I believe that we can find our way through this thicket, that we can solve even the toughest of these problems. Practical answers to the challenges of climate change, the conservation of biological diversity, extreme poverty, emerging epidemic diseases, and food insecurity are all within reach. President John F. Kennedy summed up this potential when he declared that

'Our problems are manmade - therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable - and we believe they can do it again.'

And of course Kennedy was right. We stand today on the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade in the British Empire, a step towards human freedom that was won through an unrelenting campaign of social activists over entrenched economic interests. We are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the independence of India, the 50th anniversary of the birth of independent Ghana, the first independent country in post-Colonial Africa. And of course we are at the 50th anniversary of the European Community, now the European Union. After a millennium of warfare in Western Europe, the very thought of conflict among Germany, France, the U.K., Italy and others is utterly unthinkable. As Kennedy said,

'However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbours. '

In these lectures I have been laying out my view of how we can best address global problems. The starting point, I believe, is a sound and scientific diagnosis of the problems we face, whether of climate, biodiversity, water, or extreme poverty. Next is public awareness. We live, fortunately, in an increasingly democratic age. Global problems can only be solved with global public understanding.

Next is the deployment of technologies to address the challenge. Though advanced technologies are sometimes considered to be a malign force, yet a further threat, they are of fundamental importance in enabling 6.6 billion people, and perhaps 9.2 billion people, to meet the twin aspirations of improved material life and ecological sustainability. Without improved technologies to raise food productivity, to use water more efficiently, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide per unit of energy, there can be no way to combine economic wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Finally, there must come global agreement, implementing treaties such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and of course the Millennium Development Goals.

Ironically, to many of us on this planet, the first three steps - science, public awareness, and technological solutions - all seem within reach, while global agreements on how to respond seem impossible. The deepest skepticism, it seems, is about our very ability to cooperate, not about the technical solutions to our most challenging problems. Yet, to quote Kennedy once again, the belief that global cooperation is beyond our capacity is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable - that mankind is doomed - that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.

When Kennedy spoke, large numbers of Americans thought that peace with the Soviet Union was impossible. They were wrong. So too are those today who believe that we can not agree to end poverty, fight climate change, and even to make peace in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Yet global cooperation is in fact difficult. It is a challenge that we have only sporadically achieved. We meet today at a time of another disastrous war, that is, another clear failure of global cooperation. The Iraq War not only kills by the tens of thousands, and maims by even more, but it distracts us from our much more vital tasks.

Global cooperation is at risk for three reasons. The most urgent is the ever-present threat and reality of war, born of the darker side of human nature. A second reason why cooperation fails is that in our interconnected world, the collapse of any single part of the world - even a place as isolated as Afghanistan - has implications for all of the world. Cooperation in an inter-connected world must therefore be comprehensive, something that our societies still do not appreciate or accept. We must care, and also act, in response to suffering in Sudan, or Yemen, or Gaza, or Papua New Guinea. A third reason for failure is sheer complexity. Our problems are now of global scale. The world is interconnected in unprecedented ways that require unprecedented strategies for global cooperation. Tonight I will focus on the first of these risks - the threat of war - leaving the challenges of failed and fragile states, and of global complexity, for later lectures.

Our gravest threat on the planet remains the threat of massive war. Our species is drawn to it like moths to a flame. We are not warlike by nature - that is far too simplistic - but we are vulnerable to the allure of war to solve problems. Half a trillion dollars later in Iraq, you might think that we would have been disabused. Yet even our home town press, the New York Times, recently (March 18, 2007) editorialized for a boost in the size of the standing army. This, indeed, would be a recipe doomed to fail. The military will not solve the problems that we face. Our money, training, and effort, can be much better invested elsewhere.

My worry is that we are gambling recklessly with a "2014" to match the year 1914. Let me explain. Nearly one hundred years ago, in 1914, the peace was sundered by the Guns of August, and the 20th century never quite recovered. World War I almost literally came out of nowhere, so much so that historians still debate why the war occurred. A happy march of soldiers to win each nation's honor within a few weeks turned into four years of mass carnage, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of Hitler, the Holocaust, and more. Our war in Iraq, our threats to Iran, and even the growing anti-Chinese sentiments in the well of the US Senate all raise the stakes of a similar disaster on our generation's watch.

We are not doomed to this outcome, but we can become the accomplices to it. Two deep aspects of human psychology are crucial here. The first is that human beings hover between cooperation and conflict. We are actually primed psychologically, and probably genetically, to cooperate, but only conditionally so. In a situation of low fear, each of us is prone to cooperate and to share -- even with a stranger. Yet when that trust evaporates, each of us is primed to revert to conflict, lest we are bettered by the other. Game theorists call this strategy "Tit for Tat," according to which we cooperate at the outset, but retaliate when cooperation breaks down. The risk, obviously, is an accident, in which cooperation collapses, and both sides get caught in a trap in which conflict becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In that all-too-real nightmare, we end up fighting because we fear that the other will fight. This fear is confirmed by fear itself. Wars occur despite the absence of any deeper causes.

The second crucial piece of human psychology is that we are social animals, with a strong tendency to identify with an in-group. We classify ourselves as New Yorkers, or Americans, or Jews, or Muslims, or professors, or artists, or bankers. In most cases, we are a part of many groups. Our identities are multi-faceted, and that knits us together in overlapping webs of trust and shared regard. Yet in an environment of fear, a single in-group, a single "us" can suddenly take over. The world becomes divided between "us" and "them." Suddenly, we are Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, Hutus and Tutsi, Shiites and Sunnis. Peaceful coexistence over centuries becomes carnage over weeks and months. Psychologists have shown that a child's attachment to an in-group begins as early as age 6, and that fear of an out-group, especially a low-status outgroup, is manifested at that young age, and even at the unconscious level.

