A contemporary Malthus

In: Uncategorized

19 Mar 2008

Jeffrey Sachs has a new book out. Yet, judging by an extract in Time magazine (24 March), Common Wealth for a Crowded Planet repeats many of the themes of his previous work (see links to “my reviews” in the left hand column):

“The defining challenge of the 21st century will be to face the reality that humanity shares a common fate on a crowded planet. We have reached the beginning of the century with 6.6 billion people living in an interconnected global economy producing an astounding $60 trillion of output each year. Human beings fill every ecological niche on the planet, from the icy tundra to the tropical rain forests to the deserts. In some locations, societies have outstripped the carrying capacity of the land, resulting in chronic hunger, environmental degradation and a large-scale exodus of desperate populations. We are, in short, in one another’s faces as never before, crowded into an interconnected society of global trade, migration, ideas and, yes, risk of pandemic diseases, terrorism, refugee movements and conflict.

“We also face a momentous choice. Continue on our current course, and the world is likely to experience growing conflicts between haves and have-nots, intensifying environmental catastrophes and downturns in living standards caused by interlocking crises of energy, water, food and violent conflict. Yet for a small annual investment of world income, undertaken cooperatively across the world, our generation can harness new technologies for clean energy, reliable food supplies, disease control and the end of extreme poverty.”

Although he does not say it explicitly his argument is that there are natural limits to economic growth. The best we can hope for is to eradicate “extreme poverty”. Our growing use of resources, in his view, could lead to disease, terrorism and conflict.

Comment Form