Ecological economics in the time of coronavirus

Dear Friends of Doughnut Economics,

I hope you and your family and community are well, safe, and looking out for each other.

The need for new economic thinking is most evident than ever. I’m planning a series of video blogs exploring the coronavirus crisis through the lens of Doughnut Economics, but am struggling to find the time to get started – between working, homeschooling, housework, community care, and sleep. But these blogs are on the way. If you have any ideas or examples for them, please do share below or on Twitter.

Herman Daly, founding father of ecological economics, is one of my paradigm-changing heroes, so it was a huge honour to be in conversation with him and Andy Revkin on 31 March, talking about big-systems thinking, resilience, and the power of pictures in the time of coronavirus. Catch up with our hour-long video conversation and do check out the many other fascinating conversations on Andy’s #SustainWhat video series in response to coronavirus. 

75 thoughts on “Ecological economics in the time of coronavirus

  1. Bernard Lietaer
    1 April 2020 at 12:59

    Efficiency is the opposite of resilience and sustainability is the liveable middle between them. Our economy needs more resilience to face crises as corona. Cf the shortage of masks in Belgium.

    1. 1 April 2020 at 22:16

      Why has efficiency to be the opposite of resilience? I don’t get it. Hospitals and even The US states have to compete against each other to get the desperately needed protection equipment and ventilators, and so they push prizes up. That’s obviously not efficient. Everyone can see, that under the current circumstances it would be much more efficient, if there where full transparency about the manufacturing capacity around the globe and the capacity of the health system unites and their special needs, and the exchange could be organized as a common system of communicating pipe.

      1. Bernard Lietaer
        2 April 2020 at 08:41

        You are right that we need transparency and we should work together instead of competing. The way we do it now is not efficient, indeed. That was not my point. In Belgium, we had a stock of mask until ten years ago, but stocking costs money, so that is nog efficient. Now we don’t have a stock (=efficient), but in times of crisis, like now, we have a shortage of masks (=no resilience).
        I only wanted to say that a system, like our economy, can only be sustainable if it does not only focus on efficiency, but also on resilience. And resilience means seemingly redundant items, wether it be a million masks, 100 servers in a computer network of 5 operators in a big factory.
        (btw; Bernard Lietaer is not my real name, this idea simply is his, you can read ‘Money and sustainability’ (2012) from this genius.)

        1. Mike Morris
          2 April 2020 at 10:12

          The distinction being made here (i.e. with and between efficiency and resilience) essentially draws upon time. Efficiency is commonly understood in terms of a ratio between the energy in and the work out with the time dimension typically discounted. Time – continuities and discontinuities, step changes, in events – is inherent to the concept of resilience. In order to clarify the relationship between efficiency and resilience, one needs to a framing that maps in considerations of time.

          There seems to be a parallel here with thinking on complexity and the changing nature of decision-making when there is increasing disparity between decision-makers and growing uncertainties (i.e. unknown unknowns) – and I’m thinking of work by Stacey et al. An example of a step changes to the unfolding of events might would be the switch from complexity to chaos – a juncture that many folk’s emotions are making right now?

      2. Roland
        10 April 2020 at 14:22

        @ Hans.

        For something to be efficient it needs to get the best output with the least input.
        For something to be resilient it needs to have a steady output in a myriad of situations.
        These are somewhat opposing goals because you would always have to invest more into making something resilient which could have been used elsewhere.

        A great example and direct analogy can be seen in motorcycle engine technology with a well covered story being the 1996 Suzuki SRAD GSX-R 750.
        During the development of that engine they realised that their previous engine was never failing due to it being over engineered. This was great because it meant that the engine could stand a lot of abuse but still work without reliability issues.
        However, by redesigning it they were able to reduce almost 20kg of weight and release a huge amount of power for the time.

