Amsterdam Turns to ‘Doughnut Economics’ for Equitable Post-Pandemic Recovery
Determined to eschew the dogma of growth at all costs and the reflexive dictates of supply and demand, the city of Amsterdam is vowing to embrace the “doughnut model” of social and planetary boundaries as it plans its economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
“While straining to keep citizens safe in the Dutch capital, municipality officials and the British economist Kate Raworth from Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute have also been plotting how the city will rebuild in a post-COVID-19 world,” writes the Guardian. Raworth’s 2017 bestseller, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think like a 21st-Century Economist, has “graced the bedside table of people ranging from the former Brexit secretary David Davis to Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who described it as a ‘breakthrough alternative to growth economics.’”
Like this story? Subscribe to The Energy Mix and never miss an edition of our free e-digest.
In Raworth’s elegantly simple model, explains the Guardian, “the inner ring of her doughnut sets out the minimum we need to lead a good life” which, tracking the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, “ranges from food and clean water to a certain level of housing, sanitation, energy, education, health care, gender equality, income, and political voice.”
Anyone living below this minimum standard, in Raworth’s theory, is “living in the doughnut’s hole.”
The outer ring of this sociopolitical torus marks the planet’s “ecological ceiling,” highlighting “the boundaries across which humankind should not go to avoid damaging the climate, soils, oceans, the ozone layer, fresh water, and abundant biodiversity.” In the middle is the “good stuff: the dough, where everyone’s needs and that of the planet are being met.”
When Raworth provided Amsterdam policy-makers with a “doughnut model” designed specifically for their city to show “where basic needs are not being met and ‘planetary boundaries’ overshot,” the city officials were thrilled to gain possession of an existing framework that would help them rebuild a pandemic-stricken economy—in ways that avoid simply defaulting to a people- and climate-devastating status quo.
“It is not just a hippie way of looking at the world,” Deputy Mayor Marieke van Doorninck told The Guardian, invoking her city’s current housing crisis as an example. The doughnut does not deliver answers, she said, so much as a way of looking at a problem “so that we don’t keep on going on in the same structures as we used to.”
This, for Raworth, is the core lesson to be learned from the pandemic. “The world is experiencing a series of shocks and surprise impacts, which are enabling us to shift away from the idea of growth to ‘thriving,’” she told The Guardian.
“Thriving means our well-being lies in balance,” she added. “This is the moment we are going to connect bodily health to planetary health.”