The Earth’s the Limit

This week, our planet exceeded four of our nine planetary safe zones: nearly half way towards the destabilization of our current Earth system. Too much pressure from the liberal lives we lead has led to these processes being pushed to extremes so far that they are almost irreversible. No matter how many reports the UN publishes, or how many intimidating graphs are thrown at us, sustainable growth is not being taken seriously. It is as real and scary as it sounds and yet our everyday actions and ideology are holding us back from understanding the urgency and severity of today’s challenge: achieving economic growth and equality of resources whilst living within the limits of the planet.

Image credit: Kate Raworth

Image credit: Kate Raworth

Kate Raworth from Oxfam’s new ‘Doughnut Economics’ framework provides an enlightened approach to these missions with a clear and universal target – living within a safe and just space for humanity. Economic models today focus on economic growth with a naively infinite approach. In reality economic growth is limited; production relies almost entirely on a finite amount of fossil fuels conflicting with our increasing desire to consume every day. We have placed ourselves in a vicious circle that cannot be sustained. This is not new information, and it is not my intention to preach, but the new Doughnut Economic theory is a fresh idea that is achievable and crucial to our own survival, and along the way we may find humanity with it.

There is no denying that the overall goal of economic growth will ever subside, however, to quote the wise Ron Weasley, we need to sort out our priorities. No longer can we use technological abilities to postpone an inevitable outcome or lead us into a false sense of security. Society is such that economic growth needs to happen whilst building social foundations within the limits of the environmental ceiling. Inequality needs to be tackled without putting pressure on our green spaces so eventually we can sit comfortably inside the doughnut.

Technically, this is more achievable than it sounds; just 1 per cent of the current global food supply would be needed to meet the calorific needs of 13 per cent of the world’s population facing hunger. Bringing electricity to the 19 per cent of people who currently lack it could be achieved with less than a 1 per cent increase in global CO2 emissions and ending income poverty for the 21 per cent of people who live on less than $1.25 (£0.83) a day would require just 0.2 per cent of global income. Crucially however, 50 per cent of environmental boundaries are pushed by just 11 per cent of the globe’s wealthiest population. Sustainable development is a problem of inequality and of the wealthy, who tend to turn a blind eye as they get settled into their comfortable ways.

We all need to work with what we have, without pushing boundaries that cannot and should not be pushed. The ‘zone of uncertainty’ we are heading for allows for far too much to be put at risk. Our planet is setting up to be a beautiful tragedy when all generations deserve to experience it as it should be. A reality check is needed from the influential and the young who will become the powerful in a much less stable environment.

Though potentially an influential theory; doughnut economic ideology does not provide a solution, however it can help view the problems simply and universally. Currently humanity is tumbling outside of the ‘safe zone’ from all angles; our present path for development is unsustainable and thus ultimately will make our desired development impossible. We have the same target and the same limits to achieve it in. It is no easy task but a challenge for our generation.

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