        If we extrapolate this to a foodbank program wher eyou provide meals for the needy you could go for either or:
        Either you create a system that provides for full meals for let’s say 100 people/cantine.
        Or you pare down the menu to something that is less encompassing – nutritionally speaking – but could get 150 people fed.
        The first system is more resilient in the sense that even if you were to reduce the size of portions during hard times you might still be able to keep it on some level, whereas the second system never had much wiggle room and would leave people out when resources got scarce.

        It is a practical issue that can become a moral conundrum with advatages and disadvantages on both ends.

    2. 7 April 2020 at 11:49

      Dear Bernard,

      Please consider the Global Resource Bank for eco-economic sustainability.

  2. J Smolderen
    1 April 2020 at 13:01

    Dear Kate, Now that governments are bailing out companies and also handing out money to people in need, I would like to hear if this crisis wouldn’t be a good start implementing basic income. Now that we travel less, people have more time for family and things that really matter. And our need for “stuff” is declining too (I think, well except for toilet paper).

    1. Elizabeth
      1 April 2020 at 16:26

      Yes, now is the time for Basic Income. We are in a fissure-like moment when new ideas can be allowed though the cracks of convention and a bold new positive paradigm shift can take place.

      1. 7 April 2020 at 11:57

        Dear Smolderen, The Global Resource Bank eco-economy gains everyone a sufficient and secure basic income.

    2. Stephen Tooth
      1 April 2020 at 17:13

      That’s my interest (and hope) too but I wonder whether even those with good intentions will just go back to normal consumptive, over-busy lifestyles when things start getting back to near-normal.

      1. 7 April 2020 at 12:00

        Dear Mr. Tooth, Please consider the Global Resource Bank eco-economy.

      2. 13 April 2020 at 00:45

        I share Stephen tooth’s fear of a return to what passed for normal, but as a long time UBI advocate, it can be a catalyst for permanently reducing humans’ eco-footprint. But that will only happen if the UBI is explicitly linked to saving the ecosphere, and that will require redistribution

    3. Malthus Anderson
      2 April 2020 at 00:20

      Yes, now IS the time for UBI.

      1. 7 April 2020 at 12:02

        Dear Malthus, For universal basic income please consider the Global Resource Bank eco-economy.

    4. 3 April 2020 at 23:34

      I am sgruggling (but failing) to get K Raworth to incorporate my ideas into her thinking,as per
      I have been asking for an unconditional basic income (UBI) for over 40 years – as a way towards a steady (doughnut) state economy.
      This will surprise most UBI supporters, who want social justice (so do I) but they think the UBI will boost economic growth. It might, but that would be disastrous to the doughnut. My weblog tries to explain

      1. Koen Develter
        6 April 2020 at 21:17

        I think Bernard Lietaer would say: ‘Before you support a UBI, you should know the nature of our money. Our money is scarse, because of the rent and because of its origin: bank debt. A basic income tries to make scarce money not scarce. That may work for a while, but fighting against the nature of money will take a lot of energy and needs a lot of conviction.
        Therefore, it is easier and more sustainable to introduce new money, based e.g. on mutual credit. Think of LETS and time dollars. This new money will also create new welfare, without redistribution.
        So instead of putting your energy in fighting against yang money, create yin money!

        1. 7 April 2020 at 12:09

          Dear Mr. Lord, For a sustainable steady (doughnut) state global eco-economy please consider the Global Resource Bank solution to poverty and pollution.

  3. Mounia Barakat
    1 April 2020 at 13:14

    Thank you this is great! cannot wait! if we can please discuss how developing and strengthening small scale food systems can create more resilience, and how it is more important today to be self-sufficient in the main inputs for food production.

    1. Koen Develter
      2 April 2020 at 21:19

      To improve small scale food systems you can implement complementary currencies – that are also small scale, eg the scale of a small town. I have read a lot about it in Bernard Lietaer’s ‘The future of money’ (2001), the same man that said that sustainable is the liveable middle between superefficient and superresilient.
      Complementary currencies already exist (cf LETS, Bristol pound etc) and they create financial resilience, as long as they don’t have interest. I cannot summerise a book here, so please read it (skip the first 144 pages, they are not necessary). A monoculture of national currencies is too vulnerable.
      The main idea: all money is created out of nothing through bank debt with interest. Once you ‘ve paid back your loan, the money disappears into nothing again, but the interest is real. So to pay your interest, you (or someone else) needs to have another loan. This means that the total volume of money needs to increase constantly, or we can’t pay the interest. The most financially stable way to increase the money volume is to keep the economy growing.

