As most of my friends know, I am a great admirer of Jeffrey Sachs and his work. And not only because some of my students from time to time have come from the Earth Institute (of which Sachs is the former director) and the School of International and Public Affairs (where he is the Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development). As I’ve read his books and attended some of his lectures, my respect has been further strengthened. I took his MOOC course on sustainable development a couple of years ago, and I just couldn’t get over how much I learned, and how well he puts across ideas that in other circumstances would be difficult – at least for me – to follow.
In today’s Wiener Zeitung, Thomas Seifert interviews Sachs, and it is an interview well worth reading. In fact, from my point of view Jeffrey Sachs: Europe as a role model in the climate issue seems to say it all. Succinctly, thoughtfully, and to the point. It gives us much to think about as we attempt – as so many people want to do nowadays – to move forward and find a better society, both locally and internationally.
In the interview, Sachs is speaking – it seems to me – about much more than the climate issue. The perspective he puts forward – sometimes subtly and sometimes in a very straightforward way – applies to many of the issues we’re confronted with. While the connecting thread is, yes, climate and what we’re going to do about it, as he brings in others of our societal concerns he provides us with that positive point of view we’re all looking for.
And, naturally for me (not surprising to anyone who knows me), I very much like that Sachs includes in his list of “many opportunities for constructive partnerships” the very people who are going to be dealing long-term with these issues. Asking that we view what’s going on through “the lens of today’s young people” makes so much good sense, and I’m grateful to Sachs for giving attention to this critical population in the list.
Even if you don’t read the entire interview, take a minute to look at the final paragraph. The interviewer calls it “What to do?” and it’s just the few useful and stimulating thoughts we need to hear:
Perhaps some of your readers are now surprised when I say that I look to Europe for the sake of problem solving. And it may well be that some Europeans will be skeptical: “But we are done!” But the fact is that Europe is the center of global sustainable development and a role model for the whole world. Donald Trump is a wakeup call to Europe: Act together and dare to take the leadership role of the world in sustainable development. Be united and lead. If you look at a world led by the likes of Donald Trump, Matteo Salvini, and Boris Johnson, then the picture indeed seems hopeless. But looking at the world through the lens of today’s young people, progressive politicians, global cooperation, sustainable development, the Paris Agreement, new technologies, and the many opportunities for constructive partnerships in the world, then solutions to our great challenges look feasible.
It’s a point of view that will help us as we try to figure out what to do.