Last week I attended the Environ 2021 Co-Keynote Public Session on Doughnut Economics and, being new to the subject, I learned so much.
Kate Raworth kicked off the conversation by challenging us to ask ourselves: “Can Ireland thrive within the Doughnut?” and Roisin Markham talked about Ireland’s reality within the Doughnut and pushed us to ask ourselves “How do we talk about doughnut economics to people who are being let down and falling short of the doughnut?”
If you missed the Co-Note, you can watch it in full here. The slides and graphic recording can be found on the UCC website.
These are my takeaways from the event:
Kate is challenging us to transform our vision of the shape of progress from endless growth to the Doughnut which acts as a compass for humanity's 21st-century prosperity. Think of our use of Earth's resources radiating out from the centre of nature with a hole in the middle as the place where people are falling short on the essentials of life as outlined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The goal of the Doughnut is to meet the needs of all people within the means of the Living Planet.
Our children’s children will hold us personally responsible for our actions towards humanity and our planet.
Transformation doesn’t happen globally, it has to start locally.
So this is a time for unprecedented humility, coupled with unprecedented ambition.
We need to transform the way we see the economy and move past the blinkered focus solely on consumers and producers to recognize that the economy is a society. We need to design and create economies that enable us to thrive in the roles that fit outside that definition: parents, unpaid carers, volunteers, co-creators, students etc.
At the same time we need to transform the dynamic of consumerism so that we are using resources again and again carefully, creatively or collectively through refurbish, reuse, recreate, regenerate and repair.
We need to become regenerative by design.
Roisin Markham talked about IDEN (the Irish Doughnut Economics Network) as a space for voices that don't normally get included in the conversations around 21st-century economics in Ireland.
A space for people that want to take action in taking the doughnut to the spaces where we all live, work, play and learn.
Roisin recognised that even though Ireland has a strong social foundation, it is falling short in some areas such as housing and homelessness, in direct provision, mental health, water, etc.
Ireland’s strong social foundation is often built upon the work of the charity sector.
In terms of Ireland’s planetary boundaries, Roisin recognised that greenwashing is a major problem. “We have to stop using our rivers and our lakes and our seas as a drain for waste. We've got to start respecting them. And we've got to start redressing our biodiversity loss and consider our food production processes: what we dump into our atmosphere and in the ground.
We need to take responsibility for pushing beyond the planetary boundaries in Ireland and the EU.”
Post-COVID our lives have changed and we need to adapt. Ireland needs all of us to be making a just space for humanity and nature to thrive with doughnut economics as the framework. We need to co-design with people and with nature. We need to think and act like the 21st-century economists described in Doughnut Economics.
COVID is giving us the opportunity to not just build back better but to build forward.
Roisin is challenging us to revisit our values with the doughnut in mind.
What does it mean to me to live in the Doughnut?
Kate asks this really ambitious question to all the cities:
How can your city become home to thriving people in a thriving place while respecting the well being of all people, and the health of the whole planet?
And as much as we can focus internally within the city on social and planetary boundaries and what we do to live within them, we need to decide on the types of companies we engage with too.
How can we ensure that the companies doing business in our cities and the city institutions themselves are respecting the rights of people through global supply chains and social procurement?
On influencing policymakers, Kate talks about never knocking on a shut door. Focus on exemplifying those who are in action because they inspire many others.
When interacting with vested interests it’s important not to critique it, but be propositional: “proposition is the best form of protest”
On the topic of taxes, Kate put forward some interesting ideas. Instead of focusing on taxing companies for the people they employ, we could shift to taxing companies based on their use of new materials, which will promote circularity.
She goes a step deeper too and looks at pre-distribution of wealth, who owns the sources of wealth creation, giving the example of Vienna (where it was decided that housing is a human right) and Paris (bringing back the previously privatized water under public control so the revenue could be used for public purpose).
Making doughnut economics work in Ireland — Use the doughnut Roisin thinks the challenge is around how we as a nation transform.
Changes don’t come from the top, they come from the grassroots and it is up to us to create change when we are dissatisfied with our country and our society.
Kate suggested using climate action to generate jobs (for instance house insulation, tree planting, “In restoring your local ecology you are sequestering carbon and having an impact on the planetary boundaries so it’s a double win.”
These are just some of the ideas discussed in the Keynote last week and I would love to get your take on them. What does your local or even national doughnut look like? What will you do to influence the areas that you see as lacking?
And finally, I would like to leave you with this one statement Kate made:
Having our president saying time and time again “Let’s do an Irish doughnut” is a phenomenal asset for our nation to build momentum and start the work.
So how will you make change happen in your area? Join us in IDEN and tell us all about it.
Acknowledgements Summary image by Cork-based artist Eimear McNally
Thank you to IDEN members for their editing contribution: Roisin Markham, Moze Jacobs, Alice Glendinning, Michael Power
This story is licensed under a Creative Commons BY SA 4.0 license. For full details see our Licensing Rules.