Put these two pieces - Tit-for-Tat strategy and "us versus them" logic -- together and we can see how the world confronts alternative futures. One possible future is a world in which trust builds trust, cooperation begets cooperation. Our identities are multiple. I may be a New Yorker, working at Columbia University, in partnership with my colleagues in Egypt and Jordan, to address problems of water and climate in the Middle East. That kind of multi-faceted identity is the road to peace, to a mid-century of prosperity, to an anniversary of 1914 that notes human folly and tragedy rather than human fate.

The other future, however, puts us into a world of spiraling conflict. Box cutters and hijacked planes bring death and disaster in New York City. We "retaliate" though in Iraq, which was not party to the attack, and thereby spread the conflict. We lump together a terrorist group, al-Qaeda, with states such as Libya, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, failing to recognize that states are much more complex and with varied interests that can be the subject of negotiation. Cooperation collapses. It's suddenly "us" versus "them." 2014 is no longer an anniversary, but our own seeming death wish. And in the meantime, while the fighting and insecurity escalates, we utterly neglect the problems of climate change, biodiversity conservation, extreme poverty, and the very goals that we have set ourselves for the new millennium. How true are John Kennedy's words of June 1963:

For we are both devoting to weapons massive sums of money that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counter-weapons.

In President Bush's 2008 budget just submitted, military spending is $623 billion, more than all of the rest of the world combined, while aid to all of Africa is $4.5 billion. Inexplicably, Vice President Cheney accused the Chinese of a build-up of their military budget, though their military outlays are vastly lower than ours.

How then to break this dangerous cycle, one as threatening today as it was during the Cold War, and that is now marked by the grave perils of inter-religious hate and zealotry, a wider spread of nuclear weapons, and stronger global interconnections that amplify a conflict to all corners of the world? Again, we must take Kennedy's greatest insight, that "Peace is a process - a way of solving problems." Let's see how Kennedy applied that profound insight in his day, and learn to do it in ours.

Kennedy's speech on June 10, 1963, which I have quoted throughout this evening and throughout the Reith Lectures, was not only a scintillating exposition on peace, and not only a challenge to his generation to make peace, but was also part of the process itself, a way of problem solving. Kennedy literally used the speech to make peace.

Kennedy's chosen process was ingenious. The entire speech is to his fellow Americans, not to the Soviet Union. He didn't tell the Soviets that they were either with us or against us. He didn't lay down preconditions for negotiations. He didn't make a list of things that the Soviets must do. There were no threats of sanctions. In fact, the opposite was true. The entire speech was about US behavior and US attitudes. Instead of lecturing the Soviets, Kennedy said:

'I also believe that we must re-examine our own attitude - as individuals and as a nation - for our attitude is as essential as theirs." We should, he said, "begin by looking inward," to "the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the cold war and toward freedom and peace here at home.'

Brilliantly, Kennedy, then spoke about our own actions as well as our own attitudes. He said:

'We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace. Above all, while defending our vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war. To adopt that kind of course in the nuclear age would be evidence only of the bankruptcy of our policy - or of a collective death-wish for the world.'

History records the results. Khrushchev immediately declared to Averell Harriman, the U.S. diplomatic envoy, that the speech was "the best statement made by any president since Roosevelt," and declared his intention to negotiate a treaty. So successful was Kennedy and his team, led by speechwriter Ted Sorensen, who is with us this evening, that the speech itself was followed in a mere six weeks by a Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty with the Soviet Union, initialed on July 25, 1963. That Test Ban Treaty, history shows, was the turning point of the Cold War, the first step down from the threat of imminent mutual destruction that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a step that put the world on the path of arms control, then détente, Perestroika, and the end of the Cold War itself. Cooperation had begotten cooperation, in the shadow of the near-Armageddon in Cuba.

Threats of self-fulfilling conflict will rise in the years ahead. Many Americans and Europeans, though still protected by the dominant military forces on the planet, will be afraid, and increasingly so. They will fear the rise of China's economic, political and military power, the rise of India, the changing demographics of the Middle East and of our own societies. The US will not be "the world's sole superpower," and perhaps never really was. We can't even secure Baghdad, much less the world. And we will likely be eclipsed in total economic size by China within a generation, though not in per capita income. Western Europe's population, which was nearly four times that of the Middle East plus North Africa in 1950, is now only one-third larger, and will be at parity by 2025. By mid-century, the population of the Middle East and North Africa will be around one-third larger than Europe's population. In the meantime, the Muslim population in Europe will also soar, perhaps to around one-third in the major cities, both because of in-migration and because of higher fertility rates of European Muslims compared with European Christians.

This will all be cause for alarm in many quarters and we already see it in the rise of anti-immigrant politics today. Yet we must not let our anxieties run ahead of us, and thereby lose control of our future. Fear begets fear, but so too can trust beget trust. It's all in the process. I speak tonight in a city that is an exemplar of what globalization can offer. New York City is about 40 percent foreign born. It is a unique amalgam of civilizations. Manhattan is a quarter Hispanic, 15 percent African American, 10 percent Asian, and half white, non-Hispanic. It is a forerunner of the demographics of the U.S. as a whole by mid-century, when the white, non-Hispanic population will be a mere 50 percent, down from 70 percent today. London, in the same way, is a forerunner of Europe's changing demography. Yet New York and London are not cities in disarray, but just the opposite. They are arguably the two quintessential World Cities at the start of the 21st Century. They are both hugely prosperous, hugely safe, and hugely diverse.

I was in London during the subway bombings in July 2005. What impressed me above all else was the calm appeal by all U.K. leaders for mutual respect and for attention to the shared fate of the country's various ethnic communities, Christian and Muslim alike. This maturity reflected the traditions and wisdom of hundreds of years of open society, tolerance, and democratic self rule. This attitude is the way to peace. And the U.K. as well as the U.S. will be safer still the sooner all of our troops, American and British, are out of Iraq.

