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Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

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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 crises that awaits this crowded planet-and presents a program of sustainable development and international cooperation that will correct this dangerous course. Few luminaries anywhere on the planet are as schooled in this daunting subject as Sachs, and this is the vital product of his experience and wisdom.

400 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Jeffrey D. Sachs

92 books592 followers
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 at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs and a professor of health policy and management at Columbia's School of Public Health. As of 2017, he serves as special adviser to the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals adopted at a UN summit meeting in September 2015. He held the same position under the previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and prior to 2016 a similar advisory position related to the earlier Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight internationally sanctioned objectives to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease by the year 2015. In connection with the MDGs, he had first been appointed special adviser to the UN Secretary-General in 2002 during the term of Kofi Annan.

In 1995, Sachs became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE). He is co-founder and chief strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger. From 2002 to 2006, he was director of the United Nations Millennium Project's work on the MDGs. He is director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and co-editor of the World Happiness Report with John F. Helliwell and Richard Layard. In 2010, he became a commissioner for the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development, whose stated aim is to boost the importance of broadband in international policy. Sachs has written several books and received many awards.

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Profile Image for Gill.
50 reviews5 followers
February 20, 2009
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 much richer for agriculture. The simplicity of his equation and naivety was suffocating.

In this book, Sachs provides an overview of the trends and "four" big problems of the world. Honestly, I found much of this is good for identifying historical trends, but mostly boils down to give more money to big organizations (preferably ones that Sachs is involved in) so that he can save the world the way he thinks best. The four problems he identified are: first, "sustainable systems of energy, land and resources use that avert the most dangerous trends of climate change, species extinction, and destruction of ecosystems"; second, "stabilization of the world's population at eight billion or below by 2050 through a voluntary reduction of fertility rates"; third, "the end of extreme poverty by 2025 and improved economic security within the rich countries as well"; and, finally, "a new approach to global problem solving based on co-operation among nations and the dynamism and creativity of the nongovernmental sector." Unfortunately his solutions rarely deal with the larger understanding of how capitalist economies work, what a difference moving the developed world onto a sustainable power grid and other large changes we can make in the developed countries would do to help the rest of the world.

Sachs' shift away from the free market principles and leaning towards better government (socialism) management of distribution (money and risk) is refreshing. He realizes it is not free market or communism (this one is for you Joe the Plumber!). There are some novel ideas that he draws from other people (like rainfall insurance) that often fall back on superficial understandings of insurance markets. The government is the ultimate distributor of risk when markets are imperfect, and insurance markets for rainfall are based on profit so they will waste precious resources for people and also not be as risk balanced (geographically or in terms of identifying moral hazard and adverse selection) as the government itself.

Although the "power of one" ending is absolutely the lamest and most naive ending of any book I have read this year, I think this book is interesting for people who have little exposure to world problems or for policy makers who want a quick blue print of the problems. Unfortunately the book's structural organization leaves much to be desired... I felt like I was reading list after list that often overlapped and always boiled down to the UN and money.

Robert D. Steele gave a really nice overview and critique of this book, which I will paste here for my own reference later...

"As someone who reads broadly and sees with increasing dismay the insularity of citation cabals, somewhat arthritic communities of practice, and a tendency to ignore diverse perspectives, I was immediately annoyed by this book's failure to respect Lester Brown, Herman Daly, Paul Hawkin, C. K. Prahalad, and J. F. Rischard, to name but a few. The author does not appear to have read the High Level Threat Panel Report of the United Nations, and his over-all presentation, while accurate and erudite, is also dense, narrow, and of dubious implementability.

If you are steeped in the literature and care deeply about the details, then this book is an absolutely essential reference, and for that reason receives four stars.

He identifies six key factors for the near future:
1. Convergence
2. More people, higher incomes
3. Asian Century
4. Urban Century
5. Environmental Challenges
6. Poorest Billion

He loses one star, apart from failing to honor the real pioneers including Herman Daly, father of Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications, for overly general platitudes about global collaboration, technology, saving Darfur as if anything he lists was possible, and generally neglecting so many factors and metrics as to leave me wondering where the book was going.

