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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  1,698 ratings  ·  162 reviews
In Common Wealth, Jeffrey D. Sachs-one of the world's most respected economists and the author of The New York Times bestseller The End of Poverty- offers an urgent assessment of the environmental degradation, rapid population growth, and extreme poverty that threaten global peace and prosperity. Through crystalline examination of hard facts, Sachs predicts the cascade of ...more
Hardcover, 386 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Penguin Press (first published 2008)
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Feb 18, 2009 rated it liked it
In 2003, I was working as an agroforestry extension agent in a remote village in Africa. I had been struggling to get people to plant nitrogen-fixing and fruit trees for a year, to improve agriculture through local inputs (not just fertilizer and expensive seeds) and teach methods of improving plant breeding. Sachs came on VOA and gave a big interview (parroting Pedro Sanchez) about how if we sent more money to Africa, we could plant more nitrogen-fixing trees, and then all the soils would be mu ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was an encouraging read close to a decade ago, and it's mostly an extension of Sachs' ideas on how the end poverty, not just in the (still, barely!) wealthiest country in the world, the US, but globally. Even then, he was sounding an alarm call for us to finally do something about the problem of population taxing our little planet, as well as to cut down the usage rate of all of our natural resources, switch to sustainable living, and greatly decrease current levels of pollution. (I remembe ...more
Nov 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a brave and uncompromising outline of where our political and economic development must go for our nation and globe to adapt to and mitigate environmental changes and population growth. I hope every public representative in the world reads this.

Jeffrey Sachs picks up from where his The End of Poverty left off, and extends his macroeconomic perspective to the challenges of climate change, population growth, and environmental devastation. He firmly lays waste to the ideological myths of
Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
I had to read this book in stages. It includes a ton of great information, but it's frequently really heavy stuff. I saw Sachs at Politics & Prose in DC reading from the book and lecturing. He's such an amazing person. He meant for the book to be full of heavier and more technical material than his last book, "The End of Poverty". He said that although it might not always be fun to read, we need to know this stuff in order to solve the big problems we face in the future. And that's really what t ...more
Glenn Murphy
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book. I agree with Sachs on most of the issues he covers in this book. But...

I really hate it when people use weak arguments to support ideas I agree with. I think it does more harm than good. I really didn't like how Sachs presents as an established fact that the first human inhabitants of North America hunted large mammals to extinction. He presents this as a historical example of human activity changing the environment. But there is no consensus that this is in fact what
Jan 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
A rather uninspiring rehash from Sachs covering the breadth of development and environmental issues. For those who are already familiar with either field (and their sustainable development intersection), you won't find much new material here aside from some innovative programs you may not have heard of (e.g., GrameenPhone and Village Phone in Bangladesh). People who have not read the development/environment literature will find Common Wealth to be an accessible introduction, though lacking in su ...more
Oct 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not my cuppa tea.

Interesting and informative, as long as you take it with a grain of salt and realize Sachs' view on globalization is unhalteringly positive. He views it has a tool to bring economic prosperity to every nation. And widespread economic prosperity is the one true goal he believes is a given and the goal we all ought to be aiming for. Nevermind questions of sociocultural and historical contexts. We all have to follow the model of 'progressive society'as outlined by the Western world
May 19, 2009 rated it liked it
My simplified review could be this: this book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, with planet Earth as the tree, and humankind as the boy.
Jan 02, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: billionaires looking for places to throw moneys
Recommended to Tinea by: fidget's econ professor
This book presents a fairly complete overview of mainstream international economic development theory and goals, and would serve as a useful introduction to the topic. Jeffrey Sachs is the darling economic advisor of many of the United Nations' development schemes, and is the driving figurehead behind the Millenium Development Goals. He's a liberal free-market economist at heart (as Naomi Klein so delightfully rips him apart for in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism) who had eno ...more
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book by Sachs, really an encyclopedic reference for the biggest challenges facing humanity. In his typical pragmatic yet optimistic style, Sachs comprehensively describes the crises of global warming, an exploding population, environmental deterioration and poverty, and outlines steps we can take now to do something about them, from the individual to international level. While the truth can sometimes be horrifying (especially exposures of the Bush administration's hindrance on so many ...more
Justin Heckler
Feb 15, 2021 rated it it was ok
The book Common Wealth by Jeffery Sachs was much more unrealistic and far more vague than I originally thought it would be. The book is definitely overly optimistic about socialized welfare and globalist foreign policy. Although there are many strong points made I felt as though there were many weak and unsupported arguments which seemed more like a rant than research based analysis. I wish the book focused more on the actual fundamental economics behind climate issues rather than presenting a f ...more
Becki Iverson
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Finally through all the Jeffrey Sachs that's been on my list for a decade! This was a better read than I expected and I enjoyed it more than The End of Poverty. It's a bit dated but due to the enormous shift in global political winds over the last 15 years, sadly most of Sachs' recommendations still apply. The good news is that his recommendations remain solid and data-based ways to improve the lives of billions worldwide across extremely important fronts such as environmental rescue, improved h ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Xing Chen
Aug 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
The key ideas are those which many of us have arrived at naturally and collectively- such as the consequences of population growth, over-consumption of resources, income disparities, as well as the numerous efforts people are making to tackle these issues. Sachs provides a broad, global perspective, allowing the non-economist to place underlying concepts (economic trends, political decision-making, population control) within a wider context, and elegantly knits together a wealth of essential fac ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A really well researched book. It strongly argues for foreign aid with a mind towards green solutions. I feel like the main thesis is that for every dollar spent in good faith aid leads to ten dollars in the near future, along with three dollars saved in future expense. Maybe I'm exaggerating, maybe I'm underselling it, but the point is that developed nations have it in their best interest to help underdeveloped nations in a green fashion. ...more
Conor Ahern
Nov 23, 2016 rated it liked it
This is quite a broad one. Economics, development, eradication of diseases, nutrition programs. Poor Jeffrey Sachs lays it all out--how we could fix so many of our most shamefully persistent shortcomings--and at bargain prices! But I don't think the world is going to be ponying up any time soon.

