What is doughnut economics?

Doughnut Economics is a book written by Kate Raworth. It invites 21st century economists to think about seven guiding principles. The principles are:

  1. Embrace the 21st Century goal
  2. See the big picture
  3. Nurture human nature
  4. Think in systems
  5. Be distributive
  6. Be regenerative and
  7. Aim to thrive rather than grow

Traditional economics ignore climate change, inequality, the financial crisis and biodiversity loss. 21st-century economists need to combine ecological, complex, feminist, behavioural and institutional economics for a modern world. 

The ideal is a balance between the environmental ceiling and the social foundation. A balance where our needs and the planet’s needs are both fulfilled. It is a world where no-one is short of the essentials and the planet is not overburdened so that we have stable soils, climate and ozone. 

The social foundation includes The environmental boundaries are 
gender equality, 
social equity, 
political voice, 
peace and justice, 
income and work, and 
ocean acidification, 
climate change, 
ozone layer depletion, 
air pollution, 
biodiversity loss, 
land conversion, 
freshwater withdrawals, 
nitrogen and phosphorus loading, and 
chemical pollution. 

The environmental ceiling, originally outlined by Rockstrom et al includes 9 boundaries which we must not cross. 

We have more global controls for the social foundations than the environmental boundaries. We know, for example, that 9% of the world has no access to improved drinking water (2015) and that 17% of people lack electricity (2013). We know that 11% of our population is undernourished (2014/16) and that 29% are under the international poverty limit (2012). 

We know that an astonishing 85% of countries score 50/100 or less in the Corruption Perceptions Index (2014). 24% of people say they have no-one to count on for help and 57% have no access to the internet (2015). There is a 56% representation gap between men and women in national parliaments (2014) and a 23% gap in earnings (2009). 

Sustainable environmental boundaries

We can measure atmospheric carbon, which at 400 ppm and rising exceeds the sustainable boundary of the planet. We know that blue water consumption should not exceed 4,000km3 per year. We are using 2,600km3 a year and we are increasing our consumption. 

Our target for species extinction is 10 million a year, but we lose upwards of 100 million. We are close to the boundary for ocean acidification at 80% of pre-industrial levels. Average calcium carbonate saturation is 84% and falling. We need 75% of our forested land to remain and we have 62% or less, as we continue to cut down forests. 

We use more than double the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus than we should a year to maintain our soils. We don’t have a global control for air pollution or chemical pollution. 

We meet one, just one, of the nine boundaries. The average ozone layer thickness is 300 Dobson Units (NASA). The boundary is 275 DU. To provide an idea of how tenuous this is, 300DU equates to around 3mm of ozone. The measurement is a combination of all the ozone in one stratospheric column. Ozone is not all condensed in one layer, it is dispersed at different altitudes in the stratospheric column. 

For more information on the principles, visit the Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL). You can buy the book at Hive and collect from a local bookstore or on Amazon. 

It is clear that there is a lot that we need to do to meet the needs of both people and the planet!

Blue Patch has it’s own circular ‘doughnut’ with details of our guiding principles. Join Blue Patch to learn how to make your business or organisation more sustainable.

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.