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.
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.
- Website Kate Raworth
- Kate Raworth, April 2017: Old economics is based on false ‘laws of physics’ – new economics can save us