He lists seven climate change impacts:
1. Rising ocean levels
2. Habitat destruction
3. Increased disease transmission
4. Changes in agricultural productivity
5. Changes in water availability
6. Increased natural hazards
7. Changes in ocean chemistry

1. Limits of military power
2. Wars of identity
3. Drivers of violence
4. Foreign Assistance
5. Real Security

The chapter on global problem solving was entirely reasonable, and I worry that I am communicating too harsh a sense of the book. If you are a geek and have time on your hands, by all means buy this book.

He says the public sector should
1. Fund basic science (never mind the Republican war on science)
2. Promote early stage technologies (never mind Monsanto's seeds of death or the Transylvanian Dracula patent system designed to retard human progress by locking up new stuff so the legacy stuff can continue to sell)
3. Create a global policy framework for solutions (see Earth Intelligence Network and the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers, see especially the EarthGame(TM) as devised by Medard Gabel who helped Buckminster Fuller create the original analog World Game)
4. Finance the scale-up of successful innovations and technologies (huh?)

No mention of the public sector's most important role in creating a social environment that is stable, orderly, and healthy, so that citizens can be educated and gainfully employed while exporting goodness.

He suggests the private sector has two core responsibilities besides making a profit (at our expense, see comment below on true costs):
1. Investing in R&D, often with public funding
2. Implementing large-scale technological solutions in partnership with the public sector

Hmmm. No mention of Green to Gold, Sustainable Design, Services Science...

The not-for-profit sector has five key roles, per the author:
1. Public advocacy (perhaps public education would be a better term)
2. Social entrepreneurship and problem solving (good)
3. Seed funding of solutions
4. Accountability of government and the private sector
5. Scientific research, notably in academic institutions

The author follows the above with a global funding architecture that is not persuasive and that would not satisfy my colleagues from the Office of Management and Budget.

The book ends with a limp, suggesting eight steps individuals can take:
1. Learn
2. Travel
3. Join
4. Community (face to face)
5. Social Networks (online)
6. Workplace
7. Live personally (Gandhi: be the change you want to see in the world.)

My bottom line: this book is not ready for prime time.
Profile Image for Christy.
113 reviews270 followers
January 27, 2017
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 remember appreciating all the statistics on population growth in countries least able to take care of those populations, and remember wondering in high school how anybody could be against birth control including abortion after reading Ehrlich's (The Population Bomb.

What is most troubling in how few of these cost-effective strategies to improve the standard of living globally appear implemented, including taking steps that would finally help us get a grasp on malaria in Subsaharan African (that, as a corporate Big Pharma head once admitted to a group I was in, is just too much a "poor person's disease" to warrant proper funding.)

Still, looking through this, I'd recommend it even today as providing some helpful and hopeful suggestions for a new American Revolution!
Profile Image for Glenn Murphy.
58 reviews12 followers
January 28, 2009
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 happened. A competing theory that a large meteor or comet impact wiped out much of the life in North America recently made the headline of the Chicago Tribune on what its editors obviously felt to be a very slow news day. There are plenty of documented, if more recent, examples of humans messing up their environment. Claiming without strong factual support that early Americans doomed themselves to primitive agriculture methods by killing off large animals that might one day have been domesticated was totally unnecessary for him to make his point.

