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Sachs brings message of peace to Lake Oswego

Economist says nations must fight global warming, end poverty and hunger

SACHSWorld-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs told an audience at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Parish this week that the world is facing a fundamental challenge and a moral choice.

“If we choose, we can end poverty, hunger and depravation,” the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University said. “But we also have the power to end human existence.”

Sachs is currently on a worldwide mission to convince countries to combat global warming and poverty. In fact, he’s visited so many countries that he had to call on his secretary in the audience Monday for help when he tried to name the nations he had visited. He arranged his visit to Lake Oswego, he said, because of his friendship with Rabbi Joshua Stampfer of Portland, who introduced Sachs to the audience.

In his presentation, which was sponsored by the Wholistic Peace Institute and its Educating for Peace program, Sachs described a world at a tipping point between either solving the problems of poverty or literally being swallowed up by oceans due to global warming.

“These are very important times,” said Sachs, who has been largely credited for constructing the economies of the nations that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “We need to think carefully. The fundamental challenge we face is a moral choice. More than ever, we need to put the moral choice in front of us.”

Sachs’s prime message is a warning: Stop global warming before it is too late. He said a world under water would be beyond having its problems solved. But Sachs said he is in a battle with naysayers who deny that global warming is happening.

“Our politicians are not that stupid,” he said. “They’re that corrupt. They’re more corrupt than we realize. Our political system is broken. It’s a game that is being played. I don’t know what these politicians are doing. They’re putting the planet at profound risk. This issue should be at the center of our politics.”

Sachs praised one world leader for not leading people astray.

“Pope Francis’s arrival on the world scene is our godsend,” Sachs said. “He says we are suffering from a globalization of indifference that deadens us to all of those in need, and even to the needs of the planet.”

Sachs said the Pope’s support of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, with its 17 objectives, provides an excellent road map toward achieving what must be done. However, he said, “Every place I’ve been,they are struggling with instability and fear.”

While Sachs painted a bleak portrait of the future, he said he looks to the past for examples of great strides that were made in the wake of near-calamity and praises President John F. Kennedy for leading the world away from the abyss after the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962.

To do that, Sachs said, Kennedy first had to change himself after the first two years of a presidency that saw a dramatic increase in Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union, a time marked by the botched Bay of Pigs invasion and a nuclear standoff with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

That standoff reached its nadir when both nations “came within a breath of ending humanity,” Sachs said. But from such failure, he said, Kennedy then achieved greatness.

“JFK performed an act of moral imagination when he realized that Khrushchev was actually his ally,” Sachs said. “Kennedy devoted the year 1963 to a campaign for peace.”

JFK's efforts resulted in a nuclear test ban treaty that greatly reduced tensions between Russia and America. After Kennedy’s famed “Peace Speech” at American University in June 1963, Sachs said, “Khrushchev read that speech, and he said, ‘I can make peace with this man.’”

Today, Sachs said, an act of similar moral grandeur is crucial for bringing peace between the U.S. and Iran.

“Iran and the U.S. need not be permanent enemies,” Sachs said. “We must come back from the brink.”

But doing that won’t be easy, he said.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Sachs said. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..