Doughnut Economics is the brainchild of Kate Raworth which builds on a radical rethinking of economics after the Financial Crash of 2008. Her book, Doughnut Economics – Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist (2018, Penguin / Random House Business), is enlightening, readable and makes a whole lot of sense even to those without an economist’s bone in their body. It questions the economic theory of the 19th and early 20th centuries, which we are still trying to make work in the 21st century – a square peg for a round hole.
The narrative by government that climate activists are either mad or criminals is way out of kilter with reality. The truth is that most are ordinary people asking legitimate questions about the inequalities in our world both ecologically and socially:
- Why do we have so much unnecessary packaging?
- Why does fresh fruit and veg have so many air miles when we could buy local and seasonally?
- Why are people in poverty blamed for their own circumstances?
- Why do so many slip through the net where education and health care is concerned?
- Why are energy costs going through the roof?
- Why don’t we stop using fossil fuels?
- Why isn’t Government listening to us?
The list goes on and on.
The people who ask the questions are all ages and genders, all backgrounds, all political persuasions and none. It’s not a preserve of the so called ‘loony left’ or ‘woke’. Indeed, we all have a moment when we wonder ‘why’? It’s human nature. Then our busy lives continue and we forget again until the next time something triggers a thought.
Most of us rely on our politicians at local and national level to do ‘something’ about it. They know about the economics after all, they can sort out the mess! But what if they don’t? What if the economics is wrong or worse, the economics is damaging? The mess will perpetuate, inequalities will widen and our planet will die. That’s the reality.
Hundreds of groups exist across the UK to try and address social and environmental problems both locally and nationally. They don’t all see the big picture and they battle harder and harder to raise money to continue their work. They wouldn’t necessarily know it, but most have similar values. What would happen if they found out that they are all part of a massive network; a web where everything is interrelated? A place where what they do is holding its own and contributing to the ‘big picture’. What would that ‘big picture’ look like? How could we explain it? Doughnut Economics goes a long way towards it.
Oxford and Cambridge are the two most unequal cities in the UK. Affluence and extreme poverty live side by side. You only have to walk through the streets of Oxford to see the level of homelessness. Many people have been there for so long that you recognise them and know where they pitch. It’s heart-breaking on a human level and utterly avoidable but not if we keep doing the same things.
People in Oxford are making a stand! On Saturday 12 March 2022, there was a march to promote and raise awareness of Doughnut Economics in Oxford city centre because people in Oxford want change. The change they want is fundamental to our existence and to the wellbeing of our planet but it focussed on what they can do in their city. The march was noisy, friendly, considerate and fun.
Without going into a plethora of detail, the Doughnut is compass for human prosperity in the 21st century:
“… with the aim of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. Doughnut Economics holds social equality and climate justice in the same space”.
The outer ring of the model shows our planetary boundaries and the inner ring our social foundation. The safe space is between the two rings. Overshooting our planetary boundaries with things like ozone layer depletion, ocean acidification, climate change, land conversion etc. puts too much pressure on our planet’s ability to sustain us. Lacking the basics for life such as housing, energy, water, food, health, political voice etc. creates a shortfall in our social foundation and people fall through the middle of the doughnut with no safety net to protect them. Continual growth is not sustainable but, living within the rings of the doughnut means all people and the planet can thrive.
Kate ran a workshop for around 40 people after the march. You can make a massive doughnut with two long ropes! One that’s big enough for people to really start thinking where we are on all the big issues. For the purposes of the workshop, participants were asked to think about the doughnut at a city level. You could equally do the exercise for your own life or at a global level and then start thinking about what you can change and how.
Other Cities like Amsterdam, Nanaimo and Melbourne have already adopted the doughnut model and there is no reason why every city and county in Britain can’t do the same. I would encourage anyone reading this to familiarise themselves with the Doughnut! A great source of practical information and help is the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. Speak to your local councillors. It’s hard to argue against the principles and, if we are to effect change, it has to come from grassroots level. The advantages of living within our means and protecting our planet speak for themselves.
If people want it, then politicians will have to follow.