Continued immigration, across cultural and economic divides, is not only inevitable but also broadly beneficial. Immigrants deepen the ties that hold our world together. Today's migrants don't abandon their homelands, but bridge their homelands with their adopted countries. They make links, economic, cultural, and social. Immigration needs to be steady and sure, neither a floodgate nor a trickle. A floodgate would disrupt the long-term processes of social trust and institution building in the host and source countries. A trickle would allow a build-up of global pressures and illegal population movements to an intolerable degree.

Of course, we would be wise to ease such pressures a bit by helping the poorest countries to achieve a voluntary reduction of the high fertility rates in places where population growth is still extraordinarily high. There is no question that the demographic bulge in the today's impoverished countries, including the poorest regions of Africa and the Middle East, adds to tensions but also undermines economic development and wellbeing in those countries. In some of the poorest regions, fertility rates are still so high that populations are doubling every generation. This adds to poverty, youth unemployment, despair, violence among young people, and mass migration as well. Scientific evidence shows squarely that even the poor would like to have fewer children, and will chose to do so, when they can gain access to family planning and contraception, and when they are confident that their children will survive, get an education, and have the chance to participate as productive members of the global society. Once again, though the Bush Administration speaks of fighting terror and instability, it undermines those very goals by slashing public spending on programs of voluntary fertility reduction in the world's poorest countries.

In summary, if we proceed with wisdom, our global generation can cooperate. It is, most likely, in our very genes. We must see peace as a process. We must understand too the fragility of peace, and how war can escalate. We have much too much these days of threats, sanctions, and preemptive strikes, and far too little of examining our own attitudes as Kennedy bade us to do. It's time for a process of building trust, with Iran, with Palestine, with Africa, and with our own poor. Each of us needs to reach out, in our multiple identities, to make connections to other parts of the world. As a social scientist and policy analyst, it is my great joy and pleasure to work with colleagues in Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, India, China, and Iran. The miracles of video conferencing allow me to give lectures and to exchange views with Iranian, Palestinian, Malaysian, and Chinese students.

We need to end pre-conditions to talk. We need to end the prevailing confusion that claims that negotiating with an adversary is the same as appeasing that adversary. The true lesson of the 1938 Munich Agreement, when British Prime Minister Chamberlain acceded to Hitler's assault on Czechoslovakia, is not to end future negotiations with adversaries, but to reject concessions that cripple one's security. We will find that dialogue may well open vast vistas of cooperation. Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and other countries truly need to find solutions for energy, water supplies, food production, and adaptation to climate change. We can help, and we should do so. And by converting some of our bloated military budget into practical efforts to fight malaria, AIDS, climate change, unsafe water, and unwanted fertility, we would even more strengthen the bonds of cooperation. Let us take at least $70 billion of the $623 billion military budget and program it as practical help to the poorest countries. And let's save another $100 billion per year by ending the Iraq War itself.

I return, once again, to John Kennedy's deepest insight, the one that he gained and shared with the world after peering into the nuclear abyss in October 1962. This insight explains why we can cooperate, and why we will. As he said:

'For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.'

Thank you very much. 

 

Lecture 4, 2 May 2007, “Economic Solidarity for a Crowded Planet”

SUE LAWLEY: Hello and welcome to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London - SOAS, as it's more commonly known. It's part of London University, and it's Britain's leading academic institution, dedicated to the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It's an appropriate place to be holding the fourth of this year's Reith Lectures, as Jeffrey Sachs turns his attention to one of the defining problems of those parts of the world, extreme poverty. To give it its economic definition, people who are forced to live on less than a dollar a day. As the world converges and grows richer, its newfound wealth, argues Sachs, threatens to be fatally undermined by the vastness of the terrible poverty it leaves behind. We have to rescue the poor and the failing communities in which they live, if we're to enjoy the fruits of economic globalisation. It can be done, he says. To explain how, and why, please would you welcome the BBC Reith lecturer 2007, Jeffrey Sachs.

The end of poverty - by the year 2025. It's seems like an outlandish claim, an impossible dream. But it's within reach. It is a scientifically sound objective. And it is the most urgent challenge of our generation.

In fact, if we in the rich world fail to take up this challenge, we will imperil ourselves and the world. A crowded world, one that is "bursting at the seams," cannot afford to leave millions to die each year of extreme poverty without imperiling all the rest.

John F. Kennedy, whose vision of the possible inspires these lectures, put it this way in his Inaugural Address in 1961:

'To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required-not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.'

In my last lecture, in New York, I talked about war and peace and about our extremely dangerous tendency to define the world as "us versus them." Because of that tendency, war can erupt as a self-fulfilling prophecy of conflict between mutually suspicious groups.

Yet war can also erupt as a result of the collapse of an impoverished society, one suffering the scourges of drought, hunger, lack of jobs, and lack of hope. Ending poverty is therefore a basic matter of our own security.

Darfur, Somalia, Afghanistan. These are all, at their core, wars of extreme poverty. So too, quite obviously, were the recent wars of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Haiti, and many others. The U.S. has just established a new military command in Africa, declaring Africa to pose new security threats to the U.S. But even as the U.S. spends more than $600 billion on the military, and even as U.S. counterinsurgency forces spread out across the impoverished stretches of the Sahel, the U.S. will never achieve peace if it continues to spend less than one hundredth of the military budget on Africa's economic development. An army can never pacify a hungry, disease ridden, and impoverished population.

We need to understand the challenge of extreme poverty not only as a matter of ethics and politics, but also as a matter of science. We can and must achieve a much clearer understanding of how to end poverty, based on the best scientific evidence. We have powerful technologies that can be mobilized, and which can make a remarkable difference at a remarkable speed.

