The age of sustainable development


(Audio: 12-CD Set. Run Time: 15 Hours)

Author : Jeffrey D Sach

Foreword: Ban Ki-Moon

Read by Bob Souer

Tantor Media Inc.,

Price: US$27.83

Jeffrey D Sachs, professor-economist-author-advisor would consider the usefulness of this labour of love of his narrated by Bob Souer in his crystal-clear voice, as a whole as his greatest reward. The gist – making economics happen in a socially-inclusive and environmentally-friendly manner. He combines his erudition, experience and understanding to help you understand the ‘quo vadis of sustainable development’. He is able to communicate with listeners effectively by providing anecdotes and analogies.

Looking beyond numbers

Numbers and statistics, when shorn of their ability to mislead, are powerful aids for convincing and coercing readers and listeners to do the right things. As Sachs warns, though trade, finance, social networks, migration and technology have changed the world to a great extent (from the steam engine in the mid-18th century to the marvels of ICT), they have also brought in their wake broken families, environmental degradation, crime, depression and disease and inequality (between rich and poor) never seen before.

Sachs is of the firm belief that history and geography (and, culture) need not be destiny to a ‘sustainabilist’ with a realistic mindset and a belief in the ability of holistic solutions to challenges. He alludes to the 10 planetary boundaries which mankind needs to respect, and refrain from exceeding the safe operating limits, while focusing on economic growth/development and improvement in social welfare. ‘Business-as-usual’ approaches will put mankind on a slippery slope, going forward, making the transition to the sustainable development approach a Hobson’s choice. He stresses on the indispensability of good governance here to ensure that the inevitable negatives do not overwhelm the desirable positives of strategies adopted. After a long period of almost stable global output, in the 17th and 18th centuries, courtesy scientific developments and the Industrial Revolution in England, economic growth took off like nobody’s business. The next great wave, Sachs says, must be one of sustainable technologies — fed and nurtured by the developments in ICT technologies. Economists and ‘sustainabilists’ must be willing to go the extra mile, the long-winding paths to find and test holistic and specialised solutions to problems well-understood. He has emphasised the important role of good health and well-being in ensuring sustainable development and progress towards meeting the sustainable development goals unveiled by the UN in 2015.

All’s not well …

For sustainable development to be realisable, gender inequality needs to be eradicated from the surface of the earth. Economic discrimination may happen not just on the basis of gender, but also on the basis of race, sexual orientation, caste (this is specific to India) and religion; leading to exclusion and consequent poverty. Here is where ‘duty ethics,’ ‘utilitarianism,’ ‘virtue ethics’ and compassion preached and advocated by the likes of Confucius, the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, and Jeremy Bentham, need to be imbibed by people in general and decision-makers in particular. The Green Revolution which enabled India to cultivate food for its fast-growing population post-independence, needs to be replayed, this time with an up-gradation and value-addition, bearing in mind the planetary boundaries which were not really a concern in the 1950s — nitrogen and phosphorus loading of waters, ocean acidification, chemical pollution etc. 

Sachs refers to China and South Korea, which started off as recipients of overseas development assistance, used the assistance well, and now are among the leading donors in the world. He lucidly explains how a rise in economic growth will result in a rise in tax revenues and thereby expenditure on healthcare in the years to come.

Let me stop here…Believe me, there is a lot in the dozen CDs you can share with your intellectual friends over a cup of coffee and add value to the conversations.

(Thanks to my late wife Varshita for gifting me with this CD-pack in September 2019, when I took up a new assignment related to the SDGs in Trondheim, Norway)

G. Venkatesh

G. Venkatesh is Associate Professor, Department of Engineering and Chemical Sciences, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology, Karlstad University, Sweden. He is also a freelance writer for several magazines around the world. The author has set up Varshita Venkatesh Girls’ Education Fund with Plan USA in memory of his wife. …