Jeffrey Sachs

I know everyone’s going to get tired of me blogging all the time (after the week of radio silence, I’ve come back with quite a bit of a bang), but I wanted to make a quick mention of the lecture I went to tonight with some students from the development courses. We saw Jeffrey Sachs speak on the theme of ending global poverty in St. Paul’s Cathedral. He spoke without notes, which gives me the more than vague impression that we were treated to an incarnation of his stump speech on the topic. Nevertheless, it was fascinating.

I’m sure some of you (who don’t happen to be in Niger, although she’d be the biggest expert) have heard his ideas on the subject (although with his status as a policy developer for the UN and states around the world, I’m not sure that they’re simply ideas). They can be summed up: 1) A ridiculous number of people around the world live in extreme poverty (I’m sure that’s not news to anyone); 2) It isn’t their fault (and it’s not really even the fault of the governments that may or may not be corruptish…that’s a myth that the US and other global financial institutions need to get over); 3) extreme poverty is very much a problem of environmental constraints (the countries are landlocked, have problems with droughts, and are afflicted by really nasty amounts of malaria); 4) these are all really easy problems to fix (built infrastructure; make better seeds, fertilizer, and water management technology available; give out mosquito netting and use new anti-malarial drugs); 5) it won’t cost any more than the 0.7% that the West keeps promising Africa every year (and then fails to deliver).

One of the other speakers, Hilary Benn, the UK Secretary of State for International Development (and why haven’t we gotten ourselves one of those?), pointed out that no one would have predicted that we’d be in a place to push forward with these goals 12 months ago. But, in the past 12 months (often at the urging of the Blair government), the EU, the G8 and international financial institutions have moved forward with plans to increase aid to Africa, forgive debt and begin to help the world’s poorest states to develop from the bottom, up.

It was all really cool, especially the part where St. Paul’s was absolutely filled (and it’s not exactly a small lecture hall, to say the least) and really inspiring. I did revisit my old “what am I doing in London while Juliet actually makes a difference in Niger” doubts, but the Secretary of State made me feel better when he reminded us that what made all of these new developments possible was politics. I might not think that I’m cut out for the political life, but I keep reminding myself that my undergraduate study is not inconsequential. I think my time as a politics student and as a pragmatist among hippies means that I’m in a great place to understand how to make great changes happen through the workings of government. I’ve always thought that governments can be and are a force for good; it’s just nice to be reminded of the great things they can do when there’s enough political will in place.

Anyway, it was great and I’m just a bit happy to live in the coolest city that isn’t Indianapolis in the world. Other things that made me happy today: the tulip trees planted outside city hall (they’re the Indiana state tree, you know) and the subtle, yet cunning humour in the PowerScore LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible. After reading from the Human Rights Reader for FOUR hours, it was like watching Scrubs or some other tv show that always makes you laugh. Speaking of which…I need to get food that isn’t the nutella with a spoon sitting on my desk and keep reading. I’ve got 90 pages to churn through before lecture at 10 tomorrow. *squinchy face*

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