Reith Lecture 1: Bursting at the Seams, Jeffrey Sachs

*SUE LAWLEY:* Hello and welcome to the Royal Society in London, a place
where, since its foundation in 1660, great minds have gathered to
discuss the important scientific issues of the day. It’s a fitting place
to introduce this year’s Reith lecturer, a man who believes we need a
new enlightenment to solve many of the world’s problems. The American
press has hailed him as one of the world’s most influential people, a
plaudit due in some measure no doubt to the fact that he’s not afraid to
put his theories to the test. Like one of his great heroes, John Maynard
Kanes, he’s moved between the academic life and politics, working
successfully with governments in South America and Eastern Europe to
help restore their broken economies. In this series of Reith lectures
he’ll be explaining how he believes that with global co-operation our
resources can be harnessed to create a more equal and harmonious world.
If we cannot achieve this, he says, we will face catastrophe; we’ll
simply be overwhelmed by disease, hunger, pollution, and the clash of
civilisations.
>
> In this, the first of his series of five lectures, he begins by
> setting the scene, describing an over-populated world on the brink of
> devastating change, a world that, as the title of the lecture says, is
> bursting at the seams. Ladies and gentlemen will you please welcome
> the BBC’s Reith lecturer 2007 – Jeffrey Sachs.
>
> (APPLAUSE)
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: Thank you very much Sue, thanks to BBC, thanks to the
> Royal Society, and thanks to all of you, ladies and gentlemen. Sue
> Lawley has it right that this is a house that has assembled the
> world’s greatest minds throughout modern history, and many of them, as
> I look out, are in the room tonight. What an extraordinary gathering,
> a unique gathering of leaders of thought and action from so many
> disciplines, and it is with profound humility that I speak to you, but
> also profound hope that maybe, by the conversation that will commence
> tonight, and this fabulous opportunity of the Reith lectures to have a
> global conversation, perhaps we can move forward to a bit safer world
> than the one that we are now inhabiting. This is a lecture series
> about choices, choices that our generation faces, choices that will
> determine the nature of our lives and the lives of our children, and
> those to come. We have some momentous choices to make and I hope to
> describe them tonight and in the future lectures.
>
> I want to start with my favourite speech of the modern American
> presidency and I think one of the most important statements made in
> modern times in fact, one that truly did change the course of history.
> I’m referring to John Kennedy’s commencement address at American
> University, June 10, 1963. It was an address that helped rescue the
> world from a path of self-destruction. It came in the immediate wake
> of the Cuban missile crisis, when Kennedy and the world had peered
> over the abyss, and what President John Kennedy said on that day I
> think resonates today and is important for all of us in all parts of
> the world. If you’ll permit me to quote from it a little bit at
> length, just at the beginning. I do believe it helps to set the stage.
>
> He said first examine our attitude towards peace itself. Too many of
> us think it is impossible, too many think it is unreal, but that is a
> dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is
> inevitable, that mankind is doomed, that we are gripped by forces we
> cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are
> man-made, therefore they can be solved by man, and man can be as big
> as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s
> reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we
> believe they can do it again. I am not referring to the absolute
> infinite concept of universal peace and goodwill of which some
> fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and
> dreams, but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making
> that our only and immediate goal. Let us focus instead on a more
> practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in
> human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a
> series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the
> interest of all concerned. There is no single simple key to this
> peace, no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers.
> Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many
> acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge
> of each new generation, for peace is a process, a way of solving
> problems.