I think being a chemist makes it really difficult for me to take graphs and statistics from the social sciences seriously. The graph that Sachs claims shows a "striking" correlation between how much a country spends on social services for its own people and how much foreign aid it provides nearly made me laugh out loud. When I do linear regressions on laboratory data for pharmaceuticals, it is very rare for a data point not to fall right on the line. A correlation coefficient less than 0.99 (1 is perfect correlation, 0 is no correlation, -1 means an inverse correlation) is generally unacceptable for a validated laboratory method. But in the social sciences I have seen correlations of 0.3 considered good. The data set Sachs says has a "striking" correlation would look like a random plot with a correlation near 0 if you took away 3 or 4 of the 21 points on the graph. It's another weak and unnecessary argument. He didn't need a questionable graph to show that the U.S. is stingy when it comes to helping the poor both at home and abroad. The numbers he presents comparing social spending to military spending illustrate this well enough. Why even bother with graphs? His explanation that what the U.S. spends on Iraq in TWO DAYS could provide mosquito netting to everyone in Africa at risk of malaria for FIVE YEARS would seem to make his point well enough.

There is a lot of information in this book. Sachs covers the environmental, economic and social challenges facing the world in great detail. I agree that worldwide action is urgently needed, but am disappointed by what I view as weak arguments in support of his positions. And I wish I could share his optimism that the nations of the world will be able to cooperate to solve these problems before it's too late.
Profile Image for Mike.
32 reviews3 followers
June 5, 2008
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 this book is about. He goes through the crises we will have to confront very soon, like global climate change, population booms, and extreme poverty. When you think of all these things you really begin to feel a sense of impending doom. But Sachs believes we can overcome all of these things, and lays out the ways to do it in this book. I know one man doesn't have the answers to solve everything we face in the world, but for some reason I have complete faith in Sachs.
Profile Image for Tinea.
563 reviews266 followers
January 10, 2016
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 enough real-world experience with failed neoliberal policies to become the world's leading proponent of development aid. I think he and this book represent the mainstream philosophies prevalent in the international development field: a little left of center from US politics, but still very much based in technologic optimism (simple fixes to complex problems) and technocratic expertise (experts will fix everything, trust us.)

This book's strengths, aside from its usefulness as a snapshot reference for current theories and policies, was Sachs' pragmatic, entrepreneurial spirit. What can I say, it's infectious. His motto is along the lines of "Ok, lets make this work," as he takes an economist's inventory of available resources and works out the math to show how solutions are already available. He's very into clear goals and quantifiable, measurable efforts, and willing to compromise or work with anyone who can commit to similar goals. He's a diehard optimist, sure that wherever there is political deadlock or deprivation, we just gotta wait for the scientists to hand us the answer.

All this is, of course, the reason Jeffrey Sachs is majorly, majorly flawed. His analyses conveniently leave out any data that gets in the way of simple, workable compromises: he skips past the unique histories, especially colonial legacies, of different countries and omits any analysis of social and political power. Sachs makes it clear over and over that we already have the technology and the science to solve just about every global problem he identifies, since most are fairly simple issues of funding and distributing known solutions (like mosquito nets, vaccines, ag technologies, etc.). Which leaves the reader to wonder why it hasn't happened yet-- and why Sachs still talks about new research, instead of new politics. The scientists will solve everything, he says, with faith in the benevolence of politicians if only they knew the science. Yet his writing is fraught with frustration at how these easily solvable problems haven't yet been addressed. He talks about development without talking about colonialism or power! For real.

Some specific issues that came up while I was reading this book:
--CCS: Sachs identifies carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a safe, sustainable, "green" technology that will enable the world to continue burning coal for another hundred years. CCS is bunk. It's still in the experimental stage and suffers from safety & efficacy concerns, great costs for pipeline and retrofit infrastructure, and the enormous environmental toll of all forms of coal mining. It's incredibly short sighted for anyone who takes climate change and environmental sustainability serious to recommend CCS.

--Population: Sachs' said the population debate has two sides: optimists who believe technology can keep pace with boundless population growth, and pessimists who believe we live within a closed ecosystem that population growth has just about maxed out, and we're all going to die. He skimps on discussions of equity and consumption. He leaves out entirely (except for the constant, unexplained use of the term "voluntary" population control) the reproductive rights movement and the perverse history of forced sterilization and how birth control has been targeted at poor people and people of color around the world. This is especially shitty since he references some of the worst perpetrators of forced sterilization when he discusses successful projects to reduce fertility rates.

