The Doughnut Economics Symbol (Reflections)


Doughnut Economics: A World View in a symbol by Kate Raworth.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s the state of humanity in a single image. It’s the “Doughnut” of social and planetary boundaries and it could just turn out to be the compass we need for creating a safe and just 21st century.”

28 Apr 2017 Kate Raworth Senior Visiting Research Associate, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University:

Re whether people or planet should be inside or outside – that is a great design and philosophical question. I think it depends on the visual and symbolic interpretation different people/worldviews may choose to follow.”

Kate Raworth on twitter in response to a Maori perspective:

Preface Reflection

The “Doughnut Economics” symbol is a valuable contribution, inspiring many of us to reflect on our language, lifestyles and world views. The following brief observations of the symbol are offered in compassion.

Kate is correct about the power of a picture over words. A written letter or word is just a very limited kind of drawing that requires a complex process of interpretation.
Most important, there are pictures that can communicate in ways that words never can because, compared to words, a picture can communicate paradox in profound ways. Such pictures can form a helpful and humbling reminder of the limitations of thoughts and words, these being the principle domain of the ego.

This is important because paradox is central to the human experience of existence and our human condition is determined by our capacity to transcend the limitations of the ego and paradox.
We experience that capacity as the compassionate element of our psyche. Our experience of compassion is manifest as greater inclusiveness and holism in our world view, language and behaviour
Without the inclusive qualities of compassion, we become excessively ego-driven such that our world view, language and behaviour become dualistic, exclusive, deceitful and divisive. In the extreme, despite our finest intentions, this delusive state can destroy us.

Re the use of dual (two) dimensional symbol.

Observe how it is a dual (two) dimensional symbol of a doughnut, not the three dimensional doughnut we typically experience.
The ego, born of division, thrives in dualism. This is because it enables the ego to generate almost endless, exclusive dichotomies e.g. he/she, us/them, in/out, black/white, right/wrong, etc.
This dualism is manifest in the framing of the “Doughnut Economics” symbol: human society (inner) and ecology (outer). We see this dichotomy most simply maintained in our English Education frameworks as “ Me and my Environment” and “You and The Environment”. The truth is we are our environment, including all its ecology.

Re “the state of humanity ” and gross accounting.

The word “human” arises from Proto-Indo-European PIE *(dh)ghomon-, literally “earthling, earthly being,” as opposed to the gods (from root *dhghem- “earth”) while words like “humanity” and “humane” are associated with compassion and acting in civil ways.

The Doughnut image does portray the gross state of humankind in a limited way. However it fails to represent the active role our human psyche plays amidst the universal flux. Nor does it involve and remind us in our fundamental human condition with its dynamic interplay between the ego and compassion.

This exclusive behaviour is typical of and convenient for the ego in each of us. Its exclusivity enables us to observe the consequences of our actions in a detached way and deny our roles as stewards.

Gross accounting tends to be an exclusive activity. Without compassion, it easily becomes ego-driven. This is particularly true when we attempt to account for the impacts of human behaviour, whether it be on a global, corporation, national, state, neighbourhood or personal level. It can subvert our finest intentions.
For instance, gross accounting of human impacts can be:
– inequitable because it obscures the role of the individual’s lifestyle;
– destructive and unjust because it makes little or no account of the level of wisdom inherent in indigenous cultures;
– amoral, if not corrupt, because it doe not differentiate between Civic and Non-Civic activity.
Note: English accounting systems such as GDP and GNP are exemplars of this delusional behaviour.

The reality is the majority of people on Planet Earth lead economic (Civic) lives and a relatively small minority of Non-civic people generate most of the dis-economy, pollution and waste.

Consequences of such gross accounting include dis-empowerment of those who do lead sustainable lifestyles, loss of hope in those striving to be sustainable and denial of responsibility in those who generate most of the waste and pollution.

