BOOKCASE : Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

Jeffrey D Sachs • Allen Lane/Penguin • RRP $40.00

The gathering gloom of media speculation about our global future makes it tricky to remain staunch about the upside of life. For dose of realism and, yes, optimism about our prospects, take Jeffrey D Sachs firmly in hand and start reading.
Sachs, one of the world’s most potent economic minds and author of the successful and wonderfully illuminating best seller The End of Poverty, has now written an even more compelling and important exposé and explanation of just what confronts our increasingly crowded world. That we are in trouble, he leaves us in no doubt. But that we can overcome, he is equally certain.
Sachs believes the world can save itself if, collectively, its leaders recognise and confront the causes and manifestations of an increasingly endangered ecosystem, overpopulation, entrenched poverty and paralysis of process. These problems will not solve themselves but, because they are man made, they can be solved by man.
As equally eminent thinker Edward O Wilson, emeritus professor at Harvard writes in his foreword, Common Wealth is “state of the world report of immediate and enormous practical value”. Sachs’ explanation of the causes and remedies for redressing environmental sustainability, demographic distortions, the poverty trap and global problem solving are impeccably researched and reasoned.
He argues that the paradox of unified global economy and divided global society poses the “single greatest threat to the planet” because it makes impossible the cooperation needed to address the challenges. There is no shortage of reasonable and low-cost solutions to the world’s increasingly pressing problems, simply the difficulty in implementing global cooperation to put the solutions in place.
The alternative to new economic paradigm of inclusive, cooperative, environmentally aware and scientifically based action is world-wide economic collapse of unprecedented severity. But, given the every-day evidence of nation-state stupidity such as America’s waging of the Iraq war, is there any rational justification to feel optimistic about the world’s ability to think and work cooperatively toward solving the world’s pressing population-induced problems?
Yes, but don’t just look to the market for the answers, Sachs warns. Sachs contends that our generation’s greatest challenges – in environment, demography, poverty and global politics – also present “our most exciting opportunities”. To do this our leaders, in enterprise, politics and every other endeavour, must understand the issues.
This book makes an outstanding contribution to providing some of that understanding. Every single business leader who gives damn about the future of our planet should read it. The book simply raises the critical issues and offers intelligent solutions. I rate it nine out of 10 because no one has all the answers to everything.

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