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Kyle Lutz

This is the fourth class in three semesters that I have taken that has discussed Amartya Sen's capabilities approach. I agree with Sen that what a person is, can do, and can be is a better way of defining poverty than simply looking at a nation or community's income per capita or per capita Gross National Income (GNI). I like that Sen's framework for the capabilities approach is flexible, holistic and does not put poverty into terms of simply economic growth or per capita income. Like the example in the book, a person may have enough food to sustain oneself, but may have a parasitic disease that keeps them malnourished, in my mind, should be taken into account when determining poverty. There are many idiosyncrasies that should be taken into account when determining poverty such as this example. However, I understand that this is not pragmatic when trying to evaluate poverty on a large scale, and that the new Human Development Index (NDHI) is more pragmatic. Just determining poverty on a few measurements and placing the criteria into a formula does not account for a lot of measures and intangibles. Throughout this class, I look forward to understanding and studying how these overlooked measures can be put into place to develop a better measure for poverty and how exactly the world can improve poverty measures. Like the book also mentioned, I look forward to studying how "unconventional" economic approaches can be used to approach conventional economic issues in developing countries. One question I do have: Is the NHDI the best/ most used measurement of poverty levels we have to date? If not, what are the others and how do the others alleviate some of the issues that the NHDI has?

Will Fearey

One of the topics presented in Sachs’s article is the idea that in order for the SDGs to be successful, all countries should and need to do what is best for the wellbeing of the planet. While I agree with Sachs’s claim, I worry that it is one of the very reasons that the SDGs may not work. India, for example, has a very high population with 60% living under $3.10 per day. This is likely in part to the fact that India never really got the chance to industrialize over the past centuries like many wealthier western countries, the countries that created the global warming crisis to begin with. In order to generate jobs and more energy in the most efficient way possible, India built eight coal power plants between 2021-2022 and plans on building ten more between 2022-2023. Their argument is that since western countries were able to benefit so heavily from fossil fuels, that they should have the chance to do the same even if it worsens the climate crisis. Western countries created the problem, they should have to fix it, why should India stunt their economic growth because of it? I also find Sachs’s SDG 3 too optimistic, it sounds like a utopia. Unfortunately, I think (I hope I’m wrong) that there is just too much culturally ingrained discrimination in too many countries for governments to make the goals of SDG 3 achievable. Finally, I do fully agree with Sachs’s emphasis on the importance of primary education. I would add that early lessons on climate change and sustainability would greatly improve the world’s view on the importance of the SDGs.

Gabe Miller

While the SDGs are a necessary modernization of the old Millennium Goals, implementation of SDGs may prove more difficult than their predecessor. It is important to note that some SDGs, like ending poverty completely, are Millennium Development Goals which never came close to completion. Additions made by the SDGs may complicate past goals such as ending poverty; investments in sustainable energy, climate action, and the environment in general might temporarily reduce the amount of money put towards poverty safety nets. One important addition to the SDGs is its focus on sustainable government and justice systems; as highlighted by Economic Lives of the Poor, unfair government systems often exacerbate poverty conditions. While the acknowledgement that world government systems must change to improve living conditions is important, the idea that countries across the world will suddenly commit to “law, human rights, transparency, participation, inclusion, and sound economic institutions” is overly optimistic. Despite some shortcomings, the emphasis on the environment and technology within the SDGs are incredibly important. Areas like South America, Africa, and South-East Asia will be hit the hardest by climate change; they also have high concentrations of extreme poverty. Focusing on this future threat and leveraging modern technology to combat seems likely to be the most successfully implemented part of the SDGs.

Kit Lombard

An immediate thing about the beginning of this article is the apparent notion of low-income nations having to take action to reverse the destruction of the environment. For example, a notable quote that caught my attention as the author stated,

“high-fertility settings should be empowered to adopt rapid and voluntary reductions of fertility to benefit themselves, their children, and the local and global economy and environment.” (2207)

The issue with this quote is the “high fertility settings,” are lower-income nations, especially amongst African nations which are experiencing a younger generation being larger than the older generation. Although China and the US are consuming resources as if they are surplus goods, Sachs recommends that other nations consider halting their population growth. Another recommendation I was confused with was having “Middle- Income emerging economies, such as Brazil, India […] being the crucial leaders of the SDGs.” (2208). This quote is a little perplexing because all three of these countries are contributing substantially to the environmental issues of today. Although I know this article was written before the current Bolsonaro regime of Brazil, China, and India for years have been continuing to emit a large amount of pollution every year, whether in the air or water. Therefore, I question the effectiveness of countries continuing the problems by being the ones to resolve them in some form. I understand some countries have emitted pollution to provide manufacturing and jobs to their people, but these are small nations that have not received enough to create other forms of employment. In no way am I stating the US or other higher income nations deserve to manage SDGs, as these nations also played a huge role in creating the problems we currently have today. However, I still have hesitation as to whether Sachs truly provides an impactful plan, as low-income nations still seem to be vulnerable to being manipulated by strong powers who promoted the decline of the environment, and the low-income nations are still expected to endure a lot of the sacrifices for the mistakes of other foreign powers.

Chadrack Bantange

It is very interesting to see how the governments of different countries can come together to come up with an ambitious project like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the ways I believe economic development can be achieved is through the involvement of rich countries and their willingness to financially support low-income countries. I agree with the author that although both the MDGs and the SGDs do not fully achieve their stipulated goals, they at least encourage governments around the world to be efficient and work toward a common goal: eliminating poverty and achieving economic sustainability. There are a couple of issues I see with the SDGs but the most important one is that the SGDs plan to achieve economic development without including a big factor that contributes to the impoverishment and underdevelopment of many low-income countries: Wars and ethnic conflicts. In the Central African Republic, for example, the country is divided due to conflicts between Muslims and Christians. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the country has, for a long time, been devasted by the war in its eastern provinces, making around millions of deaths, leaving many people without shelter, destroying infrastructures, etc. All these make countries poorer and underdeveloped and projects like the SDGs might not work as long as such issues are not tackled first. Some might argue that it is not the SDGs' mission to handle wars and ethnic conflicts but, how do you achieve economic development if a country is divided and there is no peace?

Kyle Lutz

I think Will Fearey touches on a good point. Should less developed countries be held to the same standard as more developed countries in terms of environmental SDGs? The developed, more industrialized countries have created more of a negative impact on the planet environmentally than the less developed countries, so should the more developed countries take on more of the burden. Will also notes that economies in the past have greatly benefited from more fossil fuel use, so why should countries that never had the chance in the past not be allowed to use them now? And if these less developed countries have to find ulterior options to fossil fuels to develop, how much aid should developed countries provide to them? Do these developed countries owe anything to the lesser developed countries in this regard? And if they do, how much do they owe them and how can they help?

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