>
> I want to talk about the challenge of our generation. Ours is not the
> generation that faced the challenge of Fascism, ours is not the
> generation to have first grappled with the nuclear demon, though we
> still grapple with it today. Ours is not the generation that faced the
> Cold War. Ours is not the generation incidentally in which the
> greatest problem is the war on terror, or Iran, or other ideas so
> current. Our challenge, our generation’s unique challenge, is learning
> to live in an extraordinarily crowded world. Our planet is
> unprecedentedly crowded, I’ve called it bursting at the seams. And
> it’s bursting at the seams in human terms, in economic terms, and in
> ecological terms. This is the greatest challenge of learning to live
> in an interconnected world of unprecedented pressures, of human
> society and human impact on the physical environment. Like John
> Kennedy said, we will need to solve these problems, the ones that are
> unique to our generation, if we are to find peace, and obviously we
> are not just in a cold war, we are in a hot war right now, because we
> have failed to understand the challenges and we have failed to take
> appropriate measures to face the real challenges that we face. We
> don’t need to dream. I am going to talk about concrete actions, I am
> going to discuss, I hope, effective agreements, and most importantly I
> want to talk about a way of solving problems. It’s a fascinating and
> crucial concept for us – peace as a way of solving problems. We
> clearly are not on a path of problem solving now with the world, we
> are on a path of increasing risk and increasing instability, and by
> all objective measures the path of increasing hate in the world as
> well. We have not found a way of solving problems that our generation
> faces now. Most importantly for us on this crowded planet, facing the
> challenges of living face to face as never before, and facing a common
> ecological challenge, it simply was never upon us in human history
> ’til now. The way of solving problems requires one fundamental change,
> a big one, and that is learning that the challenges of our generation
> are not us versus them, they are not us versus Islam, us versus the
> terrorists, us versus Iran, they are us, all of us together on this
> planet against a set of shared and increasingly urgent problems. And
> by understanding those problems, understanding them at their depth,
> understanding what we do share with every part of this world, in the
> need to face these challenges, we can find peace. But we are living in
> a cloud of confusion, where we have been told that the greatest
> challenge on the planet is us versus them, a throwback to an
> adivisim(?) that we must escape for our own survival.
>
> I’m going to talk about three common problems that we face. They are
> inter-connected, they build on each other in ways that amplify or
> create abrupt change, abrupt risk, highly non-linear responses to the
> threats we face. And they’re challenges which put us all in common
> fate. The first challenge that I’ll talk about is the challenge of
> what Paul Krutson(?) has magnificently called the anthropocy(?) – the
> idea that for the first time in history the physical systems of the
> planet, the chemical fluxes, the climate itself, the habitat, the
> biodiversity, evolutionary processes, are to an incredible and
> unrecognised extent under human forcings that now dominate a large
> measure of the most central, ecological, chemical and bio-physical
> processes on the planet – the hydrological cycle, the carbon cycle,
> the nitrogen cycle, the location of species and the extinction of
> species, basic physical habitats. We are in the anthropocy, and
> uniquely so. We are the first generation in the anthropocy, truly
> said. Of course human forcings have always played their role. We know
> that the hominids already controlled fire a million or more years ago,
> and therefore changed landscapes, even before the rise of homo
> sapiens, but never has the control of such fundamental processes been
> determined by human forcings, and we’ve barely awakened to that reality.
>
> The second common challenge is a challenge of geo-politics, a
> challenge that I’m going to call the age of convergence. In many ways
> it’s wonderful news, it’s the beat that I you know served in my
> activities in studying economic development. It’s the notion that in a
> connected world, more connected than ever before, in a world where
> economic development, at least for the last two hundred and fifty
> years and in essence whenever there has been economic development, is
> driven by technology. And now in a world where those technologies
> diffuse, and can diffuse rapidly around the world, and give a fabulous
> prospect, and that’s a prospect for the rapid closing of economic gaps
> that now exist between the rich and the poor. There will be in our
> time a fundamental shift of economic power, and the political power
> that goes along with it. We started this decade with a fantasy, the
> fantasy of the United States as the world’s sole superpower, the
> fantasy of the United States as the sole indispensable power, it was
> called, the fantasy which we should have known from history always to
> be wrong and dangerous, of the United States as the new Rome, being
> urged on to take on the imperial mantle even by some who ought to know
> a lot better about this. But it was a fantasy because just as this was
> being proclaimed was the time when China, when India, when other
> regional powers are bound to be increasing their power and their
> economic weight in the world by virtue of this shared capacity to
> benefit from technology, which is the fundament of economic
> development. Of course as an economist I do subscribe to a philosophy
> that was first initiated by Adam Smith in 1776, which is why I’m so
> happy that these Reith lectures will take us to Edinburgh – no
> accident – when he talked about how global markets, international
> trade, can be a fundamental diffusion mechanism for these
> technologies, and now it happens. But we’re not ready for this.
