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Clair Spotts

While I enjoyed the ideas in this piece, I found them overall to be too idealistic. I do agree that sustainable development is the proper way to approach development in today’s age, however the points outlined, like many other similar goals before it, seem unrealistic. That is not to say that, in an ideal world, they couldn’t happen. For decades we as a planet have had the food capacity to feed everyone. However, we haven’t, and I doubt we will any time soon. The problem lies in the relationship between people and between countries. For the SDG’s first point, that of safe water, nutrition, health services, etc, worldwide by 2030, I can’t imagine that happening in 12 years. If the water in Flint Michigan is still undrinkable, then how could it be expected that every developing nation provide what the US has failed to do for its citizens in such a short period of time? In addition to lack of funding for such a goal, I can’t imagine there being enough stability worldwide, especially in struggling developing countries, to allow for such access to simple necessities to take place. As for the second point, Sachs’ also notes, and I agree with, the fear that developing countries may not be able to meet desired sustainable development that developed countries with the adequate infrastructure and monetary funding aren’t meeting as well. The third SDG is by far the most unattainable and yet the most hopeful. The third seems to be most inline with Sen’s capabilities approach. Depending on how one defines promoting the wellbeing and capabilities of all their citizens, it could be argued that some countries have reached this goal, but I don’t believe anyone has. Is it even possible to be able to and to succeed in promoting the wellbeing of all citizens? Using the US as an example again, people here have more opportunities than those living in the CAR, but not everyone, at least not to the same degree. The imprisoned population, native Americans, those experiencing homelessness, the elderly without a family support system, various other minority groups, impoverished Appalachia, the list goes on. Even some of those whose wellbeing is promoted still lack life satisfaction (45,000 suicides in 2016). While this is a great goal to shoot for, it just doesn’t seem attainable. As for the fourth SDG, international cooperation has always been rocky at best. Adding to that sustainable development, transparency, and human rights, the goal seems quite far away from completion. The SDGs are beneficial in that they clearly and succinctly lay out admirable goals for the world for the future. Irregardless of the possibility of them being fully completed, I do think they should be the goal of all nations.


After reading the article and some (not all) of the responses here, the one seemingly recurring notion is that the SDGs are overly-optimistic or unobtainable— specifically SDG3 and SDG4. While I do not feel that I’m in a position to determine the feasibility of these goals within the context of our global economy, I do feel that a bar set just a bit too high enlivens the human spirit to succeed. In the face of impossibility, our creativity thrives. In the face of the easily obtainable, we simply follow the status quo. Certainly, a bar set far too high is discouraging and pushes leaders to give up before they start. However, I think the world is up for a challenge. Additionally, should some nations fall shy of the “overly-optimistic” SDGs, the world is still such a better place.

Another concern that I saw (and initially experienced), was with the ability to mobilize developed countries (and their private corporations) to assist developing countries with the SDGs. While my initial thought was how difficult it will be to convince profit-maximizing companies to aid in the expansion of developing economies, I was reminded that Corporate Social Responsibility is a two-fold aspect of the corporate world. It serves the purpose of benevolence, but it also serves as a fantastic marketing strategy. I firmly believe that the companies pushing for the achievement of these SDGs in developing countries will be rewarded exponentially by consumers and their support.

Cordelia Peters

Like many of my classmates, I find the SDGs to be an exciting step in the right direction, but I also find them overly optimistic and perhaps unrealistic. For example, SDG2 will be very difficult for developing countries to achieve. From what I understand, developing countries are the least environmentally friendly and have the highest carbon emissions. Sustainability is expensive. Developed countries like the US are investing large amounts of time and money to find sustainable solutions and still add to the climate crisis. Even with the wealth of resources that we have in the US, we struggle to live in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way. If rich countries cannot find a solution, then what makes you think that poorer countries can? It is unrealistic to expect a developing country to move towards a low-carbon energy system or sustainable food system. Many people in developing countries are facing chronic hunger and are not concerned with their carbon emissions. They are concerned with where their next meal is coming from. Therefore, I find it unrealistic for developing countries to achieve SDG2 until they have achieved SDG1.

In the discussion of SDG4, the paper mentions that sustainability requires the leadership and responsibility of the private sector and the public sector; Both corporations and the government are crucial to the success of the SDGs. I am extremely skeptical of public corporations and the current political environment. Firstly, the largest public corporations are chiefly concerned with returning value to their shareholders. Unfortunately, advocating for impoverished communities and reducing carbon emissions does not translate to higher earnings. Often, reducing carbon emissions or having large CSR programs reduces the bottom line for public companies. Incentive structures motivate executives to increase earnings, not to protect the environment. Additionally, the current US president has demonstrated a lack of interest in sustainability (as demonstrated by his withdrawing from the Paris agreement, among other things) and a nationalist agenda. The president is chiefly concerned with building the US economy and is cutting ties with international trade partners. His attitude towards the environment and isolationist economic policies make me skeptical that the US will achieve these SDGs.

I agree with Sachs' critique of the MDGs. The addition of intermediate milestones to the SDGs will help policy makers evaluate the progress they are making and whether they need to increase their efforts. The data also needs to be accurate. I am somewhat skeptical that accurate data will be available from every country. As Sachs' suggests, it would have profound effects if governments invested in a real-time reporting systems for the SDGs. The ability to track progress will be vital in determining which policies and plans are effective and which are not.

Tanner Smith

While all of the SDGs are interesting, the one that stood out the most to me was No. 3, which states that all countries should promote the wellbeing and capabilities of all of their citizens. It is pretty clear that all of the SDGs will be tough to achieve in the near future, especially within the timeline of 12 years laid out in the paper, but No. 3 seems especially tough without significant international interventions.
In order to achieve this goal, the U.S. or other powerful nations would need to intervene in countries such as North Korea, China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and many more. Under the current regimes that control these countries, governments prioritize maintaining their own power over the rights of their people, and in many cases, actively suppress the rights of people to their own benefit.
The solution in many of these cases would intuitively be to overthrow leaders who do not follow human rights standards. However, as we have seen in many countries in Latin America, such as Argentina and Guatemala, along with other countries around the world, when a leader is overthrown, someone better does not always replace him or her. Simply overthrowing a leader who has the approval of the people can create disorder and instability in a country in the aftermath, both in the short and long term. It will be a great challenge for the future to try to figure out how to promote human rights from abroad in countries with leaders who actively are seeking to suppress such actions. This will mean that SDG No. 3 is, in all likelihood, a goal that will not be fully met for a long-term, as the geopolitical processes involved are costly in both time and sensitivity.

Suha Abdulmalek

At the first glance, it seems so broad and a bit unrealistic to achieve as it requires great efforts to suddenly fix all the issues that our world is facing within 15 years. Not to mention that some of the issues have been accumulating for many years-such as pollution- also what have been extremely immersed in our daily lives as nations. Many of my classmates had the similar impression as well.
However, I felt that what he is trying to deliver is not a list of tasks that need to be met by a certain deadline, rather a culture and a mindset that we should adopt as individuals, businesses, and countries. I liked how inclusive his approach is and how everyone has a responsibility towards development. Another point which I personally found impressive is how mindful he was while mentioning the challenges we face and will face such as the increasing population and how its intertwined with other challenges. Nevertheless, the emphasis on the importance of the quantitative progress and its importance. He tried to address each and every aspect regarding to development whether it was regarding the goals we need to achieve, assessment, or challenges and I believe it is in our nature when we try to set goals, we always aim to the most idealistic situation. However, this raised a concern of whether if it’s the most effective way towards development or not.

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