In Chronicle #4 we described Berry and Swimme’s vision for a climate changing world—“A mutually enhancing relationship between our species and Earth.”  In our last Chronicle (# 13) we identified the economy as the major cause of climate change. We ended with Marjorie Kelly’s question: “What kind of economy is consistent with living inside a living being?” Berry, Swimme and Kelly have something in common—the need for an economy that supports both our species and Earth.  

Recently we came across an economic model that does just that. It was developed by Kate Raworth, a self-described “radical economist” who is a member of the Club of Rome and teaches at Oxford and Cambridge.  This model is described in her book, The Doughnut Economy: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist. It is the first model we have found that seems to reflect Berry and Swimme’s vision and Kelly’s search for an economy that links our species to the living Earth.

Here is the model. We will point out its significant features and then give a brief summary of the 7 principles.

As you can see, the model links two circles.  In the inner circle of the doughnut —The Social Foundation—are the elements the economic system must provide for our reasonable and continued existence.  The arrows indicate shortfalls in various areas.

The outer circle—The Ecological Ceiling—outlines the nine “limits to growth” that our economy must maintain.   Unfortunately, as you can see, we have already broken through four of the boundaries: climate change, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, land conversion and biodiversity.  These ecological overshoots jeopardize what we need for our continued existence and bounce back on us.  

Here is a brief summary of the 7 steps we must take to develop this economy.

  1. FIRST, CHANGE THE GOAL.  Stop fixating on the GDP.  Our economy must endeavor to meet the human rights of every person within the needs of our life-giving planet.
  2. SECOND, SEE THE BIG PICTURE. The current market-based model does not meet the needs of humans or Earth.  We need a bigger picture.
  3. THIRD, NURTURE HUMAN NATURE.  Get beyond the extensive focus on markets.  We humans are social, interdependent, diverse in values and dependent upon a living Earth.
  4. FOURTH, GET SAVY WITH SYSTEMS.  To understand the economy’s dynamism get into systems thinking.  The economy is an ever evolving complex system related to other systems.
  5. FIFTH, DESIGN TO DISTRIBUTE. The old “trickle down” stuff is not a fundamental principle.  Inequality is not an economic necessity.  It is a design failure.
  6. SIXTH, CREATE TO REGENERATE.  There is no such economic law that things must get worse before they get better. This century needs economic thinking that unleashes design in order to create a circular not linear economy and to restore humans as full participants in Earth’s cyclical processes of life.
  7. SEVENTH, BE AGNOSTIC ABOUT GROWTH.  Today we have economies that need to grow whether or not they make us thrive.  What we need is economies that make us thrive, whether or not they grow.

Raworth tells us these seven principles are not “the answer”.  She sees them and her model as a start to a different way of thinking about the economy. She invites others to “Join the Crew”  and add their own insights.

If you wish to know more about her Doughnut Economy you might start by watching her seventeen minute Ted Talk below.


Mike Bell

Comox Valley Climate Change Network