Food and sustainability

Jeffrey Sachs: the economist in support of sustainability

Internationally renowned as one of the world’s foremost economists, the American specialist has devoted his career to supporting policies of comprehensive sustainable development.

Probably the most important economist in the world”, according to the New York Times. “The world’s best-known economist”, echoed Time Magazine, which included him on its list of 100 most influential people - twice. Descriptions about Jeffrey Sachs abound, and those are just two of them. Born in Michigan in 1954, Jeffrey Sachs is an economy professor, a leader in sustainable development, a close collaborator with the United Nations, even the author of a best-seller and articles found on the pages of numerous journals. He’s won a plethora of awards and recognitions, not least of which is the Blue Planet Prize , which he received in 2015 for his efforts relating to the environment and sustainability. This titan of the world economy will be present at the BCFN International Forum on Food and Nutrition on 1 December 2016 in Milan to share his ideas and support a common cause.

From Kennedy to the United Nations
It was US President John F. Kennedy to move Americans to face large challenges, establishing precise goals for the country: landing a man on the moon, overcoming racial discrimination and reaching a peace agreement with the then-powerful Soviet Union. “Today the important objectives for the entire world have changed, but identifying ambitious goals is still a winning strategy, capable of moving nations, just like Kennedy’s strategies moved people”, explained Sachs, who actively participated in the definition of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals to be completed by 2030. Prior to that, he took part in the writing of the Millennium Development Goals, also established by the United Nations. “The sustainable development objectives are based on a strong conviction that economic growth can and should be fair, comprehensive and sustainable from an environmental point of view, towards a society completely different from the one we live in now”, Sachs explained, reminding us that not just the participation of the government, but also that of the people, is fundamental to reach these goals. “That’s another principle Kennedy championed. Clarifying goals in detail, making them seem more manageable and less remote, helps motivate people”, he said.

Investments and a change in strategy
On the journey towards 2030, only one thing is certain: having defined the goals doesn’t guarantee they’ll be met. What’s needed, as Sachs explained (and in-line with what BCFN supports as well), is an overall change of strategy to change the way we use available resources. “We need large-scale investments in the development and the use of energy sources which aren’t based on carbon, and we need to stop building plants which use fossil fuels.” He continued, “Enough with polluting vehicles, and more of those with a low environmental impact.”
For developing countries, investments should be aimed at the improvement of facilities which optimise resources for water, hygiene and health safety, and education, especially in urban areas which are developing at impressive speeds. Last but certainly not least, all the world’s nations must strive to improve infrastructure and the banks should intervene with ad hoc financing so as to respond sustainably to needs. “Sustainable development isn’t just a wish or a slogan; it’s time to dedicate all the attention – and investments – to it which it deserves”, Sachs concluded. Join him as he delves into the issue at the BCFN Forum on 1 December in Milan.


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