We can usefully start our diagnosis by understanding the progress that has been made. When John Kennedy spoke of the bonds of mass misery in 1961, close to half the planet was in extreme poverty, measured by the traditional standard of living on $1 per day or less. Today, the proportion of the world's population in extreme poverty is down to around one-sixth, approximately 1 billion of the world's 6.6 billion people. The absolute numbers of the poor are declining, and their proportion is declining even faster. Globalization has, on balance, helped the poor, especially in Asia, where economic growth and poverty reduction are proceeding at historically unprecedented rates. We have the wind in our sails, since world markets give a powerful impetus to the spread of technologies and the rise of income. Once countries get on to the ladder of development - exporting manufactures and services in world markets, and linked to the world in networks of production, trade, finance, and technology - they tend to make continued progress up the ladder. Market forces, based on saving, investment, trade, and technological advance take hold. The crisis of extreme poverty is centered in those regions not yet on the development ladder, stuck in extreme poverty and hunger, with only the weakest of links to global production - through primary agricultural goods and mineral resources.

Poverty is not yet declining in tropical Africa, and a few other places. Africa has not so much been harmed by globalization, as bypassed by it. The basic challenge is to help Africa and other still-impoverished regions onto the development ladder.

Consider some recent data, this time using the metrics of life and death rather than dollars. Life expectancy at birth is probably the best single indicator of overall human wellbeing that we have. Life expectancy is not only a crucially important goal in its own right, but is also an excellent indicator of overall social organization - for example, the quality of the health system, the presence or absence of war, the reach of infrastructure, and the extent of food insecurity. Life expectancy at birth is also relatively easy to measure and to compare across countries.

The worldwide improvements in life expectancy on the planet have been dramatic. In 1960, 105 countries, with two-thirds of the world's population, had a life expectancy at birth of less than 60 years. By 2004, that list had shrunk to only 47 countries, with a mere twelve percent of the world's population. And virtually all of those 47 countries are in Africa (with the exceptions being Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Laos, and Papua New Guinea).

Why does Africa lag? Here is where the scientific evidence on extreme poverty is vital. The overwhelming non-scientific assumption held in our societies is that Africa suffers mainly from the corruption and mismanagement of its leaders. With the viciousness and despotism of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, it's an understandable view. Yet this seemingly self-evident view is wrong as a generalization. Zimbabwe may get the headlines, but there are many countries in Africa, like Tanzania and Mozambique just nearby, that have talented and freely elected governments struggling against poverty. But they too face great obstacles, and their people too continue to suffer from extreme deprivation.

Consider the fact that nine developing countries - with two in Africa - were tied with exactly the same corruption score in this year's Transparency International index. Specifically, Ghana and Senegal were assessed to be at the same level of corruption as Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru, and Saudi Arabia. Yet the two African countries have life expectancies of around 56 years, while all but one of the other countries have life expectancies of more than 70 years. On average, for countries with comparable corruption levels, Africa's life expectancy rates are nearly 20 years below the rest of the world's.

Africa's problems are not due mainly to corruption, but to its ecology, history, weak infrastructure, and burgeoning population growth. Moreover, once those underlying sources of extreme poverty and disease are scientifically identified, we can also identify the practical technologies and strategies needed to solve these problems, and thereby enable Africa like the rest of the world to break free of the poverty trap.

Africa, compared with other poor regions of the world, suffers from four enormous burdens, all of which are solvable with proven and relatively low-cost technologies.

The first is low food production. Africa is a hungry continent, with grain yields roughly one third of other developing regions of the planet. Part of the problem is Africa's age-old dependence on rain-fed agriculture in a savanna climate, where the risks of drought are ever present. Sub-Saharan Africa lacks the river-based irrigation systems of South and East Asia. Another urgent problem with Africa's agriculture is that Africa's soils have been depleted of nutrients because impoverished farmers have been unable to afford fertilizers to replenish their soils. Older techniques for replenishing soil nutrients, such as the rotation of farm lands, allowing the replenishment of nutrients on land left to fallow for 10 or 20 years, are no longer feasible. Rising land scarcity because of Africa's burgeoning population means that scarce arable land can no longer be left to fallow even for one year, much less a generation.

The second challenge is Africa's disease ecology, which leads to uniquely high burdens of tropical diseases, especially malaria. This again is a matter of ecology. Africa has a climate and species of disease vectors that contribute to its unique burden of tropical infectious diseases. These are controllable, but at much greater effort than needed in other parts of the world.

The third challenge is Africa's miserably deficient infrastructure, with the world's poorest network of roads, power, rail, and fiber-optic cables for internet. For many historical and geographical reasons, Africa's colonial powers did not build the roads, rail, and power grids that they did in other parts of the world.

The fourth challenge is the continuing surge of population, in which poor families are still having six or more children in rural areas. Fertility rates are still so high in rural Africa that populations are doubling each generation.

These challenges - food production, disease control, weak infrastructure, burgeoning populations - are not caused by corruption, but by ecology, history, and by the vicious cycle of extreme poverty itself. Each of these challenges is susceptible of utterly practical solutions, and in short order, but they require public-sector investments beyond the levels that impoverished African countries can afford.

African countries, in short, face a poverty trap. They can overcome impoverishment through identifiable and proven public investments, but these countries are simply too poor to undertake those investments out of their own resources. Nor are they creditworthy enough to borrow those resources from global capital markets, though these markets can help.

This litany of problems may seem overwhelming. Left alone, they will be. But each is actually solvable, and much more easily than is typically imagined. We've seen what can be done, for example, in our own Millennium Villages, a project that applies proven techniques to these very challenges in villages across a dozen countries of Africa. Here is what can be accomplished.

