The Age of Sustainable Development

Jeffrey D. Sachs. Foreword by Ban Ki-moon

Columbia University Press

The Age of Sustainable Development

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Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231173155

544 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $39.95£34.00

Pub Date: March 2015

ISBN: 9780231173148

544 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $120.00£100.00

The Age of Sustainable Development

Jeffrey D. Sachs. Foreword by Ban Ki-moon

Columbia University Press

Jeffrey D. Sachs is one of the world's most perceptive and original analysts of global development. In this major new work he presents a compelling and practical framework for how global citizens can use a holistic way forward to address the seemingly intractable worldwide problems of persistent extreme poverty, environmental degradation, and political-economic injustice: sustainable development.

Sachs offers readers, students, activists, environmentalists, and policy makers the tools, metrics, and practical pathways they need to achieve Sustainable Development Goals. Far more than a rhetorical exercise, this book is designed to inform, inspire, and spur action. Based on Sachs's twelve years as director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, his thirteen years advising the United Nations secretary-general on the Millennium Development Goals, and his recent presentation of these ideas in a popular online course, The Age of Sustainable Development is a landmark publication and clarion call for all who care about our planet and global justice.

Visit our supplemental materials page for additional teaching materials for students and instructors, including chapter summaries, key concepts, problem sets, and slides.

Jeff Sachs's admirable book explains what sustainable development means, why it matters, and our history in relation to our environment. It shows how the pattern of growth we have followed has placed intense strains on our planet and generated severe risks to our lives and livelihoods. Above all, it explains clearly where we can go and how to get there. It describes a potential future of great attraction in terms of wellbeing, community and prosperity, properly understood. It should, and I hope it will, strengthen both the understanding of the great choices we face and the resolve to act. It is a splendid achievement.

Lord Nicholas Stern, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

This terrific book stands out for its breadth, clarity, mastery of detail, honest discussion of complex matters, and its author's practical experience and good sense. It is actually ten terrific books under one cover because its accounts of economics, history, health, development, education, gender issues, food, climate change and biological diversity are among the best available. If you want to understand the modern world, and if you have room on your shelf for only one book, this is your book.

Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel

There are very few authors that can so effectively rally the masses around an important cause—one that in this case concerns our collective future. There are still too few leaders with knowledge about global sustainable development challenges to affect the scalable changes that are needed.

Professor Sachs's book is a comprehensive summary of complex issues, but it breaks them down and makes them digestible and understandable while making the imperative clear. It will clearly contribute significantly in closing the gap between science and policy, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for action.

Hans Vestberg, CEO, Ericsson

A comprehensive and incisive overview of some of the biggest challenges facing the world today and further confirmation, if it were needed, that Sachs remains one of the most astute and authoritative observers of the age of sustainable development.

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

As the concept of sustainable development comes of age, Jeffrey Sachs takes us on a journey from the intellectual and normative origins to the science of complexity which define today's development choices. A compelling and often personal and engaged narrative, The Age of Sustainable Development reads like a "looking glass" through which to glimpse the future—a future still characterised by more questions than answers as to how 9 billion will—together—govern the sustainable development of our planet.

Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner of the United Nations, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme

In this era marked by geopolitical and ecological crises, unspeakable structural violence and unprecedented inequality, on the one hand, and breathtaking advances in science and technology and untold opportunities, on the other, a new narrative for social, economic and environmental justice is urgently needed. Prof. Sachs, distinguished thinker, commentator and activist, charts a clear and compelling path, both moral and scientific, which cuts neatly through the increasing complexity and interdependence to the realization of a holistic vision of sustainable development. A very timely handbook to inform and empower all those who have a stake in the post-2015 debate on the future of our planet.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS

The Age of Sustainable Development is my candidate for most important book in current circulation. Inspirational, encyclopedic in coverage, moving smoothly from discipline to discipline as though composed by multiple experts, the book explains why humanity must attain sustainability as its highest priority—and outlines the best ways to do it.

Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

An important, comprehensive and remarkably accessible book—a standout in a sea ofjargon-laden titles that fail to explain and vivify this enormously complex topic

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Sweeping, enlightening, affecting, and invaluable, The Age of Sustainable Development should be available to everyone and consulted repeatedly.

Booklist (starred review)

Clear straightforward prose and a wealth of statistics.... Sachs balances alarming forecasts with signs of progress.

Publishers Weekly

It is truly gratifying that an economist as distinguished as Jeffrey Sachs has authored The Age of Sustainable Development. His vast knowledge in the field and deep insights on various sectors of economic activity make him uniquely qualified to provide a view of the subject. Given the fact that almost a quartercentury has gone by since the Rio Summit of 1992, it is time for an authoritative volume such as the one Professor Sachs has authored for the benefit of global society.

Dr. Rajendra K. Pachauri, director-general, TERI; former chairman, IPCC

Comprehensive and crystal clear—what we need to make sustainable development a reality, not a dream.

James E. Hansen, director, Earth Institute Program in Climate Science, Awareness, and Solutions

The Age of Sustainable Development is both sobering and inspiring: sobering because it presents in great detail the unprecedented challenges facing mankind; inspiring because it assures us that we can meet those challenges, if only we summon the will to act.

Kerry Kennedy, president, RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights

It is, in my view, the best, most comprehensive and most articulate exposition of sustainable development ever written.... I would make this book compulsory reading for all politicians and business leaders.

David Griggs, Nature

Sachs has probably produced the best book to date on how to manage the planet for 10 billion people.

Fred Pearce, New Scientist

A comprehensive introduction to the field of sustainable development by one of its leading scholars, advocates, and practitioners.... Recommended.

Library Journal

In a book of incredible breadth, Sachs delivers a sobering account of the impact of human activity upon the balance of life on Earth.... Highly recommended.


An inspiring and enlightening read.

Africa Report

a perceptive, analytical, and hopeful book about the future...This landmark in economic publications presents a brilliant examination of major worldwide threats to the planet and puts forward ways to balance economic development and environmental sustainability to overcome those threats...It is a magnum opus; the chief source of information for any person interested in understanding what sustainable development is all about.

Bill Schwab, Missourian

A thoughtful and comprehensive resource on this crucial topic.

Civil Engineering

A clear and cogent nontechnical survey of the world's major challenges beyond the preservation of peace and security.

Richard N. Cooper, Foreign Affairs

Sachs's book is written for a popular audience and could be used as a complementary text for courses in environmental or development economics or in public health classes or environmental studies classes. Its breadth of insights and coverage is staggering and students and general readers will find new ideas on every page of the book.

Matthew E. Kahn, Journal of Economic Literature
Foreword, by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations
1. Introduction to Sustainable Development
2. An Unequal World
3. A Brief History of Economic Development
4. Why Some Countries Developed While Others Stayed Poor
5. Ending Extreme Poverty
6. Planetary Boundaries
7. Social Inclusion
8. Education for All
9. Health for All
10. Food Security
11. Resilient Cities
12. Climate Change
13. Saving Biodiversity and Protecting Ecosystem Services
14. Sustainable Development Goals

Read an excerpt from the introduction:

Click here for additional teaching materials for students and instructors, including chapter summaries, key concepts, problem sets, and slides.

Choice Outstanding Academic Title, 2015

Shortlisted, Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science from Phi Beta Kappa

Finalist, 2015 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction

Named one of the best books of 2015, Kirkus Reviews

Named one of the best reads of 2015, New Scientist

Named one of EnvironmentGuru's Best Books of 2015

About the Author

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned economics professor, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, best-selling author, and syndicated columnist. He serves as the director of the Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and professor of health policy and management at Columbia University. He is special advisor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals, and he held the same position under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network as well as cofounder and director of the Millennium Villages Project. He has authored three New York Times best-sellers in the past seven years: The End of Poverty; Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet; and The Price of Civilization. His most recent book is To Move the World: JFK's Quest for Peace.

Ban Ki-moon is the secretary-general of the United Nations, an office he assumed in 2007. He was previously the foreign minister of the Republic of Korea.