>
> The third of our common challenges I want to call the challenges of
> the weakest links. That is in an interconnected world all parts of the
> world are affected by what happens in all other parts of the world,
> and sometimes surprisingly so. But we cannot be surprised when events
> in some far off and distant place – and I’m not talking about Central
> Europe, I’m talking about halfway around the world in the landmass of
> Eurasia – can be of fundamental significance even for survival, for
> the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars if not trillions for
> the direction of global politics. In an interconnected world we have
> great need, and basic responsibility for our own survival of attending
> to the weakest links. And by that I mean those places in the world
> that suffer, those places in the world where people die because they
> are too poor to stay alive, those parts of the world where by virtue
> of physical geography, epidemiology, climate stress, rain-fed
> agriculture and drought-prone savannah climates for example, face
> horrific challenges of even getting onto the ladder of development, a
> ladder which is available for all if one can get on it, but where at
> least one billion people on the planet are too poor, too hungry, too
> disease-burdened, too bereft of the most basic infrastructure even to
> get on the ladder of development. And we believe, I’m sorry to say,
> despite all the fine speeches – and there have been many – we believe
> through our actions that this doesn’t really matter, because our
> actions don’t begin to address this problem. We are leaving for
> example ten million people to die at least every year because they are
> too poor to stay alive. And fine speeches will not solve that problem.
>
> Our challenge is to understand these common challenges, to see that
> the whole world is arrayed on the same side; to understand that a
> leader in Iran, or in Korea or in Sudan, or in other places where
> we’ve made it a point not even to have a conversation, much less a
> negotiation, much less an attempt at peaceful solution, given the
> risks that we face, are facing problems of water supply, climate
> change, food production, poverty, disease burden, many of which
> impinge absolutely directly on us. Can it be true incidentally that
> because we don’t want to talk to Iran, H5N1 won’t pass through Iran,
> we won’t have to deal with avian ‘flu in places we don’t want to speak
> to, because we put on pre-conditions to negotiations, that we can’t
> see the commonality of our problems? And can it really be, ladies and
> gentlemen, that the solution to Darfor, one of the most urgent crises
> on the planet, is all about peacekeepers and troops and sanctions,
> when we know that in Western Darfor the rebellion started because this
> is just about the poorest place on the whole plant, where the
> rebellion started because there’s not enough water to keep people
> alive, where the livestock have no veterinary care, where there’s no
> basic infrastructure, where a power grid may be a thousand miles away?
> Can we really think that peacekeeping troops and sanctions will solve
> this problem? I do think we have a fundamental re-thinking to do in
> each of these areas.
>
> As I’ll describe in discussing the anthropocy, in Beijing, which soon
> will be the country that is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide on
> the planet, and one that faces its own profound challenges of water
> stress, which will worsen, perhaps immeasurably, as the glaciers of
> the Himalayas melt and as the seasonal timing of snow melt from the
> Himalayas changes the river flow of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers and
> other rivers of Asia. The anthropocy tells us that it’s not just one
> problem, as Sir Nicholas Stern, sitting here, one of our great heroes
> of our time, has brilliantly exposed in his report for this
> government. It’s not the problem of the mass extinctions, it’s not the
> problem as we’ve learned in recent weeks of the mass destruction of
> fisheries in the North Atlantic and in many other parts of the world.
> We are weighing so heavily on the Earth’s systems, not only through
> carbon dioxide emissions changing climate but through carbon dioxide
> emissions acidifying oceans, through destruction of habitat, which is
> literally driving perhaps millions of species right off the planet. We
> are over-hunting, over-fishing, and over-gathering just about anything
> that grows slowly or moves slowly. If you can catch it we kill it. Our
> capacity in the anthropocy is unprecedented, poorly understood, not in
> control, and a grave and common threat.
>
> The illusions about geo-politics which I mentioned prevent us from
> solving these problems as well. The United States, my own country, has
> been in a fantasy of, quote, going it alone, a fantasy if there ever
> was one when our problems are so fundamentally global and shared. How
> do you address climate change, even if you recognised it, by yourself?
> They solved that problem temporarily by not recognising it. (LAUGHTER)
> But when they do recognise it they’re going to have to recognise it in
> a shared and global way.
>
> And how can it be, ladies and gentlemen, that we think we can be safe?
> We think we can be safe when we leave a billion people to struggle
> literally for their daily survival, the poorest billion for whom every
> day is a fight to secure enough nutrients, a fight against the
> pathogen in the water that can kill them or their child, a fight
> against a mosquito bite carrying malaria or another killer disease for
> which there’s no medicine though the medicines exist and are low cost
> but there’s no medicine in the village available to save the child and
> thus a million or two million children will die this year of malaria.