--Green Revolution for Africa: OK, this one just sort of confused me. Everyone I know (I'm a grad student in international agricultural development) who says "Green revolution" is refering to a specific kind of high input (fertilizer, pesticides, irrigation), monoculture, technologically-based agriculture that was pushed across the world by Western agro-chemical corporations in the 1960s and 70s, which had great success in raising yields/hectare and shunting the profits from harvests away from the poorest farmers while depleting soils and indebting farmers in the process. According to Sachs, when he calls for a second green revolution in Africa, he means a sustainable, farmer friendly one, without GMO seeds and the like. I'm skeptical.

That last sentence actually sums it up quite well. Sachs has some good points and is a colossal do-gooder, for sure, but overall the dude is an uncritical, wishy-washy, blinded optimist who ignores his role in perpetuating the same neocolonial development policies that the global justice movements, which he casually supports, oppose.
Profile Image for Anthony.
251 reviews12 followers
February 7, 2010
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 sufficient detail to provide deep knowledge about any single problem of the many that Sachs addresses. While I do applaud him for signaling attention to the neglected areas of desertification and biodiversity conservation, the game plan that he closes the book with is chock full of motherhood statements and non-controversials like 'companies should do more to provide pharmaceuticals and seeds to Africa' that fail to provide a clear roadmap for how to tackle those challenges and the numerous others he cites in this latest offering of his.
Profile Image for Nate.
94 reviews17 followers
April 19, 2010
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.
Profile Image for Kristen.
181 reviews11 followers
October 12, 2019
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. He sees it as the high-income countries' right and responsibility to catch the other countries up to speed, through international aid funding and the spread of sustainable technologies.
Climate change, water scarcity, loss of biodiversity -- you name it, if it's an environmental issue, then it's also an economic issue & Sachs has just the solution for it! That's right it's high-S tech! One stop shop for making everything OK again. And we can keep filling our bellies with money and things we don't need from halfway across the world! Need a $10 shirt? No problem, this shirt transported thousands of miles away from a factory in Bangladesh run by poorly-paid laborers has got you covered! Consumerism? Pshaw that's not the problem here!
Profile Image for Chandra.
77 reviews2 followers
November 25, 2008
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 potential solutions to these problems), Sachs' relentless belief in mankind's ability to rise to the occasion leaves one inspired and anxious to get on board.
55 reviews
November 14, 2022
Jeffery Sachs gives lets just "bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and all it eat and be happy" energy with just a sprinkle of eugenics...
February 16, 2021
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 far from realistic vision of an extremely socialized and globalized world economy. The book started off great with talks about a growing population and effects of climate change, however, as the book continued I began to realize how unrealistic and biased many of the points were. The author obviously not willing to address any of the negative side effects of a socialized welfare state and goes as far as saying "The social-welfare states tend to outperform the other countries on most economic and governance indicators" (Sachs 265). This quote is supported with data of poverty rates and technology use, which in my eyes are not the measure of the above statement. Sachs altogether ignores the possibility that these socialized nations seem so successful because mere years ago many of them were capitalist economies which are now living off their previously built productive infrastructure. Also, Sachs spends many pages building up the idea that Asia and India are going to be the next big nations and that the United States will soon take a backseat in global politics, yet when Sachs brings global programs into the spotlight he constantly complains about under funding from the United States rather than mentioning the "coming superpowers" like China and India's role in global philanthropy. Sachs is only interested in promoting a twisted version of globalism which is funded almost entirely by the United States all while he spends most of his book bashing the nations political and economic systems. After getting a taste for Sachs economic views it was unsurprising to hear him bashing President Bush again and again to the point of exhaustion. Overall, I would have appreciated the book a lot more if the expectations set forth in it were more realistic and it was more focused on creating a balanced picture of the pros and cons of environmental sustainability in relation to economics.