Re “the compass we need”

Kate is referring to the orienteering and navigational aid that helps us align ourselves using the electromagnetic flux. She is also alluding to our need for a moral compass to help us navigate the universal flux.
We are information beings even as we are electromagnetic beings. Just as we develop the art (skill) of navigating the electromagnetic flux using Earth’s poles, we develop the art of existing amidst the information flux using vital knowledge (proven wisdom). Such quanta of information, the principles of physics in particular, enable us to survive.

Re Our use of symbols~language.

Information is physical i.e. it is subject to the principles of physics.
The use of symbol simultaneously reflects and generates the state of being of the user.
Symbol use embracing the Conservation of Energy Principle tends to generate harmony while symbols used in denial of it tend to generate dissonance.
The Conservation of Energy Principle has never been dis-proven. It thus provides both a wise guide and helpful tool for evaluating the sustainabilty of our use of a symbol.

Re “energy”

Energy is the universal potential, all of which is active i.e. it continuously transforms.
A paradox of energy is all forms are of energy while no form is energy.
Observe how the “Doughnut” defines energy as a form of energy*, similar to water, food, networks, housing and the other myriad forms that energy may be manifest as.
This confusion and conflation of energy with a form it may take is complete denial of the principles of physics and ensures the use of the form (s) is dis-economic i.e. wasteful and polluting.
It is probable Kate employs The Crown’s fatally flawed definition of energy, which is summarized in this equation:

Energy = Fossil Fuels = Power = Electricity = Bulk-generated Electrical Products .

Re Polluting and Wasting.

These are states of being, as is care and stewardship.
Pollution involves defiling the flows and balances that sustain humankind. The consequence is air pollution, ozone layer depletion, human-induced climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen phosphorous loading etc.
Waste involves destroying vital minerals and resources* . The consequence is freshwater withdrawal, soil loss, biodiversity loss etc.
*Note :
A “resource” is defined here as something that arises again and again. This contrasts to the definition used in The Crown dialect of English – “A resource is any activity that adds wealth to The Crown”. Such activity includes the combustion of fossilized biomass, which The Crown defines as “fossil fuel”.
The omission of minerals, especially mineral biomass, from the “Doughnut Economics” symbol is very significant because both the Anglosphere Empire and the Anthropocene is driven by the combustion and other wasteful use of mineral biomass.
Others, such as Ugo Bardi, have also commented on this profound omission. See direct link in footnotes

Re Civics and Non-Civics

The “Doughnut Economics” symbol does not speak of Civics. It does speak of equity, justice and peace but conflates them with, for instance, food, water and housing. This obscures the connection between the the quality of the resource and the care in its provision.
Civics is the state of being in which a human being enjoys sufficient compassion that they are able to develop the arts (skills) required to conserve the flows and balances that sustain humankind. Their actions tend to enable all humankind to experience harmony, justice and social equity. This will be manifest in the provision of sustaining food, water, housing, transport and communication systems* for all.
Without sufficient compassion, the ego prevails so that the actions of a human being tend to become Non-Civic and generate misery, disease, injustice and warfare. See previous reflection on Polluting and Wasting .
Any spoken language is a communication system, just as wires, flags and radio waves systems are . In this instance the communication system is English, variations of The Crown dialect in particular.

In summary.

Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics” symbol is an inspiring attempt to make good sense of the contemporary predicament of humankind.
It is limited by its dualistic design and lack of foundation in the principles of physics. Its use of The Crown dialect of English ensures its framing is flawed.
This said, it provides inspiration for us all to explore our own psyche and culture for symbols that enable us to transcend the human condition so we all may thrive in harmony.

Other reflections on the Doughnut Economics symbol

The Mobius Loop of Life: a world view in a symbol by Dave McArthur (creator of truehope website).

Reflections on Te Reo Maori Doughnut: a world view in a symbol by Teina Boasa-Dean et al

Which countries are within the Doughnut – a discussion by Jeremy Williams of research using the Doughnut into the relative sustainability of nations.