> How can we think that this can be safe? And how can we choose, as we
> do in the United States, to have a budget request this year of six
> hundred and fifty billion dollars for the military – more than all the
> rest of the world combined – and four and a half billion dollars for
> all of African assistance, and think that this is prudent? One might
> say oh it’s a science fiction that a zoanotic(?) disease could arise
> and somehow spread to the world, except that Aids is exactly that. How
> many examples do we need to understand the linkages, and the common
> threats, and the recklessness of leaving people to die, recklessness
> in spirit, in human heart, and in geo-political safety for us?
>
> Now President Kennedy talked about a way of solving problems, and that
> too will be a theme of these lectures. We are entering I believe a new
> politics, and potentially a hopeful politics. I’m going to call it
> open source leadership. If the Wikapedia(?) can be built in an open
> source manner, if Linnix(?) can be done so, politics as well is going
> to be of that manner as well. We are going to need a new way to
> address and to solve global problems, but our connectivity will bring
> us tools unimaginable even just a few years before. I’m going to try
> to explain how this can be done, how without a global government we
> can still get global co-operation, how initiatives like the millennium
> development goals can be an organising principle for the world, though
> there is no single implementing authority, how it is possible to
> coalesce around shared goals, how scientists can play a fundamental
> role in this, such as in the inter-governmental panel on climate
> change, how the world is hungry for serious knowledge, for the
> information from what are sometimes called epistemic communities –
> that is communities of expertise – that can help to bring the best
> information to bear on the most crucial problems that affect the
> survival and the livelihoods and the well-being of people around the
> world. I’m going to talk about how our governments can be re-organised
> and need to be re-organised because we are living perhaps with
> nineteenth century, maybe twentieth century government structures for
> twenty-first century problems. Our governments simply do not
> understand the nature of these problems. The Ministries are like stove
> pipes in general, narrowly defined. Often it’s true in academia as
> well I have to say. But these are problems that cross disciplines,
> cross areas of knowledge, are inherently problems that require
> cross-disciplinary thinking in novel ways, whether it’s problems of
> poverty, disease, climate change, energy systems, war and peace,
> Darfor – this can’t be left to the normal ways of operation, and
> therefore I see our government as just flailing about blindly. These
> are not just intelligence failures, though surely they exist and were
> serious, but these are also deep incapacities of government to
> understand these challenges. We need some fundamental re-organisation,
> which I’ll discuss. We need, as President Kennedy said, concrete
> actions, and I’m going to discuss those as well because there’s no
> sense in theory if there isn’t something to do, starting today. And
> there are in all of these areas things to do starting today that can
> make a difference, a life and death difference. And we need – and this
> is the possibility of our inter-connected, socially networked
> internet-empowered age – we need involvement of all of us, we all play
> a role. It doesn’t just go through government, and if government
> remains as impervious to evidence and knowledge and capacity as it is
> right now it’s going to have to go increasingly around government
> anyway. Perhaps that’s inevitable, perhaps that’s just a particular
> failing of our immediate times – I’m not sure – but we are going to
> have to play unique roles, corporate social responsibility, civil
> society, and our roles as individuals as well.
>
> I’m an optimist. You might not detect it! (LAUGHTER) You might not
> hear it in the first time because I want to, I want you to sit up,
> open eyes. You know many or all of these things that I’m saying, and
> certainly if there is one introductory note it is that we must not for
> one moment think we’re on an acceptable course right now, because
> we’re not. But I do want to stress that fundamentally we have choices,
> and we actually have some terrific choices. We have the ability to do
> things at much lower cost, and much greater efficacy, than almost any
> of us can know, unless we are in fact lucky enough to be engaged with
> that epistemic community to hear the wonderful news. I’m a partisan
> for example of anti-malaria bed nets, and I’ll just give you one fact.
> There are three hundred sleeping sites in Africa that need protection
> from malaria. Anti-malaria bed nets last five years, and cost a mere
> five dollars – one dollar per year. Often more than one child sleeps
> under a net. Well one thing that economists are reasonably good at is
> multiplication, so three hundred million sleeping sites, five dollars
> a net – I calculate 1.5 billion dollars. I also am acceptably good at
> long division. Six hundred and sixty billion dollars of military
> budget, three hundred and sixty-five days – that tells me that we are
> spending now, depending on exactly what the President gets out of
> this, perhaps 1.7 or 1.8 billion dollars per day on the Pentagon. John
> Kennedy said in this world changing speech, for we are both devoting
> massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to
> combat ignorance, poverty and disease, and my little calculation has
> shown you that one day’s Pentagon spending could cover every sleeping
> site of Africa for five years with anti-malaria bed nets, and yet we
> have not found our way to that most amazing bargain of our time. We do
> have choices, they are good ones if we take them.