  4. Olaf Blaauw
    1 April 2020 at 13:25

    One of the more uplifting learnings to come out of this crisis is that we discover that most of the entrenched system status quo’s we found ourselves in were self imposed. Systems (i.e. the Dutch healthcare system) are showing much greater plasticity than most people expected. “Givens” such as austerity and efficiency turned out to be anything but, at the flick of a viral switch. The Dutch proverb goes that “under pressure, everything liquifies”, and I see quite a number of people now getting into the “stop and think” mode. No time like the present, indeed👍🏻

  5. Russell Sheldrick
    1 April 2020 at 13:50

    Thanks Kate
    I’m looking forward to these blogs. Perhaps we could start to think about how we communicate the message of doughnut economics in a simple manner, to reach more people.
    The far right and conservative politicians have successfully conned people through the skilful use of sound bites and slogans that appeal to the ‘heart’ not the ‘head’. We have to be realistic and play this game if we are to make any difference and move beyond our own echo chamber.

  6. Roger Kapp
    1 April 2020 at 13:50

    Dear Kate,
    I hope you and your family and relatives are safe too.

    Now is the time to think a new economy that would put us back on track with the Symbiocene.

    Please lead us out of the Anthropocene.

    Doughnut Economy shall replace Corporate Socialism (neo-capitalism).


    1. Malthus Anderson
      2 April 2020 at 00:18

      Well spoken,

  7. David Spreen
    1 April 2020 at 14:04

    I would suggest reaching out to youth led groups like the Sunrise Movement. I think Sunrise would likely embrace the humanistic and ecological value of putting Doughnut Economics in motion.

    As for coronavirus, it is highly likely that the US will not be able to even produce enough testing chemicals, equipment, and domestic factories to keep up with demand. It is evident now that we can’t even generate the number of masks needed. You’d think the “richest nation in the world” would have enough masks in storage or rapid production capability to supply everyone. Businesses would be required to furnish every employee with one, including customers that may not have one.

    Excellent piece by Saagar Enjeti explains how the coronavirus crisis exposed the absurdities of our healthcare system:

  8. David Spreen
    1 April 2020 at 14:05

    I would suggest reaching out to youth led groups like the Sunrise Movement. I think Sunrise would likely embrace the humanistic and ecological value of putting Doughnut Economics in motion.

    As for coronavirus, it is highly likely that the US will not be able to even produce enough testing chemicals, equipment, and domestic factories to keep up with demand. It is evident now that we can’t even generate the number of masks needed. You’d think the “richest nation in the world” would have enough masks in storage or rapid production capability to supply everyone. Businesses would be required to furnish every employee with one, including customers that may not have one.

    Excellent piece by Saagar Enjeti explains how the crisis exposed the absurdities of our healthcare system:

    1. David Spreen
      1 April 2020 at 14:08

      Sorry … not sure why this posted twice and can’t find a delete button. I blame the virus. ; )

  9. Peter Burgess
    1 April 2020 at 14:12

    By academic training which ended in 1965, I am an engineer first, an economist second and an accountant third. In my adult lifetime, the Western world has been financialized and economic activity has become very very profitable. Compared to productivity, people and society have not done very well in the last 50+ years and the environment has been catastrophically degraded. However, over a period of just several weeks, the coronavirus crisis has shown up how incredibly fragile the socio-enviro-economic system has become. The good news is we have the engineering knowledge and capacity to have a much better world, but we all need people in leadership who will put the interest of people and planet ahead of profit. A good start will be better metrics that quantify social and environmental costs, benefits and risks as rigorously as we quantify profit performance.