Powerful technologies, as simple as insecticide-treated bed nets and a new generation of anti-malaria medicines, can control malaria by 90 percent or more. Anti-retroviral medicines can make AIDS a chronic rather than fatal disease, and one with reduced stigma and much more chance of prevention. These successes, and many like them, have been accomplished in countless specific projects where donor funds have been made available, but not on a country scale or regional scale.

Current agronomic technologies can triple food production. The key in that case is to get smallholder farms the vital inputs of high-yield seeds, fertilizers, and small-scale water management techniques that can dramatically boost farm yields. Africa can and must have a Green Revolution as India initiated nearly forty years ago. Malawi has started this year, with a program to guarantee vital inputs for the poorest farmers. Food yields have soared, in a neighborhood of acute food shortages. And we should certainly remember that India's Green Revolution also depended on international aid in its early years. Virtually every country has needed a helping hand at some point. It's a rule of life.

Current technologies can extend roads, rail, power, and the internet even to the most remote regions. A satellite dish, or a mobile phone tower, can end isolation that might have seemed irremediable a generation ago.

The fourth challenge, excessive population growth, is similarly susceptible of practical and proven solutions. Fertility rates in rural Africa are still around 6 children or more. This is understandable, if disastrous. Poor families are worried about the high rates of child mortality, and compensate by having large families. Poor families lack access to contraception and family planning. Girls often are deprived of even a basic education, because the family cannot afford it, and are instead forced into early marriage rather than encouraged to stay in school. And the value placed on mothers' time is very low, in part because agricultural productivity is itself so low. With few opportunities to earn remunerative income, mothers are pushed - often by their husbands or the community - to have more children.

Yet, as shown by countless countries around the world, fertility rates will fall rapidly, and on a voluntary basis, if an orderly effort is led by government with adequate resources. Investments in child survival, contraceptive availability, schooling of children, especially girls, and higher farm productivity, can result in a voluntary decline in total fertility from around six to perhaps three or lower within a single decade. But these things will not happen by themselves. They require resources, which impoverished Africa lacks.

The world has committed, time and again, to help Africa accomplish these development objectives. We are pledged, all countries on the planet, to support the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed goals set in the year 2000 to cut poverty, hunger, and disease decisively by the year 2015. We are half way to 2015, but still far off the mark. Our governments talk, and they even begin to act, but they fail to act with the urgency and decisiveness required by the circumstances, and commensurate with our promises. And the urgency will grow as climate stresses multiply. The longer we wait, the greater is the suffering and the larger are the long-term risks and costs.

Success in the MDGs will require stronger actions on all fronts - by civil society, by businesses, by African governments and communities. I will speak about the roles of business, civil society, and each of us as individuals, in the final lecture. But success will also require finance, at a scale that can only be provided by official development assistance by rich country governments. Our governments have long promised to deliver 0.7 percent of rich-world GNP as official aid, but so far have consistently failed to do so.

The situation is absurd in many ways - at least 10 million people dying each year because the rich world refuses to spend 0.7 percent of GNP on aid! For Africa specifically, we would need around $70 billion per year to enable Africa to get on to the ladder of development. That's $70 per person per year from each of us in the rich countries. It's about 0.2 percent of our annual income. It's well under the annual cost of the Iraq War. Indeed, it's about 2 percent of the estimated wealth of the world's 1,000 billionaires. And consider that Wall Street and the City of London together took home Christmas bonuses of some $40 billion this past holiday season.

The deep question is why the rich countries, with so much wealth, are so irresponsibly and relentlessly neglectful, when the amounts needed are so small and the consequences of inaction are so catastrophic for all. Is this the fate of modern societies? Are our politicians inevitably distracted by local concerns, or by the illusions of war? Are our populations so jaded and cynical and uncaring as to make this neglect inevitable? The answer, thankfully, is no. Let's not over-generalize. Several of the world's wealthiest countries do honor their commitments. The key for us is to understand why they do, while the rest do not.

Five countries of Northern Europe have long met the 0.7 percent of GNP commitment. These are: Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The European Union has now promised, once again, to do so by 2015. Yet the European Union obviously agonizes in this promise. The U.S. doesn't even agonize. It doesn't even try. The US will spend $600 billion on the military this year, but only $4 billion on African development. Moreover, senior U.S. officials vigorously reject the global standard of 0.7 percent in aid, even though the U.S. government signed on to that international target.

The striking thing about the aid performance is the very strong correlation between a country's international aid and its care for the poor at home. Countries that take care of their own poor also tend to help the world's poor. Countries that neglect their own poor tend to walk away from their international responsibilities as well.

In brief, the social welfare model of Northern Europe helps the poor both at home and abroad. The U.S. model, alas, leaves the poor to suffer their fate, both at home and abroad. Americans, as a result, are fearful of their economic future, as they are left to fend for themselves. They have little time for others. The world is seen as filled with threats, and of "us versus them," rather than with opportunities in an interconnected global society. The Nordic countries, by contrast, have the domestic security of social protection which they then seek to extend to the world.

The successes of the Nordic system are crucial for us to understand. Many on the political left admire the Nordic social welfare state, as do I. Yet they mistakenly believe that the Nordic countries are somehow anti-market and anti-globalization. Nothing could be further from the truth. Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, are all market-based economies, competing fiercely in world markets. They believe in open trade, and invest heavily in high technology and in R&D to keep their international competitiveness. But they have discovered that it is possible to combine market efficiency and open trade with strong social services and social protection. They have achieved, in short, a system of Economic Solidarity within a market economy. Rather than compromising their economic well being, these institutions of Economic Solidarity have strengthened the market system itself. The Nordic countries have not only eliminated poverty in their midst, and achieved the best health outcomes in the world. They have also fostered the confidence to extend such solidarity to the rest of the world.