>
> I want to close with what President Kennedy said in this regard. I
> regard these among the most beautiful lines ever uttered by a world
> leader. First he said in short both the United States and its allies,
> and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in
> a just and genuine peace, and in halting the arms race. Agreements to
> this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours, and
> even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and to keep
> those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are
> in their own interest. He uttered those words – within a few weeks the
> limited test ban treaty was negotiated. He changed the course of
> history by showing that there was a path for peace that was mutually
> acceptable. But then he said this – and what could be more important
> for the challenges of our generation – so let us not be blind to our
> differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests,
> and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we
> cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world
> safe for diversity, for in the final analysis our most basic common
> link is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same
> air, we all cherish our children’s future, and we are all mortal.
> Thank you very much.
>
> (APPLAUSE)
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Jeffrey Sachs, thank you very much indeed. Well with us
> here in the Royal Society in London for this BBC World Service Reith
> lecture is a distinguished audience to explore and challenge that view
> of where we go from here, so let me begin with Sir Christopher Mayer,
> a former British Ambassador to the United States and currently
> Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. Sir Christopher, your
> question if you would please?
>
> *SIR CHRISTOPHER MAYER*: Jeffrey Sachs, I would love to join you in
> your optimism, I would love to join you on this voyage to create a new
> politics. I would love to join you on a voyage to avoid conventional
> governments. But surely it’s pie in the sky, because man does not
> change. What on earth leads you to think that this kind of human
> nature is ever going to change?
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: The world does change, it changes remarkably. Many of
> the most important changes in the world have been led from this corner
> of the world. The world, as I recall, two hundred years ago to this
> year, was still a world of slavery, of slavery within the British
> Empire, but in 1807 the slave trade ended. We had rule of colonial
> powers. Now I’m not such a devotee as perhaps some here – I don’t know
> – but independence, sovereignty, which I believe is a basic part of
> good politics, good governance, and hope for the future, came to the
> world, it’s a fundamental change. We live in an age when women are
> empowered as never before in human history. We live in the shadow of
> the civil rights movement in the United States, in the end of
> apartheid. We live in a world of choice. It’s not right to say the
> world doesn’t change, and even if human nature doesn’t change our
> institutions can change. So I believe that we can create the kind of
> world that we want, and if it’s true that human nature doesn’t change,
> human understanding, rationality, and our institutions, can all play a
> role to lead to changes in behaviour.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Let me ask Sir Christopher if he’s any more persuaded
> that there’s proof positive in there, that this is not pie in the sky.
>
> *SIR CHRISTOPHER MAYER*: No I don’t, I’m afraid I don’t, I don’t see
> any proof positive in there whatsoever. I’m not denying the notion of
> progress, I’m not denying the notion that people do do good things and
> make good changes. What I think I’m saying is that the kind of change
> that you want, and you’ve advocated it with extraordinary passion and
> eloquence, does require a step change in human nature which is simply
> not going to happen.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Let me just take it� Let me just� Another point, the
> lady there, behind, just behind, thank you very much. Tell us who you
> are as well.
>
> *SUE BLACKMORE*: Sue Blackmore, psychologist from Bristol. I too were
> sure optimism were infectious, but I have not been infected with it.
> In fact I feel more depressed, really at� (LAUGHTER) a deep disjunct
> in your argument, which seems to be this. You’ve described the
> poverty, the deprivation, the people who are struggling, which shame
> us all, of course, and I’m sure like everyone else I feel bad about
> it, but you’ve also identified what is the root problem, which is
> over-population on this planet – too many people. Now if we all buy
> these mosquito nets, and those children live, what are they going to
> live for? They’re going to live for not enough water, not enough food,
> not enough to go round. That’s not a solution. We need something
> better than that don’t we?