    1. Russell Sheldrick
      1 April 2020 at 18:24

      I agree Peter, we have the potential for using technology to solve many of our problems. However, as you say “we all need people in leadership who will put the interest of people and planet ahead of profit”. The current leaders are clearly not going to give up their power, even if their incompetencies and immorality are exposed after this crisis. Our challenge is to communicate and connect with the public so that the current leaders are removed and replaced with those who will put the interest of people and planet ahead of profit.

      1. Malthus Anderson
        2 April 2020 at 01:10

        We need leaders with vision, empathy, and a deep understanding of the natural world. Reliance on technology is a straw man and none of those things.
        Its time to put nature first, to change food production completely by regenerative farming, to re-carbonise the soil, to plant hundreds of millions of trees instead of knocking them down, to promote employee-owned businesses (look at the huge successes of Mondragon), and replace fractional reserve banking and capitalism with doughnut economics.
        There are very few, if any, world leaders who have such vision.

        1. 2 April 2020 at 15:36

          I’m also keen on looking at employee-ownership (or other cooperatives eg customer-owned) and think that could be a condition of any bail-outs. Also, any company that has state-aid/bail out should have a limit set for the earnings of the top team as a multiple of the lowest paid. (It would be good to have that across ALL organisations). How do we create a story to explain why this is actually better for everyone?

    2. 3 April 2020 at 11:14

      Forgive me for directing you to my own work but here is my paper that explains how we can put ecological economics on steroids. I am wanting to build up some social momentum to get behind it.

  10. Eugene Eccli
    1 April 2020 at 14:14

    Would like feedback from Daly and Raworth if possible: Is the pandemic a reflection of the growing importance of yet another ecosystem service, i.e. is biodiversity loss now so widespread that its filtering out of many mutations in microbial life has been severely compromised? Call it our collective ecosystem immunity system whose strength has been devastated along with numerous populations of living beings (about 50% by some estimates).

    1. Stephen Tooth
      1 April 2020 at 17:21

      I don’t know enough about microbes or viruses to be able to answer this fully but I read an article in The Guardian that argued that the apparent increase in viral threats is not loss of a filtering service per se but more the fact that humans are encroaching into ecohabitats in such fashion that the chance of viruses jumping species has increased:
      It made me think.

  11. 1 April 2020 at 14:18

    Like others, I’m looking forward to these new blogs. I read Doughnut Economics last summer and found it very inspiring*. I should add that I have only a flimsy grasp of economics but your arguments made perfect sense to me, even though I was sceptical that a time would ever come when the ideas for a more embedded, regenerative, circular economy could be put in practice at a scale that would really make a difference globally. Even the dire warnings of climate breakdown and ecological collapse over the last few years have not provided a sufficient catalyst to actually do very much meaningful at that necessary scale. But now with coronavirus, I’m wondering whether you think that this could provide the catalyst. I get the sense that people are at least raising questions about the possibility of alternative economic models and modes of doing things in a way that was not happening before. I’m still sceptical – I fear that people have good intentions now but will just go back to the old, familiar ways when the imminent virus threat has passed – but at least there is a chink of hope. And I’m more interested in your thoughts rather than just mine.
    [*So much so, that in the last week I even scratched an acrostic poem about coronavirus that draws upon the ideas in the book].

    1. 3 April 2020 at 23:45

      If I can get Kate to look at my work, I suggest that the real root cause of the threat to the ecosphere, of which a virus pandemic is just one of the increasingly probable manifestations, is the Tragedy of the Commons – the tendency of previously useful strategies during a growth phase to suddenly turn nasty due to the exponential principle.

  12. David Spreen
    1 April 2020 at 14:20

    Let’s face facts. Both Democratic and Republican Parties have failed to adopt the kind of reforms FDR offered in the New Deal of that era and will continue to embrace failed neocon visions. Perhaps it’s time to really pursue a 3rd, or multiple, political parties. Perhaps Cecile Richards’ group will lead the way:

  13. 1 April 2020 at 14:53

    Great idea. In a similar way I looked at the corona virus through the lens of culture. Donut economics was mentioned in this way in a Dutch newspaper, indicating that the virus shows how we have created an unsustainable system.

