Electromagnetic Savannah
Commentary on science, technology and economics in Nigeria and beyond

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The BBC Reith Lectures 2007 with Jeffrey Sachs

Every year, the BBC organises a series of lectures to be given by someone who has distinguished themselves in a particular field. This year, the Reith Lectures (as they are known) are being delivered by Jeffrey Sachs (who some may know as an economist who crusades against world poverty).

I listened into the first of his five lectures, and his theme was the danger that faces the world if it does not co-operate to deal with the various crises that have been brought about by man's activities. He stressed that more than ever, the world is interconnected to the extent that it is impossible to carry out unilateral solutions to global problems, and that if there were problems in one part of the world they would inevitably affect other parts - and this was why it was necessary for nations to set aside their differences and come together to deal with these problems.

Several of the audience who questioned him were sceptical about whether humans with their very different cultures and agendas could actually change their selfish behaviour and instead co-operate and work together in the way he envisioned. I have to say I'm similarly sceptical. Professor Sachs sought to counter such criticism of his optimism by pointing out the many instances where change had come about even when it seemed unlikely (like female enfranchisement and the ending of apartheid), but I believe these changes pale into comparison with the changes and sacrifice needed to tackle global problems like climate change and poverty.

At any rate, Professor Sachs is right that you has to believe that you can fix a problem before you go on to fix it... but I'll be listening out to what solutions he proposes and how they should be implemented in the rest of his lectures.


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