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: The evidence is overwhelming that it’s possible and
> necessary to have a rapid demographic transition on a voluntary basis
> to greatly reduce fertility rates in poor countries, and that by far
> one of the most powerful ways to achieve that is through child
> survival. Child survival is correlated and causally related to reduced
> fertility rates among poor households. You want poor households to cut
> their fertility and to have fewer children – assure them that the
> fewer children that they have will survive, they won’t be carried off
> by a mosquito bite. So it is fundamentally the opposite that saving
> children somehow over-populates the world. This is a basic
> misunderstanding. But it’s a, it’s a big misunderstanding� (APPLAUSE)
> It’s a big misunderstanding to think that you leave children to die as
> a solution to that.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Yes?
>
> *JENNY RUSSELL*: Jenny Russell, I’m a Guardian journalist. I think the
> core problem that you’re talking about here� (LAUGHTER)
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: A what? A ..?.. ?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Guardian journalist.
>
> *JENNY RUSSELL*: The core problem that you’re discussing Jeffery is
> really one of over-consumption, and I do believe that you’re an
> optimist when you say that you feel that actually most of these
> problems can be solved without much sacrifice on people’s part,
> because I simply don’t see how that can be so. So what you’re really
> saying is that people have to stop wanting to consume so much. Now I
> see absolutely no evidence whatsoever that anybody is willing to do
> that. You talk about governments being short-term, which they are, but
> we as individuals are all extremely short-term, we’ve got extremely
> poor people in this country�
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: I’m hoping for a question mark.
>
> *JENNY RUSSELL*: �and no-one’s willing to do anything about that. When
> you, when you talk about this, what is it that you’re actually
> proposing will change, because all I can see is that everyone in the
> globe is going to go on wanting to consume as much as possible until
> it’s impossible.
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: I am not arguing the over-consumption argument – that
> is actually not my point. I do not believe that the solution to this
> problem is a massive cutback of our consumption levels or our living
> standards. I think it is living smarter. I do believe that technology
> is absolutely critical, and I do not believe on the evidence that I’m
> going to be discussing in these lectures that the essence of the
> problem is that we face a zero sum that must be re-distributed. I’m
> going to argue that there’s a way for us to use the knowledge that we
> have, the technology that we have, to make broad progress in material
> conditions, to not require or ask the rich to take sharp cuts of
> living standards, but rather to live with smarter technologies that
> are sustainable, and thereby to find a way for the rest of the world,
> which yearns for it, and deserves it as far as I’m concerned, to raise
> their own material conditions as well. The costs are much less than
> people think. You are making the argument that this is so costly we
> don’t dare do it.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: But I can ask you just, Jeff, if you would, because I
> want to keep getting some more people in, to address the main
> criticism that we’re hearing here that you know the history of the
> second half of the twentieth century is littered with goals that have
> been missed, with good intentions that haven’t been fulfilled, with
> grand plans and the kinds of words you’re using tonight that people
> have stood up and said but haven’t translated onto the ground.
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: Yes.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: What do you say and what are you offering that is
> different?
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: Yes, and knowing people have always denied the
> possibilities of concrete progress. We were expected to have an
> Armageddon when President Kennedy gave this speech in 1963. You look
> at public opinion in 1963 – the overwhelming expectation was that war
> with the Soviet Union was inevitable. And the expectation was on just
> about every piece of progress that it couldn’t happen. The expectation
> was that by now India would be wracked by devastating famine year in,
> year out, that hundreds of millions would die, that the dye was
> already cast. So frankly the extrapolation from the current to the
> future on present trends is the easiest thing in the world. The idea
> that there can be change perhaps is a hard thing to accept. The idea
> that there has been profound change should be understood by everybody.
> And I want to make a key message, which obviously in this first talk I
> can’t amplify, which is that the choices are better than you think,
> because the cost of these solutions is much less than is feared. And
> this is the most important point. Climate change is not going to end
> our civilisation unless we pretend that it doesn’t exist or unless we
> are so afraid that we don’t confront it. If we confront it in a timely
> and sensible way, we can head off the worst at quite low cost. We can
> end extreme poverty within our own generation if we stopped rubbing
> our hands in angst, or perhaps not rubbing them, just turning our eyes
> away, and the more people understand the real choices, the real
> consequences and the real power that we have, with the phenomenal
> technologies that we have available, the more likely it is that we
> make the right choices – that’s why it’s worth talking about these
> things, because they’re not …
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Let me�
>
> (APPLAUSE)
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Let me bring in somebody who’s seen how some of these
> plans work on the ground. She’s Geri Halliwell, former Spice Girl of
> course, and she’s currently a UN Goodwill Ambassador. Geri, your
> question?
