Spring. Renewal. Bring on Regenerative Economics.

Easter Sunday. It’s Spring, time for renewal, rebirth. There couldn’t be a better day in the year for launching the latest fabulous one-minute animation of Doughnut Economics – because this one is about regenerative economic design.

For over 200 years, industry has been based on degenerative design: we take Earth’s materials, make them into stuff we want, use it for a while, then throw it away. It’s a one-way system that runs against Earth’s cyclical processes of life. And it is destroying the planet’s living systems on which we fundamentally depend.

Contrary to the promises of late-20th century economic theory, economic growth won’t simply clean up the mess it makes. Which is why we have to make our economies regenerative by design, so that they use Earth’s materials again and again. Figuring out how to do so is one of the greatest design challenges for 21st century architects, industrialists, entrepreneurs, financiers, citizens and states to take on.

Here’s the story in just a minute, animated by the brilliant, BAFTA-winning animator Ainslie Henderson. I discovered his work while browsing on line and so quickly beat a path to his digital door, begging him to work with me to tell the story of new economics. I’m so delighted that he was up for the challenge because I think the resulting video is deeply inspired and inspiring – I hope you agree.

17 thoughts on “Spring. Renewal. Bring on Regenerative Economics.

  1. 16 April 2017 at 20:49

    Looking forward to watching this soon! I’ve been using similar vocabulary of ‘an economy based on the restoration, not exploitation, of natural and social capital.’ Personally, I’m pretty confident that a good chunk of a future economy can be based on this, if we have the political will and financial mechanisms to do so (less confident but still optimistic!). Article I wrote with Lorenzo Fioramonti: https://theconversation.com/why-it-makes-sense-to-build-ecosystem-restoration-into-economic-growth-plans-51590

    Warm congrats always – Phoebe

    1. admin
      17 April 2017 at 21:29

      Many thanks Phoebe, And I look forward to reading this article. Cheers, Kate

  2. 17 April 2017 at 01:39

    Continuous growth on a finite planet has always been a pipe dream.
    A neoliberal fantasy.

    Only possible economy in the 21st century is a sustainable economy using renewable energy.

    Look forward to reading Doughnut Economy.

    Every person aspiring to be a political leader needs to read it.

    Excellent work John

    1. admin
      17 April 2017 at 21:28

      Many thanks John – let’s see if we can get some sense going this century…

  3. Aileen Walsh
    17 April 2017 at 15:40

    I haven’t read your book yet but got excited when I read a review so looking forward to it, but isn’t what you are proposing the same as ecological economics that proposes a GPI and supported by Herman Daly who says we need a steady state economy instead of one based on growth? Also I am disappointed didn’t point out that the primary problem in the culture of capitalism is one of greed. So if you really want to change the economy I think the problem needs to be identified or the solutions will always be superficial. Even if there is no money to be made in ecological economy it has to be the way forward because otherwise the problem of greed will persist. I’m also worried that the use of AI now in progress may make any efforts to ameliorate capitalisms destruction of the planet may be too late. But I am feeling pessimistic after reading about AI all day. I’m about to do a presentation on the future here in Western Australia and I am running out of time in terms of preparation. Is there any way I can get a copy of your book quickly.
    Also in terms of developing economic programmes to progress the changes you propose, wouldn’t it be a good idea to have an open platform presentation of your research so that it can be built on and developed exponentially by others as well? or have you done that already. I’m cognisant of the way science is now working and developing so quickly and it is because they use open platform. I think if economics wants to transform drastically and needs to be done as quickly as possible this is a great solution.

    1. admin
      17 April 2017 at 21:27

      Thanks for your comment, Aileen.
      Yes my book builds on the ecological economics of Herman Daly and mixes it with feminist, complexity, institutional and behavioural economics too.
      Regarding a platform for building on the ideas in the book collaboratively: it’s a great idea and something I have been contemplating but don’t yet know how best to set that up. Any suggestions very welcome. Cheers, Kate

      1. 18 April 2017 at 19:52

        I have your book on order. A colleague sent me copy of page 163 highlighting: “The global governance to regulate these divisive dynamics is sorely lacking yet it is clearly going to be essential to reverse this rapid enclosure of the twenty first century’s most creative commons.”
        As you suggest, such governance is quite unlikely to emerge from today’s form of economic politics. This overview page
        http://gaiapc.ca/PJ/PJ-Overview-web.htm sketches the possibility of a Blue Planet Governance proposal were we suggest building a parallel/shadow system that recognizes the limits, as show in the doughnut graphics. Development of this proposal would need support of many such as you who clearly see the perils of the status quo.

        1. admin
          28 April 2017 at 13:16

          Thanks so much for the link, I look forward to reading up on this.

  4. Clifford
    20 April 2017 at 23:35

    Can’t wait to read your book!

    How does your work relate to “anti-work” theory?

    The kind of anti-work theory that David Frayne talks about in his book “The Refusal of Work: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Work”, which you can find herehttps://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/the-refusal-of-work/

    What about the very neglected question of “commons” in social spaces?

