Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet

International Week 2008 Tonight I attended a lecture as part of International Week 2008 on campus at the University of Alberta. The speaker was Jeffrey Sachs, who is probably best known as the Director of the UN Millennium Project. Unfortunately he was called away to a special meeting in Africa with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and so he sent a pre-recorded video message instead.

His talk was very high-level and lacking in specifics. I suppose the idea is that you attend the lecture to whet your appetite, then you buy his new book (which, btw, he mentioned at least a half dozen times). All joking aside, I probably will buy it. I read his book The End of Poverty and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think his message is really important, and he’s great at delivering it.

Because Sachs could not attend, the organizers invited two other guests to make remarks and answer questions. One was Andrew Nikiforuk, a Calgary-based journalist, and the other was Dr. Rick Hyndman, Senior Policy Advisor for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Nikiforuk presented after the Sachs video, and he delivered a great presentation with just some notes to refer to. Hyndman presented last, and he had a laptop with some PPT slides. There must be a law somewhere that if you’ve got two presenters and one uses slides, the person with the slides invariably has the crappier presentation! It just doesn’t flow as well, nor does it sound as convincing.

That said, Hyndman more than redeemed himself in the Q&A session, during which he was pretty much attacked. One guy who lined up to ask a question was wearing a bright green t-shirt with "Greenpeace" emblazoned on the front – how would you expect him to treat a representative of the oil companies!

The event tonight wasn’t long enough to delve into any details, but it definitely was an opportunity to think about some of the issues that Sachs is so passionate about.

Visit the U of A’s International Week 2008 website for more information.