Or at least not this part of the world.
Jul 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Sachs optimism, while laudable, comes off as misplaced. He makes the regrettably common assumption that global communication and cooperation is possible through rational discourse, because we are all rational animals. We aren't and that's why this book comes off as disconcerting, naive and utopian. ...more
Jun 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
Sachs, writing in 2008, forecasts our present pandemic and advocates for sustainable development that can benefit all parts of the world economy, and head off the effects of climate change, global health and economic crises. Sadly, these lessons have been increasingly neglected in favor of a winner-take-all, us-versus-them approach, for which we are reaping the whirlwind.
Tim Sweeney
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive look into making life in all forms work here on earth for the benefit of all. Includes a deep dive into environmental factors not seen in The End of Poverty along with a more comprehensive look into so many other factors involved in creating the life we need to be moving towards and achieving in order to sustain our planet.

Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Money makes the world go 'round. Amazing how such a small percent of wealth can make such a massive difference to those truly in need. Also amazing how this money is tied up in families that have so much they cannot spend it all. Capitalism must be managed. ...more
Benjamin Hill
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was ok
It is ultimately a good thing this book is in existence. It hits a lot of important points really well about the future. However, all most of these points I have already heard. More people should read this book. I simply didn't enjoy it because it was preaching to the choir. ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring, though not actionable
Bruce Ward
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read, but only for those who plan to live on the planet and be part of the solution.
Cody Eastgaard
Feb 03, 2021 rated it did not like it
Author has a lot of optimistic ideas. I liked his comments regarding population control as I believe this is the biggest problem facing earth. Otherwise book is defiantly outdated now
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
I don’t think there’s serious doubt that sustainable development is an element of the remedy for the ills that Sachs outlines in Common Wealth: environmental degradation, climate change, extreme poverty, disease, exponential population growth. What is startling is the extent to which the practices of the developed world’s population and businesses, and the policies of its governments, tend to ignore these ills.

One effective point of Common Wealth is how Sachs drew strong linkages between the sec
Abdul Basit
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent researched analysis with economics and environmental issues addressed in harmony. Wonderful context for sustainable development
Erika RS
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This book describes why general prosperity is a good thing, tells how the changing global environmental and demographic situations change the traditional story with respect to prosperity, and presents ideas for how general global prosperity might be achieved.

Sachs argues that the 20th and 21st centuries will see the end of American and European economic dominance. This is largely due to the fact that the population is increasing much more quickly in the rest of the world than in the U.S. and Eur
Todd Martin
Jul 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
In Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet Jeffrey Sachs (economist and professor at Columbia University) identifies the following as the biggest difficulties of our time:
1. Overpopulation
2. Environmental destruction
3. Extreme poverty
He argues that none of these issues can be solved by any single country in isolation and therefore that international cooperation is required.

IPAT is an equation that expresses the idea that environmental impact (I) is the product of three factors: populatio
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
In 2008 Jeffrey Sachs warned us in this book that "the worlds current ecological, demographic and economic trajectory is unsustainable." The reason: (1) human pressures on the Earth's ecosystems and climate; (2) the world's population growth; (3) extreme poverty; and (4) our inability to do global problem solving due to cynicism, defeatism, and outdated institutions. But he offers hope when he tells us "global cooperation… [has] been enormously successful in the past.. [when people of the world] ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Quite the tour de force, Sachs ranges from describing humanity's core environmental challenges (climate change, water use, biodiversity) to explaining the demographic trends and projections for the world (total fertility rate, population momentum, etc.) and his old trope of the ladder of economic development (how countries become prosperous) without leaving out his usual analyses of diverse poverty traps and such. He even gives his perspective on CSR, the role of NGOs, and universities in develo ...more
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Jeffrey David Sachs, is an American economist, public policy analyst, and former director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, where he holds the title of University Professor, the highest rank Columbia bestows on its faculty. He is known as one of the world's leading experts on economic development and the fight against poverty.

Sachs is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development

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“There is no economic imperative that will condemn us to deplete our vital resource base, but neither is there an invisible hand that will prevent us from doing so.” 4 likes
“Si continuamos haciendo las cosas como de costumbre, acabaremos padeciendo una crisis social y ecológica de consecuencias catastróficas” 2 likes
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