The Doughnut, or Doughnut economics, is a visual framework for sustainable development – shaped like a doughnut – combining the concept of planetary boundaries with the complementary concept of social boundaries. The framework was proposed to regard the performance of an economy by the extent to which the needs of people are met without overshooting Earth’s ecological ceiling.
The name derives from the shape of the diagram, i.e. a disc with a hole in the middle. The centre hole of the model depicts the proportion of people that lack access to life’s essentials (healthcare, education, equity and so on) while the crust represents the ecological ceilings (planetary boundaries) that life depends on and must not be overshot.
Consequently, an economy is considered prosperous when all twelve social foundations are met without overshooting any of the nine ecological ceilings. This situation is represented by the area between the two rings, namely the safe and just space for humanity. The diagram was developed by Oxford economist Kate Raworth in the Oxfam paper A Safe and Just Space for Humanity and elaborated upon in her book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist.
The social foundations are inspired by the social aims of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. These are:
- Income and work (the latter is not limited to employment but also includes things such as housekeeping)
- Peace and justice
- Political voice
- Social equity
- Gender equality
The nine ecological ceilings are from the planetary boundaries put forward by a group of Earth-system scientists led by Johan Rockström and Will Steffen. These are:
- Climate change — the human-caused emissions of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane trap heat in the atmosphere, changing the Earth’s climate.
- Ocean acidification — when human-emitted carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, it makes the water more acidic. For example, this lowers the ability of marine life to grow skeletons and shells.
- Chemical pollution — releasing toxic materials into nature decreases biodiversity and lowers the fertility of animals (including humans).
- Nitrogen and phosphorus loading — inefficient or excessive use of fertilizer leads to the fertilizer running off to water bodies, where they cause algae blooms which kills underwater life.
- Freshwater withdrawals — using too much freshwater dries up the source which may damage the ecosystem and be unusable after.
- Land conversion — converting land for economic activity (such as creating roads and farmland) damages or removes the habitat for wildlife, removes carbon sinks and disrupts natural cycles.
- Biodiversity loss — economic activity may cause a reduction in the number and variety of species. This makes ecosystems more vulnerable and may lower their capacity of sustaining life and providing ecosystem services.
- Air pollution — the emission of aerosols (small particles) has a negative impact on the health of species. It can also affect precipitation and cloud formation.
- Ozone layer depletion — some economic activity emits gases that damage the Earth’s ozone layer. Because the ozone layer shields Earth from harmful radiation, its depletion results for example in skin cancer in animals.
Doughnut of the world economy
In Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Raworth draws the doughnut of the world economy as follows. On the social foundation, no life-essential is met for everyone. Mostly health, political voice and social equity are under the just space. Of the ecological ceilings, climate change, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, land conversion and biodiversity loss are overshot while ozone layer depletion, ocean acidification and freshwater withdrawals are within the planetary boundaries. The boundaries for air pollution and chemical pollution are not quantified.
- ^Raworth, Kate (2012). “A safe and just space for humanity CAN WE LIVE WITHIN THE DOUGHNUT?” (PDF). Oxfam Discussion Papers.
- ^“Meet the doughnut: the new economic model that could help end inequality”. World Economic Forum. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
- ^Monbiot, George (12 April 2017). “Finally, a breakthrough alternative to growth economics – the doughnut”. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
- ^ Jump up to:ab Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut economics : seven ways to think like a 21st century economist. Vermont: White River Junction. ISBN 9781603586740. OCLC 961205457.