>
> *GERI HALLIWELL*: Hi. I’d like to say that I really support you and I
> think it’s really wonderful to have a positive message. And I work for
> the UNFPA, what you talked about, and I went to Zambia last year.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: For family planning yeah?
>
> *GERI HALLIWELL*: Yeah, for family planning, health and reproductive
> care, highlighting Aids, and women’s maternal healthcare, and what I
> learnt was that when we empower women through education, really taking
> care of their own health, everybody benefits. You know villages thrive
> through their economy. And you know this, this tribal leader, he was
> very forthright in his thinking although he was very traditional – he
> said when we empowered women at this very grass roots level everyone
> thrived, which was wonderful to hear this. So my question to you is
> that do you think that if we encourage more women, do you think that
> would have a positive effect on poverty?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Do you mean in the African political arena?
>
> *GERI HALLIWELL*: Particularly there, but all over. You know�
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: More women.
>
> *GERI HALLIWELL*: What do you think Jeffrey?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: He’s in touch with his female side!
>
> GERI HALLIWELL: I think so!
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: How could you argue with that? (LAUGHTER) I think
> it’s an absolutely splendid idea and we are celebrating the election
> of the first woman Head of State in Africa – Ellen Johnson, … in
> Liberia. She is brave, she’s tough, she’s mart, she’s caring, and
> she’s making progress in what is one of the most difficult places in
> the world, that went through years and years of extraordinary war.
> What we found in the villages where we’re working, in the so-called
> millennium villages, which I’m going to talk about in the lecture – in
> a later lecture – is that if you help with the basics, you
> automatically empower the women, you change the communities. And what
> we’re finding one after another is they may elect the women actually
> to be the Heads of the village council because they’re the best
> farmers, and they, now the men starting saying hey maybe I can get
> something out of this by learning the same techniques. So we’re
> finding exactly that this practical empowerment does work when you’re
> specific, concrete, facing the real challenges of people in the
> villages, where they live, and with the, the greatest needs that they
> face.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: What are the solutions? How do you overcome tribalism,
> corruption, ignorance, fanaticism? I mean you’ve got the President of
> the Gambia at the moment walking around saying that he has a cure for
> Aids, a herbal cure for Aids, and he’s pouring it himself, anointing
> people with his own hands, and expelling from his country the UN
> worker who dares to cast aspersions about you know the efficacy of
> this cure. How do you overcome that kind of ignorance?
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: You know it’s a little bit funny for me, I guess I
> live in a political world naturally with what I do and you don’t just
> say something and expect it to happen. This takes an effort. And when
> Wilberforce started in this city in the 1770s and said that slavery
> should end in the empire, he didn’t have a talk to this group and they
> said. ‘Oh that’s very unrealistic, (LAUGHTER) there’s some very
> powerful slave traders out there that are never going to go with it,
> just give up and go home.’ You know it was a fight. (APPLAUSE) It was
> a fight for half a century. Don’t be pessimistic because it doesn’t
> happen immediately. Lots of things happen, they take time. These out�
> Just, sorry, one more, one more example. You can cut all this out once
> you tape but er� (LAUGHTER)
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: We shall, we shall!
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: But� That’s the magic of radio! But, but one thing
> that I� Let me, let me give one example. In early 2001, based on work
> that I was leading for the World Health Organisation, I issued a
> statement with my colleagues at Harvard saying that people in Africa
> should be treated with anti-retroviral medicines. At the time there
> was a huge attack by officialdom – ‘How could you do this? Completely
> irresponsible.’ Where are we today? Of course we now have a global
> fund to fight Aids, TB and malaria, there are billions of dollars
> being spent on this. There is a rapid scaling up of treatment, there
> is a commitment that by 2010 there should be universal access for all
> who need it to anti-retroviral medicines. Don’t tell me things can’t
> change, and that they can’t change fast. We just need to fight for
> them, based on the evidence.
>
> (APPLAUSE)
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: I’m going to take some comments. Comment over there from
> you, yes? Quick comment please.
>
> *MARK WOODALL*: Yes, good evening, Mark Woodall, Climate Change
> Capital. In the year of the entrocene(?) where the dramatic effects of
> climate change may not be visible in the democratic cycle, and tough
> decisions have to be made now, what is the role for unelected super
> national bodies to make those tough decisions?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: I’m not going to get an answer to that straightaway, I’m
> going to get another comment here if I can please, because we really
> must move towards a close. Yes?
