Oxfam has released an interesting discussion paper in February 2012, written by its senior researcher Kate Raworth (with the support of colleagues) and titled “A safe and just space for humanity – Can we live within the doughnut?”
The paper presents a single visual framework – shaped like a doughnut – that represents a space in which humanity can thrive. This doughnut-like area is defined by a set of 9 planetary boundaries as proposed by a group of leading Earth-system scientists in 2009 (published in Nature by Rockström et al., Sept 2009). Raworth combined this “Planetary Boundaries” framework with 11 social boundaries, based on the 11 dimensions of human deprivation that emerged from the issues raised by governments in their Rio+20 submissions.
The author argues that “moving into the safe and just space for humanity means eradicating poverty to bring everyone above the social foundation, and reducing global resource use, to bring it back within planetary boundaries.” She also suggests that the “doughnut” provides an easy-to understand framework showing, for instance, that we need to eradicate poverty and inequity for all, within the means of the planet’s limited resources. The data on hunger, energy and income provided in the paper illustrate that bringing everyone alive today above the social foundation need not stress planetary boundaries and it is highlighted that the real source of stress is excessive resource use by roughly the richest 10 percent of people in the world.
The paper touches also on the aim of economic growth and traditional growth policies (based on GDP) in relation to the “doughnut” concept. The author argues that the economy’s over-arching aim should be to bring humanity into the safe and just space – inside the doughnut – and to promote increasing human well-being there. The paper concludes by stating that “the critical economic question is whether or not global GDP growth can be harnessed as a tool for moving into the doughnut – or whether a different approach to economic development is needed.”
This Oxfam Discussion Paper intends to encourage public debate and the author welcomes any feedback on this document. Comments can be added to the author’s Oxfam blog until 30 June 2012.