No doubt, the Nordic successes have depended, in part, on their relatively small size and social homogeneity. Their levels of internal social trust are very high. Migration is putting that social trust under challenge. But even if their social homogeneity is not replicable elsewhere, their social trust can be. Perhaps the key to success, after all, in the 21st century will be building trust across ethnic and cultural lines, within our own societies, as well as across societies.

We can end poverty, at home and abroad, with the technologies and tools that we have, if we trust each other sufficiently, at home and abroad. As JFK said in the context of war and peace, we need not talk about blind trust, a naïve trust, a trust of dreamers or fanatics. We must seek a practical trust, built on specific institutions and specific ways of delivering help for the poor. Our economic solidarity must rely on scientific evidence and rigorous audits as much as on trust. But at the core of such institutions is the trust that we are all in this together, that our fates, economic and otherwise are shared, and that the defeat of poverty will be a victory of security for all on the planet.

My suggestions on Economic Solidarity therefore are the following.

First, let us embrace market economics - yes - but also recognize that free market economics are passé. We need an active role of the state, to help the poorest to break free of the poverty trap, and to help narrow the inequalities of a high-income market society.

Let us understand that economic solidarity is insurance for all, the poor and the rich. Our societies can be both productive and safe. If we invest in solidarity, we will also end up with a more caring society. It's not our poor versus the poor abroad. It is help and solidarity with both.

Let us resolve to honor our commitments in the fight against poverty, hunger, and disease. Our commitments are small compared with our vast wealth, and the benefits will be vast. We have the power to save millions of lives each year, to help slow a burgeoning population growth in the poorest countries, and to reduce, if not end, the conflicts and wars caused by extreme poverty, which threaten peace everywhere. This, truly, is the work of our generation.

In the next lecture, we will consider another lesson from the small Nordic countries. Small is beautiful in today's economies. These small economies are open to the world, but are also small enough to establish high levels of internal cohesion. They reap the best of a large open world economy and a strong home base.

The place for the "small" - our communities, regions, and cultures - in a large and interconnected world, will be among the themes that I will explore in the next lecture. More generally, we will explore how each of us can contribute to solutions at a time when our governments alone are surely insufficient to the task.

 

Lecture 5, 9 May 2007, “Global Politics in a Complex Age”

SUE LAWLEY: Hello and welcome to the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, the erstwhile home of the Scottish Parliament, for the last in this year's series of Reith Lectures. We've chosen Edinburgh as a finishing place because this was the city where the economist Adam Smith, one of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, set out his ideas on how to create free markets for the benefit of us all. Our lecturer, Jeffrey Sachs, takes some of his inspiration from Smith's ideas, and tonight this connection comes into full view as he explains how the countries of the world must find a new political framework in order to manage the business of international co-operation.

So far in these lectures he's explained how we should re-balance our world as the economies of the East rise to match those of the West, and how we must eradicate poverty and improve the environment, measures which are essential, he argues, for our survival.

Tonight he turns his attention to the processes required for achieving all of this. He's calling for a new politics for a new age. Ladies and gentlemen will you please welcome the BBC's Reith lecturer 2007, Jeffrey Sachs.


JEFFREY SACHS: The arc of the Reith Lectures began in the Royal Society in London, under the gaze of Isaac Newton, and in the presence of some of today's leading scientists. More than any other force, science has created the modern world. And today, science-based technologies link the world together and fuel the economic ascendancy of the ancient civilization of China, the site of our second lecture. But globalization brings the risk of new conflicts as well, and the hope still unfulfilled of a world at peace, the aim of the United Nations, in my own home city of New York, where I gave the third lecture. Only solutions to the great gaps of rich and poor will save us from war. London, the capital city of the first Industrial Revolution and where conscience stirred 200 hundred years ago to abolish the slave trade, was the site of last week's lecture.

It is therefore fitting, indeed some might say the work of an invisible hand, that we conclude the Reith Lectures here in Edinburgh. For here in Scotland, in the 18th century, globalization was first perceived for all its transformative potential, and also for its potential dangers. Here lived the most brilliant exponents of the radical idea that an interlinked world could produce unprecedented material wellbeing and rights for all. Edinburgh and Glasgow were still in the early stages of their new vocation as great centres of global commerce, offering an early window on the emerging global economy and global society. And none gazed so wisely and so humanely on the world as David Hume and Adam Smith.

Here is one of Adam Smith's astounding insights on globalization:
"The discovery of America, and that of a passage to the East Indies by the Cape of Good Hope, are the two greatest and most important events recorded in the history of mankind… By uniting, in some measure, the most distant parts of the world, by enabling them to relieve one another's wants, to increase one another's enjoyments, and to encourage one another's industry, their general tendency would seem to be beneficial."

Yet, Smith noted, while Europe thrived, the native inhabitants of the East and West Indies suffered under the burdens of European conquest and impunity. Smith looked forward to a day when an "equality of courage and force" would lead all nations into a "respect for the rights of one another." He judged that:
"nothing seems more likely to establish this equality of force than that mutual communication of knowledge and . . . an extensive commerce from all countries to all countries . . . "

Globalization, in short, would empower the weak and protect their rights. Smith's genius and decency inspire us two-hundred and thirty-one years later. Rather than glorying in the benefits of globalization for Britain - a kind of self-help book for early empire -- Smith took a global view, and looked forward to the day when free trade and the spread of ideas would eventually produce an equality of courage and force around the world, so that the benefits of globalization would be shared by all.

Our challenges today are the same as in Smith's day, though even greater in range, scale, and intensity. The world is bursting at the seams, in population, environmental stress, cultural clashes and the gaps between rich and poor. How can globalization be made to work for all? What kinds of politics are needed for an interconnected world? Since our politics have veered off course, what can bring us back to safety for all?

In a much more interconnected world than Smith's, we will need much more than an equality of force to see us through. We need active cooperation on three fronts: to curb our destructive effects on the environment; to prevent war; and to address the needs of the poor, and especially the poorest of the poor. What politics can accomplish all of this?

