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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Events March 30, 2015

‘The Age of Sustainable Development’: Earth Institute Director Jeffrey Sachs Offers Presidential Colloquium

Jeffrey Sachs headshot

Jeffrey Sachs has been described by The New York Times as “probably the most important economist in the world.”

Director of the Earth Institute—a program dedicated to bringing people together to address problems including climate change, environmental degradation, poverty and disease—Sachs is one of the world’s leading thinkers on sustainable development.

Now, just a few weeks after the publication of his most recent book, The Age of Sustainable Development, Sachs will spend a day at Smith, meeting with students in and out of the classroom and delivering a Presidential Colloquium that shares a title with his new book. The colloquium—to be held at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, in Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall—is open to the public at no charge.

Engineering professor Drew Guswa—who also directs the college’s Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability (CEEDS) has invited Sachs to meet with students from CEEDS. Guswa notes that the Earth Institute, which Sachs leads, seeks solutions to complex problems through interdisciplinary collaborations. “This theme,” Guswa says, “resonates directly with CEEDS’ mission: to graduate women who excel at integrating knowledge in support of environmental decisions and action.”

Sachs has said that sustainable development—that is, development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs—is “the greatest, most complicated challenge humanity has ever faced.” His approach to the issue has been collaborative and solution-focused: he describes sustainable development as “an exercise in problem-solving.”

To that end, Sachs currently serves as a special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, eight aspirational goals around issues including equality, education, environmental sustainability, and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger. The target date for achieving the original goals is 2015.

In addition to his work with the U.N. and his scholarly work at Columbia University, where he serves as Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development and professor of health policy and management, Sachs is committed to bringing his message directly to a mainstream audience. He writes a widely syndicated monthly newspaper column, and his new book has been praised as “important, comprehensive and remarkably accessible—a standout in a sea of jargon-laden titles that fail to explain and vivify this enormously complex topic.”

Sachs’ earlier books include The End of Poverty, Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet and The Price of Civilization.

More information is available on Sachs’ website,