Doughnut Economics Video Club: five films on planetary thinking

The mission of the Doughnut Economics Video Club is to celebrate the smorgasbord of great online videos that feed (however circuitously) into rethinking economics. Last week featured four fab films on capitalism.

This week, it’s time for planetary thinking.

As Earth system scientist Will Steffen recently told me, if you really want to understand how a system works, you have to look one level above it and one level below it. So here’s a focus on planet Earth, and the levels above and below that shape her.

1. The Overview Effect (2012) 19 minutes. First up is a beautiful and poetic short film, made by (who else but) Planetary Collective, on what many astronauts have experienced when looking back at Earth from space: ‘the Overview Effect’, getting the big picture on our planetary home. As astronaut Roy Garan puts it, “When we look down at the Earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living breathing organism. But it also at the same time looks extremely fragile.” The film’s footage is fantastic – it makes you feel part of the space ride, and you can join in with the astronauts’ pastime of ‘Earth gazing’. It was the sky-skimming thinness of Earth’s atmosphere that had me gripped. As Garan sums it up, “This view of the Earth from space, this whole Earth perspective, I think, is the true symbol of this age.”

2. The Known Universe (2009) 6 minutes. If you want to ‘look up a level’ from planet Earth (and then some), this film hits the mark. Made by the American Museum of Natural History, it takes you on a giddy tour from the peaks of Himalayas to the outer limits of the known universe – and then kindly brings you back. Sit back and breathe deep for the intergalactic ride of your life. Five year olds love it too, by the way.

3. Welcome to the Anthropocene (2012) 3 minutes. What operates one level below the planet? These days, it’s us. This film, made by Owen Gaffney and Felix Pharand-Deschenes, highlights that humanity is now the biggest driver of global change on the planet, hence we have created and entered the era of The Anthropocene. The film’s highlights are the fantastic graphics showing the global network of human migration, communications and trade – and the pressure on planetary systems that we collectively create. As the narrator says, “We have shaped the past, we are shaping our present, we can shape our future…We are the first generation to realise this new responsibility.”

4. Let the environment guide our development – Johan Rockstrom’s TED talk (2010) 19 minutes. If humanity is the major driver of global change, the obvious question is how much pressure can we put on the planet before we change it in ways that are no good for us? And this is what Johan Rockstrom sets out to explore, introducing the concept of nine planetary boundaries – safety limits of pressure on critical Earth system processes, beyond which we risk pushing over tipping points that may be hard or impossible to reverse. As Rockstrom says, “This gives a new paradigm to guide humanity…but it changes fundamentally our governance and management paradigm from the current linear command and control thinking…towards a much more flexible, adaptive approach.” Will we be able to make that change?

5. Doughnut Economics at the RSA (2012) 17 minutes. I have to finish off this set of films with a video about the eponymous Doughnut, because this planetary thinking is exactly what inspired it. The Doughnut brings the concept of nine planetary boundaries together with a complementary set of social boundaries – based on every person’s right to life’s essentials such as food, water, energy, and healthcare – to create a doughnut-shaped safe and just space for humanity. It’s one way of drawing up a compass to guide humanity’s 21st century journey, at the planetary scale.  And the image of the doughnut prompts us to ask, what will it take to meet the rights of 9 billion people within the means of what this planet can provide? What kind of economic system would give us a chance of getting there?….

Got any more recommended films on planetary thinking to add to this fledgling collection?…

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