The markets alone won't suffice. Nor will the fear of a balance of power. We need active cooperation, but in a world that lacks a single political center of gravity, and with the pervasive limitations of international institutions. Our current correlation of political forces and institutions is not delivering. Until recently, much of the world may have looked to the U.S. for such leadership, but those days are past. The U.S. and E.U. together are a mere 11 percent of the world's population, and will diminish significantly in relative economic weight in the coming decades.

Some in the world long today for a global government, but this too is no answer. With a single global government -- even if it were somehow achieved -- there would be no safety valve from global despotism. We want global cooperation but not through the straightjacket of a single sovereign power.

John Kennedy, you will recall from an earlier lecture, called peace a process, a way of solving problems. I want to consider global cooperation in the same way. Global cooperation is not an event, a strategy, or a set of treaties. It must be a process, a way of life.

There is no full blueprint for cooperation in the 21st century, nor can there be. But here is how I propose that we start.

In the past fifteen years, the world's governments agreed on a set of goals. They agreed to protect the environment, to fight the spread of nuclear weapons, and to fight poverty. Six specific agreements stand out as crucially important. Three were signed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio - to fight climate change, to fight the loss of biodiversity, and to combat desertification. Two nuclear agreements came a few years later - to extend the ban on proliferation, and to ban nuclear tests. Last came the Millennium Development Goals in September 2000, to slash extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015.

Taken together, I call these six commitments our Millennium Promises. They were undertaken in the shadow of the new Millennium, when the world yearned for meaningful commitments by our leaders.

My proposal is simple. We should pursue global cooperation by fulfilling our Millennium Promises. These promises must be our compass. They enable us to steer in an age of complexity. Our most basic task is to hold our governments, each other, and of course ourselves, accountable to our mutual commitments.

Yet most people haven't a clue as to what we've promised. This is no accident. Many of our leaders also do not care to remind us. Our governments do not know how to deliver on these promises, and so they mainly shirk them. George Bush, for example, in six years of office, has run away from the challenge of climate change. He has never told the American people that the U.S., like 190 other countries, is already committed by international treaty law to stabilize greenhouse gases in order to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic [that is, manmade] interference with the climate system," under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. That treaty was signed, ironically, by the President's own father in 1992. The U.S. public doesn't realize that such commitments are already U.S. law.

Or consider the financing needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. In 2005, the G8 promised to double aid to Africa by 2010, in support of the goals. Yet the newly released data on aid to Africa show that aid is stagnant, not rising, after correcting for flawed accounting of debt relief. Worse still, the G8 has resolutely been unwilling to set a specific year-to-year timetable for the doubling of aid, so that recipient countries cannot plan ahead on how that aid can be used. One senior official even suggested to me that to do so would be wrong, because it might make the recipients too habituated to the aid. In other words, it's okay to announce the doubling of aid, and then to leave it as a riddle, lest it be taken too seriously by the intended recipients.

Or consider the commitment in the nuclear nonproliferation treaty for all nuclear powers to work toward complete disarmament. The nuclear powers honor the parts of the treaty limiting the spread of weapons to others, but reject the parts of the treaty that apply to themselves.

Or consider, finally, the commitment under the Convention on Biological Diversity, "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss . . . as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth." This crucial goal, undertaken in the shadow of a massive extinction of species caused by human destruction of habitats, is probably the least known of all our Millennium Promises. But isn't my argument empty then - to propose that we solve the problems of global cooperation by taking seriously the very commitments that we have so far ignored? I think not. The key for us, the world's citizens, is to hold our governments accountable to the Millennium Promises, to understand why governments are paralyzed, and to clear the logjams in our path.

Our governments ignore the goals mainly because the political leaders don't understand how to achieve them. They hide out of fear, ignorance, short-sightedness, and the sway of vested interests. Meeting the goals requires the expertise of science and the mobilization of technology, yet our leaders are cut off from the requisite expert knowledge. The second step, therefore, is to bring global scientific expertise to the service of global problem solving.

This very approach is already proving itself in the case of climate change. Despite powerful vested interests that have tried to obscure the global scientific consensus on climate change, a rigorous process of scientific review known as the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has proven to the world that there is a strong scientific consensus that manmade climate change is serious, real, and accelerating. The IPCC is in the midst of unveiling its fourth major report, and the power of the scientific consensus is forcing the world's businesses and politicians to take note.

A similar commission was run, though on a one-time basis, in the case of biological diversity, in a project known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It documented both the human-made destruction of biodiversity, and ways to address the crisis. And in the case of the Millennium Development Goals, I myself was honored to direct the UN Millennium Project on behalf of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. The U.N. Millennium Project brought together more than 250 experts in development - in food production, malaria control, AIDS control, water and sanitation, education, and more - to show how the Millennium Development Goals can be accomplished. These recommendations were adopted at the 2005 U.N. World Summit.

Scientific processes like the IPCC, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the U.N. Millennium Project, and a similar effort for nuclear non-proliferation, should become a basic feature of global good governance. Scientific panels on each major promise should report regularly to the world on risks, progress, and possible solutions. Politicians should be briefed by these expert communities each year when the politicians gather at the United Nations. Our governments should be reorganized so that they can absorb this expert knowledge, rather than operating on hunch and political calculation. And the world's public should use the results of the expert processes to hold our politicians accountable, and to push away the logjams caused by vested interests.

Once the problems are recognized, and the deep science is understood, it is far easier to come up with solutions, which typically require the application of new technologies at a scale to address the challenge. Those technologies exist, or can be developed. Public policies will be needed to get them into place.