>
> *ELIZABETH HAYDN JONES*: Hi, I’m Elizabeth Haydn Jones, I’m an
> optimist. I just have a very simple comment, which is if we don’t
> believe that human nature can change, then less than a hundred years
> ago I didn’t even have a vote let alone have the chance to be in this
> illustrious company of predominantly white men!
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: (LAUGHS)
>
> SUE LAWLEY: Fine. And there’s another woman here, just on your left here.
>
> *JUSTINE FRANE*: Justine Frane from GlaxoSmithKline. You referred to a
> coalescence around shared goals, which implies global co-operation,
> and an approach to attack some of the big issues such as poverty.
> Aside from commandeering the US military budget, how are the economics
> of this actually going to work in practice?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Well I’m not going to take an answer to that because I
> think it could be longer than we’ve got space for, (LAUGHTER) but
> point made. I’m going to have another comment back there, and then I’m
> going to set Jeff the problem of trying to give a compendium answer to
> these disparate comments.
>
> *ANDY ATKINS*: I’m Andy Atkins from the Relief and Development Agency,
> TIF, and I’m on the Board of a campaign called the Market Challenge,
> to galvanise Christians around delivering the millennium development
> goals. I’m an optimist, I believe we have to have faith, but I know
> that the battle is long. We’ve got seven years ’til the millennium
> development goals are theoretically to be delivered. What for you
> would be the next critical steps to re-galvanise political weight
> around that as well as public support for them, after the high days of
> Make Poverty History campaign in 2005 – one campaign? We’ve seen a
> dip, but we’re only seven years out from theoretical delivery date.
> What would you do next?
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Can you give us a brief answer on that?
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: What I want is that the promises that were made at
> Gleneagles get put transparently into time lines and responsibilities.
> The rich world promised to double aid by 2010. Who’s going to do it,
> on what time line? Which countries, which recipients? Let’s get real
> now. And all we have to do is just live up to the commitments, and
> we’ll make a fantastic breakthrough. It’s not so hard to do. We don’t
> even need new promises, we need the fulfilment of the ones that have
> been made.
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: Terry Waite I see over there. What’s your comment? Just
> wait for the microphone.
>
> *TERRY WAITE*: I would just like to go back to the first point that
> was made, by Christopher Mayer. The thesis seems to be based on the
> assumptions that human beings will so shape institutions that right
> choices will be made. But what is the basis, the real basis for having
> such faith in human nature, because I’m not entirely convinced by the
> empirical evidence that you’ve produced.
>
> *JEFFREY SACHS*: I thought after such a depressing lecture, for five
> sixths of it, that people would not simply hone in on my unbounded
> optimism. I tried to explain actually. I spend my time with people who
> are dying. Twenty-two years ago I started to say that we needed debt
> cancellation for the poorest countries. (APPLAUSE) It came late, but
> it came. I can’t give up, that we are doomed. In fact� (APPLAUSE)
> That’s why I started as I did, that too many of us think it is
> impossible, too many think it is unreal, but that is a dangerous
> defeatist belief. That’s exactly where I started. We have to believe
> that we can make choices if we can understand them. We have to believe
> that the more we analyse together and reason together, especially in
> this house of all places on the planet, that it’s possible to sort out
> some of these things. No part of the whole planet has done more than
> this institution to change the course of history in fact. Life
> expectancy was twenty-five years, and it’s because of what this house
> and what it represents has accomplished, that in the rich world we’re
> at eighty years, and in the middle income world we’re at seventy
> years. And when I think about how Condour Sett(?), months before he
> was� he was killed in the French Revolution, talked about how we could
> harness reason to grow more crops and to extend life expectancy – what
> right did he have to be optimistic, but he got it exactly right. So
> what right do we have to be so pessimistic, and blind(?), and not
> moving, when people are dying on our watch?
>
> (APPLAUSE)
>
> *SUE LAWLEY*: We have four more lectures and four more debates to
> come, so we’ll leave this one here for now. Next week we’re in China,
> in Beijing. It’s a country which stands, as you’ve heard, at the
> centre of Jeffrey Sachs’ vision of our world in the twenty-first
> century. What happens there, what is happening there, will affect us
> all as we face up to the economic and environmental challenges of the
> future. That’s Sachs over Beijing, next week. Until then from the
> Royal Society, goodbye. **(APPLAUSE)
>
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