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The Age of Sustainable Development


Author: Jeffrey D. Sachs and Ki-moon Ban

Publisher: Columbia University Press


Publish Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN-10: 231173156

Pages: 544

File Type: PDF, EPub

Language: English

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Book Preface

The Age of Sustainable Development

We have entered a new era. Global society is interconnected as never before. Business, ideas, technologies, people, and even epidemic diseases cross borders with unprecedented speed and intensity. We share the exhilaration of the new information age and also the fears of global-scale environmental disruption. Business practices, technologies, and the size and age structure of populations are changing rapidly. There are new opportunities and also new risks. For these reasons, I suggest that we have arrived in the Age of Sustainable Development.
As I will describe, sustainable development is both a way of looking at the world, with a focus on the interlinkages of economic, social, and environmental change, and a way of describing our shared aspirations for a decent life, combining economic development, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. It is, in short, both an analytical theory and a “normative” or ethical framework. Our new era will soon be described by new global goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Other powerful ideas also express the novelty of our era. Leading geoscientists have coined the term Anthropocene, with the Greek roots meaning “human-made” (anthropo) and “new” (cene). The Anthropocene is our current, unprecedented epoch of the Earth in which the Earth’s physical change—climate, biodiversity, chemistry—is mainly driven by human activity. Leading ecologists have adopted the idea of “planetary boundaries” to explain the limits beyond which human activities will tip the Earth into uncharted and dangerous patterns of climate disruption, loss of biodiversity, and change in the chemistry of the air, land, and oceans. Both of these key concepts describe the realities of the new Age of Sustainable Development.
Our geopolitics is changing rapidly as well. Our once “bipolar” world, divided between the rival superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union, is now a complex multipolar world with many regional powers and nearly 200 countries, many new and with fragile institutions. This new multipolar world must find the means to preserve peace, pursue economic development, and face the unprecedented environmental challenges of our age. New forms of global governance will therefore play a key role in meeting the new SDGs.
I am excited to share these ideas with you as we enter a new era together. Our hopes are high—to end extreme poverty and protect the planet from the side effects of our own actions. Yet the challenges are immense and unprecedented. I hope that this volume will be of help in identifying pathways forward in our new age. And I hope that many young readers and students will soon become the creative and dedicated leaders of sustainable development in our new age.

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