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Doughnut Economics

Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

By Kate Raworth
15-minute read
Audio available
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth

Doughnut Economics (2017) is a call to arms for a fresh approach to economics. As inequality soars and environmental crisis looms, the book’s central question has never seemed more relevant. How can we build a just economic system that allows us to thrive while preserving the planet? A good place to start, Kate Raworth suggests, is to do away with the old myths that have shaped economic thinking for so long. Zeroing in on the doughnut-shaped “sweet spot” in which our needs can be sustainably met, this is a thought-provoking read which might just help save the world.

  • Anyone losing sleep over the Earth’s future as climate change kicks in
  • Economic innovators in search of new models for a new century
  • Fans of fresh thinking on big topics

Kate Raworth is a senior visiting research associate at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. A self-declared renegade in the economics profession, Raworth’s work is focused on social, economic and environmental sustainability in the twenty-first century. Named by the Guardian newspaper as one of the top ten tweeters in her field, she has presented her ideas to everyone from the UN General Assembly to the Occupy movement.

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Doughnut Economics

Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

By Kate Raworth
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth
Synopsis

Doughnut Economics (2017) is a call to arms for a fresh approach to economics. As inequality soars and environmental crisis looms, the book’s central question has never seemed more relevant. How can we build a just economic system that allows us to thrive while preserving the planet? A good place to start, Kate Raworth suggests, is to do away with the old myths that have shaped economic thinking for so long. Zeroing in on the doughnut-shaped “sweet spot” in which our needs can be sustainably met, this is a thought-provoking read which might just help save the world.

Key idea 1 of 9

The Doughnut is a new way of thinking about sustainable economics in the twenty-first century.

Economics is the world’s lingua franca, spoken by both business and government. Yet many of its basic assumptions are flawed. Crises like the 2008 financial crash have proved as much – economists just didn’t see it coming. Then there are the slow-burning issues of climate change and global inequality.

If it wants to meet the challenges of the twenty-first-century head-on, economics needs to change. Fresh thinking is the order of the day.

So where do we start?

One idea that might help us out of our current predicament is the author Kate Raworth’s concept of the Doughnut.

Picture a classic doughnut with a hole in the middle. It’s made up of two circles – one, the inside edge, and the other, the outside. The former can be thought of as the social foundation, while the latter represents an ecological ceiling.

Between these two rings – in the dough, to stick to our metaphor – is what the author terms “a safe and just home for humanity.” A place defined by dynamic balance. Within it, all our social needs can be met without overburdening the planet.

Let’s unpack the first concept: the Doughnut’s social foundation includes everything that humans need in order to live.

That covers basics such as access to clean water and food, but there’s more to it than that.

We don’t just want humans to simply survive, we want them to thrive. A full human life is about more than just having enough to eat. It also requires more abstract social goods like support networks, a sense of community, political representation and gender equality.

And what about the ecological ceiling?

Essentially, this is the ecological boundary we have to respect if we also want the earth to thrive.

In 2009, a group of earth systems scientists, led by Johan Rockström and Will Steffen, identified nine processes vital to our planet’s ability to sustain human life. These processes are threatened by ozone layer depletion, ocean acidification, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, chemical pollution, freshwater depletion, land conversion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss.

The outer ring of the Doughnut functions as a “guardrail” to protect these key processes. If we cross it, we risk environmental catastrophe.

The problem, however, is that we’ve already leaped over the rail at least four times! Climate change, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, land conversion and biodiversity loss are already well underway.

The clock is already ticking and time is in short supply. If we want to get humanity into the Doughnut, we have to act now.

But before we do anything, we need to change the way we think about the world. And that starts by challenging our obsession with endless growth.

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