Fortunately, governments will not need to do all of the heavy lifting. Individual champions of solutions can make great headway in demonstrating what needs to be done. New technologies for specific problems can be proved at a small scale and then taken to global scale. Social entrepreneurs from every sector can step forward with proposed solutions. The main role of government is stand prepared, with checkbook at hand and policy brief ready, to take working solutions to the needed scale.

Consider the case of public health. Countless advances in public health in recent years have combined global goals, social entrepreneurship, and public finance. The control of polio, down by a factor of more than 100 in the past 20 years, has been championed by Rotary International, in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The control of African River Blindness has been led by a partnership of Merck pharmaceutical company in conjunction with the World Health Organization and the World Bank. President Jimmy Carter and the Carter Center have championed an alliance to eliminate Guinea Worm disease. And the list goes on.

Once a technology is proved - a new drug, an improved seed variety, a long-lasting bed net -- the challenge is scaling up. Markets will rarely suffice. In the case of extreme poverty and disease, the poor are too poor to pay for these solutions. In the case of the environment, green technologies often add to production costs, but in amounts much lower than the environmental benefits to society. Such costly technologies will be adopted on a large scale only if special public incentives are offered, such as a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, or a subsidy for clean energy, or a tradable permit to limit emissions.

I have described, in short, a practical process of global cooperation. Overarching goals are made - to curb climate change, save species, fight poverty, and more. Scientists then provide regular and systematic reviews, informing political leaders and winning the confidence of the global public, both through the international composition of the scientific bodies and the rigor of their work. Social entrepreneurs are encouraged to promote prototypes and working models - through a promise of glory, or prizes, or patents, or the joy of public service. Governments are required, under the weight of global treaties and public pressure, to scale up working models to meet the global goals. This might mean development aid, or permit systems, or direct regulations, or spending on research and development, or in the case of arms control, new methods of verification.

In recent years, the public has solved some mammoth problems in a decentralized manner - for example, producing an on-line encyclopedia that is updated in real time, and an open-source and non-proprietary computer operating system that is now used worldwide. I am arguing for open-source global cooperation as well, meaning a system in which all sectors are invited to offer solutions, under the guidance of an agreed set of targets. Starting with shared goals, backed up by regular and rigorous feedback from expert reviews, we can engender a worldwide outpouring of ideas, actions, and commitments from all parts of society - business, non-governmental organizations, and international agencies. Governments can stand ready to bring solutions to scale, through public finance and other kinds of incentives.

I am constantly asked whether corruption will defeat any such attempts to help the poor. I often convey my own experience, of the relative ease of getting bed nets and anti-malaria medicines and fertilizers and high-yield seeds to the poor, with a minimum diversion of resources. My own experiences inform my optimism, and give specific ideas about how to get the job done. But in the global approach that I am proposing, there is a better answer. If you don't like my solution, try to prove yours. Let us encourage any group to show a working model, against the backdrop of a global political commitment to take successes to scale. The International Red Cross, for example, has invented a new system for the mass distribution of bed nets in impoverished countries. Their system works. Now the budgets of the major donor countries, with a sense of urgency, should support the International Red Cross in scaling up its proven methods.

FDR said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. John Kennedy said that to believe that war is inevitable is a dangerous, defeatist view. I say that cynicism is our worst enemy today. We must build on our successes, not feed our doubts. We have declared our goals and commitments, our Millennium Promises, but we lack the confidence to implement them. We have been flying blind, but expertise - and proven experience - can restore our sight.

The costs of addressing climate change, I have noted, will likely be less than 1 percent of our annual world income, and perhaps much below that. The costs of ending extreme poverty, too, are below one percent of rich world income. Biodiversity conservation, the studies have shown, is far below the first two costs, a slight fraction of a percent of income, if that. And disarmament, when based on global trust and treaties, will save money, lots of it, that is now directed to the useless and dangerous stockpiling of weapons, nuclear and other. We easily waste more in mistrust and military outlays than the costs of achieving our Millennium Promises.

There are countless ways for you to get involved in solving the great challenges of our time - the end of poverty, the protection of the environment, or the control and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Some of you will contribute funds to buy bed nets and medicines for the poor. Many students will volunteer their time in an impoverished country, learning lessons for a lifetime about our mutual interconnectedness. Each citizen should press his or her government to fulfill its obligations, and our Millennium Promises. Businesses can share their path-breaking technologies with the poor. Professional organizations - of lawyers, doctors, architects, scientists, athletes, artists, musicians - can reach across political lines to deepen friendships and understanding with people in Iran, or Palestine, or other places of high tension today.

The internet and videoconferencing can make all of this connection and problem solving vastly easier. Classrooms can be global, connecting children in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the U.S. in common learning. Our parliaments can and should be linked by videoconferencing, so that we can have global parliamentary sessions and even global votes. Perhaps a synchronized vote by dozens of parliaments in early 2003 would have helped to keep the U.S. and U.K. out of the terrible blunder of the Iraq War.

Great cities, such as this one, must also play a role. Global society is ever-more organized around a network of regions rather than nations -- centers of learning, science, trade, and tourism which connect disparate populations. Great creativity, architectural energy, and economic dynamism are associated with cities and their environs. And therefore the people of Edinburgh, New York City, Barcelona, Dubai, or Beijing, can take on special challenges of making connections and seeking solutions with the people of Nairobi, La Paz, and Timbuktu.

What I can tell you, with certainty, is that there is a role for everybody and every community, and a need for everybody to become engaged. You must be the peacemakers, development specialists, ecologists, all. Do not lose heart. Remember, as John Kennedy told us, "our problems are manmade - therefore they can be solved by man." And remember what his brother Robert Kennedy reminded us:

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against an injustice, he sends forward a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

I hope and believe that from Edinburgh, this great home of the Enlightenment, the energy for a globalization of justice, peace, and prosperity will radiate to all, and in Adam Smith's humane vision we truly will learn to "relieve one another's wants" in all parts of our world.

 

 

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