cover image The Age of Sustainable Development

The Age of Sustainable Development

Jeffrey D. Sachs. Columbia Univ, $35 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-231-17315-5

Sachs (The End of Poverty), an economist and director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, argues that it’s time for humankind to reconcile its needs with those of the planet, in this sprawling manifesto. He surveys the great dilemma facing civilization: how to ensure broadly inclusive economic growth, especially in the poorest countries, without destroying the natural environment and deranging the climate on which survival depends. Deploying clear, straightforward prose and a wealth of statistics—the book’s countless tables and graphs are an eye-opening education in themselves—he follows the threads of this knotty problem from their scientific and economic roots to their potential solutions in new technologies and a mix of market dynamics and vigorous government action. Sachs balances alarming forecasts with signs of progress, giving brief, even-handed rundowns of policy prescriptions such as carbon taxes, foreign aid to help Africa escape its “poverty trap,” and reforms of America’s hideously expensive private health-care system. The overstuffed book suffers from a scope that precludes detailed analysis of the many contentious debates over sustainability policies and technologies, particularly in its inadequate assessments of the pros and cons of wind, solar, and nuclear power. Still, Sachs’s overview demonstrates the seriousness of the sustainability crisis while illuminating workable paths to resolving it. Maps and photos. [em](Mar.) [/em]