Doughnut economics: a new way of thinking about the development of cities?
by Caroline Hartnell
Wikipedia describes the Doughnut, or Doughnut economics, as ‘a visual framework for sustainable development’, the name deriving from the shape of the diagram, ie a disc with a hole in the middle. The hole in the middle of the model depicts the proportion of people that lack access to life’s essentials (healthcare, education, etc) while the outside of the disc represents the ecological ceilings or planetary boundaries that must not be overshot. 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 framework was put forward as a way to look at the performance of an economy in terms of the extent to which the needs of people are met without overshooting Earth’s ecological ceilings. An economy is considered prosperous when all 12 social foundations are met without overshooting any of the nine ecological ceilings. The area between the two rings represents the safe and just space for humanity. Guardian columnist George Monbiot has described it as a ‘breakthrough alternative to growth economics’.
Economics is usually thought of as applying to countries, but the doughnut also provides a framework for cities to think about their development. In 2019 the approach was piloted in three cities of the global North: Philadelphia, Portland and Amsterdam. In April 2020 Amsterdam became the first city in the world to make a formal commitment to using the doughnut as ‘the starting point for public policy decisions’.
This video is presented as ‘an idea for Oxford’ – it was a presentation of the doughnut economy model to Oxford city council on 5 June 2020 – but it could clearly serve as an approach for other cities in the UK and elsewhere.
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