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DEGROWTH DONUT

Human use of Earth like it was infinite is seriously threatening the planet’s ability to sustain human society and non-human life.

A global systemic change is needed.

The donut represents the progressive but caring safe and just operating space for humanity in the 21st century’s metabolic and cultural degrowth transformation.

WHAT IS A DONUT?

A conceptual and an analytical tool that highlights key biophysical and social aspects of transitioning to a safe and just operating space and remaining within it.

One visualization of the threat to the planet’s natural processes is the planetary boundaries framework, depicting critical planetary boundaries that we must not cross if we want to maintain Earth’s capacity to sustain human flourishing.

It’s imperative that we avoid crossing planetary boundaries, but it is equally important for our collective wellbeing that we meet certain foundational human needs without which life wouldn’t be worth living. The concept of a “safe and just operating space” aims to meet the needs of the global human population within the biophysical means of the planet.

Economist Kate Raworth created the sustainability doughnut model to visualize in a single image the constraints of the planetary boundaries and social thresholds, with the green ring or doughnut representing the space within which we must strive to remain.

Here at the Institute for Political Ecology, we’ve reshaped the doughnut visualization to reflect the constraints of a safe, just, and sustainable degrowth transition by rethinking the idea of thresholds and planetary boundaries. 

Our boundaries represent overshoots and the thresholds represent the features where we are now falling short and which we should aim to improve.

BOUNDARY OVERSHOOT

Overshooting a boundary means crossing the ceiling of selfishness, insecurity, material processing and ecological carrying capacity.

It represents excessive pressure on planetary life and regenerating systems, on collective wellbeing, exhausting the Earth like it was a considerably bigger planet.

TRESHOLD SHORTFALL

Falling short of a threshold means failing to meet foundational aspirations in democracy, human wellbeing and ecosystem restoration.

Good human life is unlikely without reaching these thresholds.

SEGMENTS

The boundaries and the thresholds both have cultural, socio-economic and biophysical segments.

IPE’s degrowth donut is broken up into three broad segments – the biophysical, the cultural and the socio-economic – each of which covers three or four thematic areas in up to eleven indicators.

We broke the globe down based on national boundaries so the donut is ready-made to help advise policy strategies at the national level. A country can see how they compare to their peers across all 33 indicators, and the world’s nations can target problem areas while learning to build off of their own strengths and the strengths of others. A degrowth transition is not possible without everyone’s participation, because it will not be carried out successfully unless every nation resides safely inside the donut.

This, for example, is Croatia’s donut: