Michelle Rafferty, Publicity Assistant
Which is more important: saving the environment or fixing global poverty? Economist Paul Collier argues that we can find a middle ground and do both in his new book The Plundered Planet: Why We Must—and How We Can—Manage Nature for Global Prosperity. A former director of Development Research at the World Bank and author of the widely acclaimed and award winning The Bottom Billion, Collier’s The Plundered Planet continues his life mission of advocating for the world’s poorest billion people.
Collier made a quick stop in NYC recently, in which I was able to ask him a few questions about his new book. In Segment 1 he reflects on the shift in the world’s “passionate concern” from poverty to the environment. To hear more from Collier be sure to check in tomorrow for Day 2 of this week long series!
Michelle Rafferty: In the first line of your book you write: “I grew up before nature was discovered.” Can you talk about watching environmentalism explode over the course of your lifetime and when you realized it would be crucial to your work?
Paul Collier: Yeah, I mean environmentalism came in In the early 1970s. I remember there was a book of an image of the earth taken from space called The Limits to Growth, and that was the first sort of statement that the environment might constrain our choices. And as a young economist I remember being very irritated by that. I was working on development, how the poorest countries could escape from poverty and this idea that everything was going to be constrained by environment seemed to me just nonsense. And then things moved on.
Personally I married an environmental historian, and so that brought me pretty starkly face to face with environmentalism. And then more recently, especially after I wrote The Bottom Billion, I now do a lot of speaking especially to young people, especially to audiences full of young people. And I realized that whereas I was their age, for me the passionate concern was how to lift people out of poverty. For young people now the passionate concern is how to protect the planet. And so I often get posed the question, that surely we can’t afford for everybody to develop, because if everybody develops the planet will be ruined. And so I realized I had to confront that question seriously, and that’s what the book tries to do.