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Donut Economics: A Sweet Solution to Sustainable Change

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Step right up and hear about the deliciously sweet and sustainable concept of the donut economy! No, we're not talking about adding more sugar and carbs to your life, but about a revolutionary economic model that could change the way we view our planet and our own wellbeing. Developed by British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute, the donut economy is a scrumptious solution to the problems of our current unsustainable economic model.

The idea is simple: once we move away from the unsustainable constant economic growth that drives our current model, we can shift towards a balanced system that takes into account the actual needs of people and the planet. Our current system has us buying things we don't need with money we don't have, but can pay back later with interest. In the long run, we'll actually fare much better on a healthy planet where our needs and wants are balanced with the protection of our natural world and respect for the finite and limited resources we're provided with.

The doughnut economy is a model developed by British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute.

The donut diagram is the centerpiece of this idea. In the middle of the doughnut are all the good things we have too little of, like affordable housing, livable cities, clean air, gender equality, fair and equitable trade, healthy food, biodiversity, clean, affordable energy, and all the other wonderful goals outlined in the UN's sustainable development goals. On the outside of the ring, however, are the bad things we have too much of, like pollution, CO2 and plastic trash, overcrowded and unaffordable cities, dying species, and natural habitats, and over-consumption.

A robust, sustainable economy would actually be somewhere in the middle, in the soft and squishy part of the doughnut. Cities are where most of the sustainable change can be implemented and felt first. The more thriving cities we can create, the faster we can turn a sick planet into a healthy one.

The aim of economic activity should be to meet the core needs of all people but within the means of the planet. The donut economy is a simple visual to help us imagine what this could mean in practice. The goal is to ensure that everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive while living within the ecological limits of the planet.

Raworth's 2017 bestselling book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, has been hailed as a "breakthrough alternative to growth economics."

Amsterdam, the Dutch capital, is one city that wants to re-open post COVID-19 lockdown following the doughnut economy model. Kate Raworth has helped devise a plan on how the city will rebuild its economy. The plan is laid out in the diagram below.

The Amsterdam city portrait was created by Doughnut Economics Action Lab, in collaboration with Biomimicry 3.8, Circle Economy, and C40. Photo: Doughnut Economics Action Lab

Cities are where most of the sustainable change can be implemented and felt first. The more thriving cities we can create, the faster we can turn a sick planet into a healthy one.

By rethinking our economic systems, we can create a world that is more just, equitable, and sustainable for all. And who knows, maybe a donut a day could help keep the unsustainable model at bay!

Watch the entire video series about the Doughnut Economics on YouTube


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