    “Common Space: The City as Commons” is another good book if you want to get into this: https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/common-space/

    1. admin
      28 April 2017 at 13:15

      Hi Clifford, if you’ve managed to get a hold of a copy of the book, I hope you’ll have seen that it says quite a lot about the commons in different contexts. As to anti-work theory, i’m not familiar with that, but it’s clear that we need to rethink our relation to work from many angles, so I’ll look that up, thanks.

  5. Jean Wolf
    21 April 2017 at 00:39

    Does your book include discussion of “community”? Something like the critique that aspect of mainstream economics that Harvard Professor Stephen A. Marglin develops in his book “The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community” :


    Also, your model of embedded economy seems to ignore some societies which operate outside the logic of state and market and which mostly don’t practice commodity production , like the ones talked in the recent book “Living at the Edges of Capitalism: Adventures in Exile and Mutual Aid” by O’Hearn and Grubacic:


    1. admin
      28 April 2017 at 13:14

      Thanks for your comments – yes Doughnut Economics talks about community, both under the notion of society, and in the capacity of creating and stewarding the commons.

      Re the embedded economy, I’d say that rather than ignore that some societies don’t operate with state and market, the diagram shows that there are at least these four key provisioning systems, all in different scales of balance in different societies. Given the part of the world I live in (urban UK) I wouldn’t want to be missing any one of these four, but it’s absolutely true that there are societies that thrive without markets or the state.

  6. Len Bartlett
    3 May 2017 at 20:22

    I listened to you on Start the Week and as excited to hear someone finally making sense about the planet. I thought Paul’s contribution was a little too parochial and Wendel’s a little too folksy. Of course many solutions are and should be local but in today’s world the planet is local!

    You mentioned you had been contacted about a Swedish project and an African one where local solutions were being designed around the “doughnut”. Is there somewhere I can get more info on these?

    More power to your elbow

    1. admin
      4 May 2017 at 01:09

      Hi Len, thanks so much for your comment.

      The Swedish project is run by Vasakronan and you can read more about it here (they are having a workshop on 8-11 May in Stockholm!)

      And the one in KwaZulu Natal was run by Meshfield, here’s their final report:

      I find these projects really inspiring and hope they will inspire others to use the doughnut in similar ways.

      1. 8 May 2017 at 19:08

        Hi Len, Kate and others,

        I’ve just returned to the USA after 34 years in Namibia and South Africa driving sustainable development initiatives in biodiversity, climate change and environmental observation systems and can tell you that both countries are remarkably fruitful in what might now be loosely called now the doughnut model. If you are interested in learning more, I’d direct you to the South African “Working for…” programs (initially Working for Water, http://www.dwaf.gov.za/wfw/ and https://www.environment.gov.za/projectsprogrammes/wfw), which are national-scale expanded public works initiatives based on ecosystem restoration, entrepreneurship development and equity – google Dr Guy Preston or Dr Christo Marais or see http://www.greeneconomycoalition.org/glimpses/working-water-south-africa. Also, Namibia is still one of the only countries in the world whose Constitution enshrines sustainable development and the protection of biodiversity and essential ecosystem services (and protection from hazardous or nuclear waste dumping). Namibia’s government has done some remarkable things although it has not explicitly realigned its economy with restoration.

  7. 9 May 2017 at 13:55

    Ultimately, everything depends on energy. Food warmth, transportation, for a growing population on a finite planet. See http://www.percapitaoil.com for the end game of civilization as inexpensive oil declines.

  8. 11 May 2017 at 10:04

    A quick confession, I haven’t read your book, yet!

    The Money System – People – The Business Question?

    I’ve been looking at all things related to the economy since around 2007. With a background in business and in 2007 with mortgages, I was pondering the evolving sub-prime mortgage problems in the USA before the global credit crisis hit.

    My research led me down several avenues which included money or possibly more importantly the money system.

    I would estimate that 99.99999999% of global population don’t know how money works and neither do they really care. I pointed this out to a group of people who are interested in money and economics the following;

    A video put on YouTube by the Bank of England which explains where most of our money comes from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvRAqR2pAgw&t=71s
    has had just under 135,000 views. A video about Jedi Cats (yes it is very amusing) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Z3r9X8OahA has had almost 23,000,000 views.

    Businesses know they have to sell stuff or they will go out of business. They know there are only three ways to grow a business. Get new customers, sell more to existing customers and or increase the average transaction value.

    The end result is that a business would be committing commercial suicide if for example they made products which lasted longer. So their focus is to find ever craftier ways to sell us more stuff; EG built in obsolescence, add a tweak here and there, sell us a dream so we buy more and so on.

    When introducing new ideas to business owners I get the cold shoulder. When speaking to people about economics, the money system or some other part of economics I get a confused look.

    My point being that the media and that includes so called public service broadcasts are simply not aware of these questions or ignore them for some other reason.

    The narrative is all pervasive, it’s about growth and nothing but growth. Most people are simply not tuned in to anything else and they can’t imagine another world.

    Thoughts to ponder!