Jeffrey Sachs "The End of poverty" vs. Deep Ecology and Happiness:
The globalization of the unreal and the impoverishment of all

Bernt Pölling-Vocke, October 2005, bernty@gmx.com

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Introduction

In a world of affluence, roughly a sixth of humanity is too poor to live. Survival is a daily fight. Their plight, and the fortunes of those  slightly better off, but far from prosperous, was addressed, not for the first time, in the Millennium Development Goals, ratified by all United Nations members in 2000.

Progress, in line with past development struggles, has been excruciatingly slow. In some poverty-clusters of the world, there has hardly been any progress at all.  In 2005, renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs illustrated how extreme poverty can be overcome. The End of Poverty: How we can make it happen in our lifetime, is Sachs’ analysis of prevailing poverty and a handbook for strategies to lift the entire world on the ladder of modern, economic growth.

This thesis sets out to explain why Sachs’ nevertheless praiseworthy strategy globalizes the unreal and impoverishes us all. There are important lessons to be taken from Sachs’ work, which’s recommendations could become important stepping stones for a new development agenda, not aimed at the economic prosperity of all, but maximised, sustainable happiness. Under neo-liberalism, proposed in a benevolent manner by Sachs, economic growth has dubiously transcended its status as a means, and often appears to have turned into an end of its own.

In a first step, I will try to frame the term “poverty”, its origins and alternative definitions. Afterwards, I will portray Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty and ask whether it convinces. Is it clear and coherent? Are the ambitious objectives feasible?

In a next step, I will presume that his strategies are implemented and all of humanity is offered the opportunity to climb the ladder of modern, economic growth. And then what? What did Sachs miss?

I will try to answer this question from the marginalised position of environmentalism, more specifically focusing on Deep Ecology. By doing so, I wish to illustrate that humanity’s regard of nature is fundamentally flawed and drastic cultural changes are needed for the sustainability of life. I will pay special attention to the Deep Ecologist’s claim that economic development in growth-oriented societies does not buy happiness. Are we getting happier, or is economic growth worthless or even counterproductive? If we initiate the process of modern, economic growth worldwide, does the endpoint make sense?

And now what? In this thesis’s final section, I will summarize my findings and explain why Jeffrey Sachs’ The End of Poverty is globalizing the unreal, including an unreal self, an unreal well-being, an unreal rationality, unreal needs and an unreal world. If implemented, it will result in the ultimate impoverishment of all that is, non-human nature included. Nevertheless, I will briefly put forward some alternative ideas for development, as the plight of the world’s poor is intolerable. These alternatives are in part based on strategies by Jeffrey Sachs, in part based on Deep Ecology’s platform and last, but not least, on findings of happiness studies.

I do not claim that my recommendations coincide with ultimate wisdom, but that our present perceptions of favourable, predominately economic development, both for the extreme poor and everybody else, need fundamental rethinking.

 

 

 

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