Copyright 2020 by Richard O. Aichele email rottoa@gmail.com and Information Works

The Doughnut is an innovative environmental - economic approach to resolving global issues and thrive in a changing world. One plan is underway in Amsterdam, Netherlands.


The 21st Century Environment

Exploring  Innovative  Approaches

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21st Century Doughnut for Thriving Cities

by Richard O. Aichele

"Humanity’s 21st Century challenge is to meet the needs of all within the means of the planet. In other words, to ensure that no one falls short on life’s essentials while ensuring that collectively we do not overshoot our pressure on Earth’s life-supporting systems, on which we fundamentally depend", said Kate Raworth, Senior Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute and Professor of Practice at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Raworth defined a thriving lifestyle as one which provides life's essentials as "food and housing to healthcare and political voice" and the life-supporting styems of the earth include "a stable climate, fertile soils, and a protective ozone layer."

Achieving these goals could be with a new economic system - The Doughnut. "It is not capitalism or communisn or any other old isms" but proposes changing the current patchwork of economic, environmental and political practices explained Raworth. "My big – but simple – vision is this idea of a doughnut. In the middle of the Inner Ring is the hole where people are falling short on the essentials of life: food, healthcare, education and housing. The Outer Ring is the ecological ceiling of resource use: climate change, freshwater stress, biodiversity loss. The Doughnut is the ‘safe space’ in between these two rings."

wrap text around imageThe Ecological Ceiling [the Outer Ring} consists of nine planetary boundaries, as set out by Rockstrom et al, beyond which lie unacceptable environmental degradation and potential tipping points in Earth systems.

The Social Foundation [Inner Ring] comprises twelve dimensions of the social foundation which are derived from internationally agreed minimum social standards, as identified by the world’s governments in the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

Between social and ecological boundaries lies the environmentally safe and socially just space in which humanity can thrive.

Raworth asks: "Can we find this dynamic balance in the 21st century? Well, that's a key question, because as the red wedges show, right now we are far from balanced, falling short and overshooting at the same time. Look in that hole, you can see that millions or billions of people worldwide still fall short on their most basic of needs. And yet, we've already overshot at least four of these planetary boundaries, risking irreversible impact of climate breakdown and ecosystem collapse. This is the state of humanity and our planetary home. We, the people of the early 21st Century, this is our selfie."

The Doughnut is detailed by Raworth in her book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. The concept is a planning tool for solutions to the 21st Century's integrated global economic - environmental realities and "proposes a social foundation and ecological ceiling for the whole world." Raworth looked at the past and current path of the world. "Our politicians offer new destinations for growth. You can have green growth, inclusive growth, smart, resilient, balanced growth. Choose any future you want so long as you choose growth. But look where this journey has been taking us. Global GDP is 10 times bigger than it was in 1950 and that increase has brought prosperity to billions of people, but the global economy has also become incredibly divisive, with the vast share of returns to wealth now accruing to a fraction of the global one percent. And the economy has become incredibly degenerative, rapidly destabilizing this delicately balanced planet on which all of our lives depend."

Solutions are available. The Doughnut proposes a Circle Economy approach. Raworth says: "We need to create economies that tackle this shortfall and overshoot together, by design. We need economies that are regenerative and distributive by design. You see, we've inherited degenerative industries. We take earth's materials, make them into stuff we want, use it for a while, often only once, and then throw it away, and that is pushing us over planetary boundaries, so we need to bend those arrows around, create economies that work with and within the cycles of the living world, so that resources are never used up but used again and again, economies that run on sunlight, where waste from one process is food for the next. And this kind of regenerative design is popping up everywhere. Over a hundred cities worldwide... already generate more than 70 percent of their electricity from sun, wind and waves. Cities like London, Glasgow, Amsterdam are pioneering circular city design, finding ways to turn the waste from one urban process into food for the next."

Changing established practices is always difficult but worldwide the affects of the coronavirus 19 on business, overall economies, lifestyles, employment and transportation have been severe. From private business to governments there are growing beliefs that the "old normal" is history and its replacements must and will embrace new innovative approaches and technologies. For large and small world cities and regions, the environmental and economic concepts of The Doughnut are appealing for the future.

Amsterdam's 21st Century Doughnut

The city of Amsterdam, Netherlands has become a leader using innovative approaches to restore and improve its economy. Just reverting to the old status quo with its socioeconomic and environmental shortcomings was no longer adequate according to Deputy Mayor Marieke van Doorninck. “What we are looking at is how we can become a healthy and resilient city again. We're going looking at how we're going to make sure that people actually have a job again.” An important tool is The Doughnut.

The April 9, 2020 launch of "the Amsterdam City Doughnut" took the global concept of The Doughnut and turned it into a tool for transformative action in the Amsterdam. "It’s the first public presentation of the holistic approach to downscaling The Doughnut that an international team have been developing for more than a year. We never imagined that we would be launching it in a context of [COVID-19] crisis such as this, but we believe that the need for such a transformative tool could hardly be greater than right now. Its use in Amsterdam has the chance to inspire many more places – from neighbourhoods and villages to towns and cities to nations and regions – to take such a holistic approach as they begin to reimagine and remake their own futures," explained Raworth.

. Video Interview with Kate Raworth.

For Amsterdam, the Circular Economy is an important element linking efficient recyling to the city's long term growth in which residents can thrive. "The Amsterdam Circular 2020-2025 strategy has been approved by the College of Mayor and Alderpersons. Its aim: reduction of 50 percent of the use of new raw materials in 2030. Which is no half measure. The city hopes to have a completely circular economy by 2050. In such an economy, used products containing valuable raw materials are not waste. On the contrary, the goal is to preserve as much (raw) material as possible. This reuse will reduce our Co2 emissions substantially."

The Amsterdam city planners' solutions to the challenges are underway: "Embrace the 21st Century goal. Aim to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet...Nurture human nature. Promote diversity, participation, collaboration and reciprocity. ... Think in systems. Experiment, learn, adapt, evolve, and aim for continuous improvement. ... Be a sharer, repairer, regenerator, steward. Reduce travel, minimize flights, be climate and energy smart. Aim to thrive rather than to grow. Don’t let growth become a goal in itself," according to the Doughnut Economics Action Lab in Amsterdam.

Guidelines of Amsterdam's The Doughnut programs include:

Embrace the 21st century goal. Aim to meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. Seek to align your organisation’s purpose, networks, governance, ownership and finance with this goal. Expect the work to be challenging, innovative and transformative.

See the big picture. Recognise the potential roles of the household, the commons, the market and the state - and their many synergies - in transforming economies. Ensure that finance serves the work rather than drives it.

Nurture human nature. Promote diversity, participation, collaboration and reciprocity. Strengthen community networks and work with a spirit of high trust. Care for the wellbeing ofthe team.

Think in systems. Experiment, learn, adapt, evolve, and aim for continuous improvement. Be alert to dynamic effects, feedback loops and tipping points.

Be distributive. Work in the spirit of open design and share the value created with all who co-create it. Be aware of power and seek to redistribute it to improve equity amongst stakeholders.

"The challenge of our times is that we must move within The Doughnut’s boundaries from both sides simultaneously, in ways that promote the wellbeing of all people and the health of the whole planet. Achieving this globally calls for action on many levels, including in cities, which are proving to be leaders of driving such change. The Thriving City Portrait aims to amplify that potential."

Visit Link: Doughnut Economics Action Lab


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