Doughnut, anyone?

A full moon ris­es over a snowy Aberdeen. The mer­ci­ful, white blan­ket cov­ers not only streets and gar­dens, but also the lit­ter at the side of the road. Last week I found a lot of plas­tic while run­ning (it turns out this new sport is called plog­ging), but I can’t moti­vate myself to go out and run in between the snow­storms. All in all, this week I have failed in my inten­tion to pick up lit­ter every day…

Economic growth, the holy cow

Today I want to look at the big­ger pic­ture. Plas­tic pol­lu­tion is one of the symp­toms of our con­sumerism. Econ­o­mists stick to the idea that pros­per­i­ty is only pos­si­ble if the econ­o­my con­tin­ues to grow. Super­mar­kets and fash­ion brands want to sell more items every year. The pres­sure to pro­duce is passed down to fac­to­ry work­ers in Asia, farm­ers, ani­mals in fac­to­ry farms… And every­thing that is pro­duced, soon ends up on the grow­ing pile of waste.

Polit­i­cal lead­ers like Rutte (the Dutch PM) and There­sa May see it as their task to sus­tain this growth. Some­times, their ded­i­ca­tion comes to the sur­face dur­ing hard times. I remem­ber Rutte’s call to keep buy­ing cars dur­ing the cri­sis. The econ­o­mist Kate Raworth is a clear voice that goes against this par­a­digm. She has devel­oped a new eco­nom­ic mod­el: The doughnut.

My interpretation of Raworth's doughnut.

My inter­pre­ta­tion of Raworth’s doughnut.

Safe within the doughnut

Accord­ing to Raworth, the goal of the econ­o­my is that every­one ends up in the green part of the mod­el. In this space we can meet everyone’s needs, with­in the means of the plan­et. We are cur­rent­ly over­step­ping both the social and eco­log­i­cal bound­aries of the econ­o­my. As a result, there is pover­ty and injus­tice on one hand, and pol­lu­tion and cli­mate break­down on the other.

What has to change?

At the moment, social and eco­log­i­cal objec­tives are on the mar­gins of eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy, as if they are just extra’s. The dough­nut mod­el makes it clear that they should be at the cen­tre of pol­i­cy. This will change our pri­or­i­ties dras­ti­cal­ly. Multi­na­tion­als lose their hold on pol­i­tics, non-renew­ables become much more expen­sive. Dur­ing the last par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in the Nether­lands, the Par­ty for the Ani­mals was the only polit­i­cal par­ty that explic­it­ly reject­ed the par­a­digm of eco­nom­ic growth. The Dutch green par­ty (Groen­Links) still talks about ‘green growth’.

The economic garden

Raworth sug­gests to take nature as a metaphor for the econ­o­my. This brings up inter­est­ing insights: Things don’t grow end­less­ly, but mature. There is no such thing as waste. The new econ­o­my is based on cir­cu­lar­i­ty rather than exploita­tion, ‘enough’ instead of ‘more, more, more’. If you can­not reuse or recy­cle some­thing, it should not be pro­duced, let alone be subsidised.

I can already try to apply this to what I buy. I can influ­ence pol­i­tics through my vote dur­ing the elec­tions. The new econ­o­my will make us free, healthy and hap­py. Like a walk through a snowy for­est, by the light of the sil­ver moon.