Although there were many points I did not agree with in this book I still believe many of the sections are extremely valid and important to learn. The book offered some great insights into the climate problems faced in today's world and some plausible economic changes which could be made to remedy them. I enjoyed reading about the population dynamics in relation to the rise of nations like China and India. The book definitely sparked some great thinking points surrounding the outlook of climate sustainability and the view that humans should have about our planet. The book definitely gave me a greater perspective on the vast and almost inconceivable burden of environmental issues on society today. I think that reading this book is a genuinely good idea no matter what preconceived notions you have about economics or climate change, however, take what is said with a grain of salt and compare the views with outside research and other economists and environmentalists views. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the global aspects of climate change and population based issues, however if you are looking for an economic deep dive with a balanced perspective on realistic global sustainability I suggest you look elsewhere.
902 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2020
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 healthcare and equity and justice for all citizens. There's still a lot to learn from here and I was on board with almost everything. His treatment of fertility management (aka population control) was a bit nail biting; Sachs walks the tightrope, but I have questions about the impact of such policies. Still, this is a good, quite comprehensive plan for the future that ought not to be ignored. Worth picking up.
Profile Image for Diana.
175 reviews18 followers
October 4, 2020
Very optimistic take on globalization and awfully hopeful. Opinions aside, while easy to read in terms of language and concepts, it also dragged on and circled upon a lot of topics within the same section repeatedly in a way that felt overly redundant. It does a good job at outlining possible solutions to our current problems, but it seems to gloss over a lot of important details especially in the research field. Overall impression of the book was that it was too wordy and too optimistic. I get he's trying to inspire the change that he wants to see in the world, but it doesn't expand on subjects that have negatively affected the global health field, such as it's rocky history with aid, that has left an impression on voters today. Also just briefly goes over general history that shapes a country and how it affects their attitudes and values now. I enjoyed his very critical commentary on the United States though.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Xing Chen.
Author 1 book87 followers
August 28, 2010
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 facts from influential reports (issued by organisation like the World Bank, UNEP, UNDP etc) and journal articles.

UN Population Division's medium-fertility forecast: 6.6 billion in 2007 to 9.2 billion in 2050.

Since scientific discovery should remain publicly discoverable, nonmarket means must be used to support the financial investment of resources into scientific discovery.

For global sustainable development, the mix of public financing and private incentives should be harmonised globally to ensure that the needs of the poor and the global commons are properly addressed and financed by shared contributions of the world's governments.

Garrett Hardin coined the 'tragedy of the commons' in 1968.

The Fischer-Tropsch industrial process involves conversion of coal into liquid hydrocarbons such as gasoline. In the long run, our main concern should be with the total supply of fossil fuels, rather than with oil alone.

Hans-Holger Rogner states: 'The global fossil fuel resource base is abundant and is estimated at approximately 5000 Gtoe (billion tons of oil equivalent). Compared to current global primary energy use of some 10 Gtoe per year, this amount is certainly sufficient to fuel the world economy through the 21st century, even in the case of drastic growth of global energy demand.

Fertility rates are above 4 children per woman in these countries outside tropical Africa: Guatemala 4.3; Lao PDR 4.5; Maldives 4.0; Pakistan 4.1; Solomon Islands 4.0; the West Bank and Gaza 4.6; Yemen 5.9, and in 35 out of 46 tropical African countries.

Before 1800, around 85% of world's population lived in extreme poverty, as we'd define it today. It's down to 15% today.

Official development assistance (ODA) dropped from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The Haber-Bosch process was developed to convert atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen-based fertilisers, from 1908 to 1914.

China's adding the equivalent of two 500-megawatt coal-fired plants per week.

