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Doughnut Economics launches in Israel with call to update priorities, protect Earth

With new Hebrew website, translation of seminal book due in July, group aims to spread word about economic model that seeks to keep people from falling into the hole of deprivation

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The unrecognized villages around Ramat Hovav in southern Israel suffer from a high level of air pollution from nearby chemical evaporation ponds, December 28, 2017 (Yaniv Nadav/FLASH90)
The unrecognized villages around Ramat Hovav in southern Israel suffer from a high level of air pollution from nearby chemical evaporation ponds, December 28, 2017 (Yaniv Nadav/FLASH90)

A forum to advance a new economic model for the 21st century that seeks to lift people out of poverty and deprivation while keeping the Earth’s systems intact was launched in Israel on Monday.

Two young Israelis, Merav Cohen, a PhD candidate at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and Zohar Ianovici, a World Bank economist, teamed up with the Heschel Center for Sustainability to hold the community’s first meeting on Zoom.

They expected a tiny attendance, but 84 people turned up.

Doughnut Economics, which is gaining popularity worldwide, was developed by an Oxford University economist, Kate Raworth, and detailed in her 2014 book “Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist,” which is due to be published in Hebrew in July.

Raworth claims that 20th-century modes of thinking based on the desire to continually expand growth, production, and consumption — and plunder natural resources to do so — are no longer relevant.

She has summarized her model in a diagram where a circle, which she calls the doughnut, represents a “safe and just space” for humanity.

Inside the hole are 12 areas of social deprivation in which people are not able to meet the essentials of life, such as access to water, food, health services, education, housing, peace and justice, and social equity.

Outside of the doughnut’s crust lies “ecological overshoot” where too much pressure is put on the planetary systems that keep our earth stable, causing unwanted consequences such as biodiversity loss, air pollution, the acidification of oceans, and climate change.

Ianovici discovered the model in Amsterdam, where he moved during the coronavirus pandemic. Both the city of Amsterdam and the Brussels Capital Region in Belgium are currently integrating the Doughnut as a tool for guiding the post-coronavirus recovery and a transition to a more sustainable economy.

The classic image of the Doughnut; the extent to which boundaries are transgressed and social foundations are met are not visible on this diagram. (DoughnutEconomics, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli team has created an initial website in Hebrew and is aiming not only to raise awareness but also to persuade the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality to run a pilot incorporating Doughnut’s principles.

“We’re launching an Israeli community that dares to think of a different kind of economy,” Cohen said.

Lia Ettinger, the Heschel Center’s Academic Supervisor, noted that the world community had already approved the principles of the Doughnut by signing onto 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015.

The United Nations called these “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”

The Doughnut template used for Planet Earth as a whole indicates errors in red. (DoughnutEconomics,CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Raworth had managed to take an “infinite number of agreements and ideas and knowledge and present them in a simple diagram that simply communicates complicated concepts,” Ettinger went on.

Raworth, said Ettinger, had “shown the compass and said [to the world], ‘This is what you’ve agreed to.'”

“At the moment, we are exceeding the elements of the ecological ceiling and too many people are falling into the hole,” she said.

“It’s a work in progress. Nobody knows exactly how we’ll get there, but a lot of work is being done.”

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