Monday, April 23, 2007

Jeffrey Sachs the Optimist

From talk 1 of this series:

::: malaria nets
300M sleeping sites in Africa that need protection from malaria
anti-malaria bed net costs $5 and last five years - $1 a year
multiple kids sleep under one
total investment - $1.5B for 5 years
the most amazing bargain of our time

::: the solution to overpopulation is child survival
it is a myth that saving children contributes to the overpopulation problem
in fact, child survival is correlated and causally related to reducing fertility rates among poor households
you want them to have fewer children? assure them that the fewer children that they have will survive
you cannot leave children to die to solve the overpopulation problem

::: optimist
I spend my time with people who are dying. Twenty-two years ago I started to say that we needed debt cancellation for the poorest countries. (APPLAUSE) It came late, but it came. I can't give up, that we are doomed. (APPLAUSE) That's why I started this lecture as I did, that too many of us think it is impossible, too many think it is unreal, but that is a dangerous defeatist belief. That's exactly where I started. We have to believe that we can make choices if we can understand them. We have to believe that the more we analyse together and reason together, especially in this house of all places on the planet, that it's possible to sort out some of these things. No part of the whole planet has done more than this institution to change the course of history in fact. Life expectancy was twenty-five years, and it's because of what this house and what it represents has accomplished, that in the rich world we're at eighty years, and in the middle income world we're at seventy years. And when I think about how Condorcet, months before he was killed in the French Revolution, talked about how we could harness reason to grow more crops and to extend life expectancy - what right did he have to be optimistic, but he got it exactly right. So what right do we have to be so pessimistic, and blind, and not moving, when people are dying on our watch?
The full transcript is here.

[Related - my posts from The End of Poverty - Chapter 1, 2, 3, and Malaria.]

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