When a natural system is characterised by thresholds combined with positive feedbacks, it's also likely to be characterised by abrupt changes- e.g. alteration in the pattern of the 'ocean conveyor belt' which carries vast quantities of ocean water in a global circulation. The Younger Dryas event began around 12,800 years ago, as the Earth was exiting from its most recent Ice Age. Gradual warming led to the melting of a giant glacier in N America, increased meltwater in the Atlantic, and changes in oceanic heat circulation patterns, which allowed rapid formation of ice sheets in the N Atlantic. Formation of ice sheets generated positive feedback of rising albedo, reducing temperatures further and an eventual drop of 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit within decades. Thus, after a long period of gradual warming, there was a sudden abrupt cooling, which lasted 1000 years.

36 billion tons of CO2 are emitted annually- half of which enters the atmosphere, the other hall of which is absorbed in natural sinks on land and in the ocean. A doubling of CO2 concentrations from 380 ppm today to 560 ppm is likely by 2050.

6 areas to tackle to manage our carbon budget: decrease deforestation, reduce emissions from production of electricity, reduce emissions from automobiles, clean up industrial processes in sectors such as steel, cement, refineries, and petrochemicals, reduce electricity use, and convert point-source emissions in buildings into electricity-based systems powered by low-emission electricity.

Water-stressed countries: Niger, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, Burundi, Mozambique.

Bangladesh depends on India for 91% of its water flows. In the Occupied Palestine Territory, the Israeli population (not quite twice the size of the Palestinian population) uses 7.5 times more water.
Rich-world national income amounts to $35 trillion a year.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: large undertaking to catalog the state of the world's ecosystems and effects of human beings.

Total fertility rate: the average number of children per woman during her childbearing years.
The number of surviving daughters (till adulthood) per mother is the net reproduction rate.

Today's high-income countries will have little change in population size (1.2 billion). The population in the developing world will increase from 5.2 to 7.8 billion by 2050, according to the medium forecast. Of that 2.6 billion increase, 1 billion will be in Africa and 1.3 in Asia.

Jawaharlal Nehru, India's Prime Minister, initiated his family planning programme in 1951, followed soon after by Pakistan. Thailand reduced its TFR from 6.4 in the early 60s to 2.9 in the early 80s. Brazil: 6 in early 60s to 2.5 in early 90s. Bangladesh: 7 in 1970 to 3.4 in early 90s.

Economies can typically graduate from aid when the national income reaches $4000 per person.

TFR in Afghanistan is 7, 2/3 of the population is under 25 years old.

Germany's chancellor Otto van Bismarck established the first old-age pension system in 1889, Britain started in 1911.

US military spending in 2006 was almost as much as the rest of the world combined.

February 23, 2023
>For young people around the world, "history" is 9/11 and the Iraq war, a world of violence, terror, and division.

A man who writes this on the 8th page on the starting paragraph of a topic called "Learning from the Past" of a book doesn't deserve a read since a bold claim like this is a foolish one.
As much as an American would love to claim in the year 2008, world history let alone recent world history doesn't revolve around the US, just because a tragedy occurred 7 years ago and movies were made about it.

Good thing I didn't buy this book and found it on the street, where it belongs.
Profile Image for Bluedisc.
29 reviews
November 27, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Larissa Oddet.
72 reviews1 follower
May 10, 2021
Me encantaría leer un trabajo similar de Sachs pero más actualizado. Creo que es una persona inspiradora con ideas realmente buenas en especial en el ámbito del desarrollo sostenible. El libro a pesar de tener datos de hace 10 años, es bastante interesante y te hace pensar en qué estamos haciendo con nuestro futuro. A demás, pensar que en cuestión de energías (como en México) estamos retrocediendo en vez de optar por las energías renovables es realmente decepcionante.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Conor Ahern.
660 reviews192 followers
November 24, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Joseph.
Author 2 books3 followers
July 23, 2019
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.
Profile Image for David.
61 reviews2 followers
June 10, 2020
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.
41 reviews1 follower
October 4, 2020
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.

