by Laura Sykes
“A renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges…the creator of the Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries.”Kate Raworth
This is how Kate Raworth describes herself on her website – and yes, she is the sister of Sophie – quite a family! You can read extracts from her book, ‘Doughnut Economics’ here. This was published in 2017 and Kate has been indefatigable in spreading the word through conferences, lectures and articles. Earlier still is her 2014 TED talk in Athens. Her concept is highly regarded and well known to the cognoscenti. It is as new and important a way of looking at the world around us as was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in its time. Kate’s ‘big idea’, I promise you, is much easier to understand than Einstein’s. (And, as I shall no doubt get into trouble for saying, more important). Do please dip a little into her world and see how her framework for understanding our environment (and how to live in it in a way that can be mutually beneficial and life-enhancing) needs to be spread by word of mouth until it is the most discussed subject of our time.
Kate does not claim that her big idea came out of nowhere: on the contrary it builds on solid research like the work on planetary boundaries by for example Johan Rockström and colleagues:
…we propose a framework based on ‘planetary boundaries’. These boundaries define the safe operating space for humanity with respect to the Earth system and are associated with the planet’s biophysical subsystems or processes. Although Earth’s complex systems sometimes respond smoothly to changing pressures, it seems that this will prove to be the exception rather than the rule. Many subsystems of Earth react in a nonlinear, often abrupt, way, and are particularly sensitive around threshold levels of certain key variables. If these thresholds are crossed, then important subsystems, such as a monsoon system, could shift into a new state, often with deleterious or potentially even disastrous consequences for humans.Scheffer, M., Carpenter, S. R., Foley, J. A., Folke C. & Walker, B. H. Nature 413, 591–596 (2001). Lenton, T. M. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 1786–1793
As we gradually emerge from into a post-pandemic world, the international economic system finds itself in a state of flux. Coupled with the climate emergency, now, if ever, is the time to introduce Kate Raworth’s ideas on a global scale. I call her a ‘seer’, not only because she is a wise woman whom we need to listen to, but also because she is a ‘see-er’, one of those people who come along every century or two and show us a different way of looking at our situation which potentially offers both economic and environmental salvation.
Doughnut Economics is successfully permeating the political world: it was one of the major topics of the Green Liberal Democrat conference in June 2020 and in October 2020 was adopted as official policy by the Women’s Equality Party. Sir David Attenborough’s ‘A Life On Our Planet’, not only discusses the link between COVID and human destruction of nature, but also includes the Doughnut Model as part of the solution to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis or, as the Doughnut Economics Action Lab cannot resist summarising ‘David Attenborough Digs the Doughnut‘.
You can subscribe to DEAL’s You Tube channel here. They are on Twitter at @DoughnutEcon.
I am not the only one who thinks that Doughnut Economics is the most revolutionary idea which has been floated in my lifetime, and it offers us a glimpse of a better world which may even be possible. In conclusion:
“The Amsterdam Donut Coalition is a good example: they just announced that they were starting up, and have since inspired many other places to follow their example. We as DEAL didn’t have this planned – it just happened – so we have adapted to work with it. Now there are local groups setting up worldwide, and co-ordinating with each other.”
So when anyone asks us …..how do you convince / persuade a government / multinational corporation/ person to change – we don’t claim to have the answer. At this stage of our work at least, we have far more than we can manage to do by simply working with those who are already persuaded and are getting into action, so that’s where we focus. And we know this work complements the roles that so many other organizations are playing. We all need each other contributions to the whole – hence the importance of creating an ecosystem of new economic change-makers.’From Poverty to Power