21 reviews
November 23, 2021
Much of the book speaks of the usual doomsayer rhetoric about the global problems without sufficient scientific references, which is ironic because it talks about the importance of scientific approaches in solving such problems. If you can get past all the exaggerated claims, the suggestions of Sachs are interesting and quite convincing.
Profile Image for Eric.
536 reviews
September 29, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Benjamin Hill.
108 reviews3 followers
January 31, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Bruce Ward.
124 reviews1 follower
August 19, 2019
A must read, but only for those who plan to live on the planet and be part of the solution.
125 reviews
February 4, 2021
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
Profile Image for Joey.
158 reviews4 followers
December 28, 2011
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 security and economic interests of developed countries and addressing the challenges of the developing world. Burgeoning populations in the world’s poorest regions create youth bulges. Climate change intensifies droughts, often in these arid, poor areas. Often these regions are afflicted by killer diseases such as malaria and AIDS. Ineffective agricultural practices and insufficient water for irrigation combine with drought and skyrocketing populations to create extreme, inescapable poverty. Poverty breeds desperation; demographics skewed toward the young and hopeless often yields large numbers of distressed young men to join ethnic, religious, tribal, or other conflicts. These conflicts destabilize already struggling states, and the rich nations often find themselves sucked into these conflicts for national security reasons.

In my opinion, Sachs makes a compelling case that the problems of the 20th century that undergirded the World Wars and the Cold War no longer exist. Conflicts directly between two states, which resulted in military and political victories for one side, are much less common. Today’s conflicts are intrastate, pitting ethnic or religious groups sharing the same nationality against one another, or involving non-state actors using failed states as havens. Sachs argues that traditional military operations fail to solve these intractable conflicts—examples such as the Soviet and American struggles in Afghanistan, the Darfur crisis, Iraq, and the poorly-defined “global war on terror” make his argument convincing.

From there, Sachs’ analysis of the shortcomings of Western governments, particularly the US government, makes sense. The US pours billions of dollars into military ventures incapable of actually solving the problems that underlie instability in regions such as Africa and the Middle East. Successive administrations have failed to deliver on promised financing to the developing world, financing that could go a long way toward alleviating America’s security problems. In the last decade, the US has refused to bind itself to protocols aimed at rectifying anthropogenic climate change. Yet each of these problems, from climate change to extreme poverty, contributes to the instability and conflict that consume America overseas. But Sachs goes beyond simply critiquing US foreign policy; he offers various solutions, particularly cooperation among the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors.

This is where I have problems with Sachs’ outlook. The devil is always in the details. Although his broad prescriptions have my support, certain nuances in his analysis alienate me somewhat. I mention only two. First, Sachs is too militant on population control for my taste. I am convinced that exponentially increasing populations, especially in the world’s poorest regions, exacerbate existing environmental degradation. But I can’t get behind wielding practices such as abortion as legitimate tools to keep the world’s population under control. Moreover, although family planning is an important device to help the developing world check wild population growth that can deepen food and water shortages, I don’t know that those that question whether the US government should fund it abroad as “aid” are worthy of the criticism Sachs levels at them.

Second, try as he might to avoid it, Sachs occasionally sounds like a man with an agenda. As the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and the UN Secretary-General’s special advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, Sachs obviously has a stake in promoting sustainability. I think he does a sufficient job throughout the book arguing the importance and practicality of reversing climate change, alleviating extreme poverty, etc., based on facts. It’s unfortunate, then, that he undermines his own persuasiveness at points by revealing the clear bias he has on the book’s subject matter. Further, he occasionally strikes an overly “hold-hands-and-sing” tone when describing the very legitimate goals of sustainability and global peace.

But in sum, Common Wealth brims with contagious optimism that the vexing problems of the 21st century are perfectly solvable, but not with a business-as-usual approach to politics or economics (particularly fanatic faith in the market’s ability to solve all problems). Sachs’ points are largely argued with persuasive factual support and compelling analysis. Common Wealth is an important read, I think, for forward-thinking global citizens.
26 reviews
March 13, 2017
An excellent researched analysis with economics and environmental issues addressed in harmony. Wonderful context for sustainable development
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