    If short in time do consider the gig economy. I used a platform for making animated videos, Powerpoints with voice-over, mini educational games, icons, maps and more. I am not going to misuse this channel for ads but I am willing to drop a link if prompted.

  14. Gerard van Dijk
    1 April 2020 at 15:24

    Dear Kate Raworth,

    On a global scale I already was convinced that economy-principles should be revisited. I just happened to buy your book recently and only started reading it. The current Corona-crisis seems like an ideal opportunity to call again upon that need to find a new perspective to another balance between economy and private/social choices and our way-of-live.

    There’s a lot of items to be addressed. I’m just tipping a few;
    – Be aware of prefixed/limited views in advocating whatever (specifically: USA-people don’t really have any idea what they are talking/thinking about outside the USA other than told them by USA-media, mister Trump or doing trips). Note: I’m dutch but living in the USA for about 25% of my time.
    – The Corona-virus is showing to be way more demanding to a global economy than any trade-agreement or any stock-assessment. Question/statement: who is calling the shots (and do we let them)?
    – Gaia (mother earth) doesn’t care. Only one of her species (humans in this case) may die (like it seems right now only 1 to 2 %). A minor issue. It will even have a very benign outcome for all bodies related to pension payments (either state or private because as it seems the ones dying will probably be the elderly people) and related obligations/coverage/leverage will change accordingly and substantially change.
    – Many countries at present try to “handle” the issue of direct economical consequences by poviding “trillions of state support”. Although problably right, but no-one is telling were this “money” is coming from and/or who is going to pay for that in the long run. Astonishlingly: this debate hasn’t even been raised in th e publicate debate.
    – ecetera

  15. Juan Mira
    1 April 2020 at 16:00

    Thank you Kate for this exciting proposal to use donuts (I love making them at home) to find out more about the current pandemic and its impact on our well-being. I share an exercise I did in 2015, using donuts, to exemplify BOGOTA´S SOCIOECOLOGICAL PERFORMANCE ON PLANETARY BOUNDARIES.

    Without a doubt, a highly affected territory in its support structure will not be able to adequately respond to the pandemic, or will have to pay high costs to withstand the emergency.

  16. Nat Wallace
    1 April 2020 at 16:35

    A small, and somewhat specific point – but one that I think is indicative of much that is wrong with current economic and financial thinking:
    Here in Great Britain, at least, there has been much talk about companies and the government subsidising people’s wages while they can’t come to work.
    This is, of course, laudable and surely both socially and economically justified, but what I don’t understand is why such subsidy is nearly always based on a person’s normal earnings.
    Are my needs greater than yours because I normally earn more than you? Or do I somehow deserve more for sitting at home than you do? Surely the only sane system would be to either pay every citizen a flat rate or (and this would be difficult) to base payments on perceived need.
    This use of a person’s earnings as a basis for judging their worth or need outside of the workplace is widespread and, to me, seems entirely unjustified, despite the fact that I do quite well out of it.

    1. 3 April 2020 at 23:51

      Nat Wallace is almost, but not quite, suggesting an unconiditonal basic income. Search the internet, but my take on it is in my weblog:

  17. Robin Stafford
    1 April 2020 at 16:39

    Corona might just have made people aware of what exponential change looks like. Very slow to start with so that people ignore or dismiss it. Then a steadily steepening curve until it climbs uncontrollably and becomes hard or impossible to constrain without dramatic and hugely costly interventions.

    Climate change is the same. Gently climbing now but it will steepen, especially as compound effects kick in (Greenland icecap, methane from permafrost). It might be years and decades for climate change rather than days and weeks. But it will climb inexorably in the same way.

    It might be helpful to use that parallel – most people just don’t get what exponential means (I ask people…) so its not surprising they don’t worry about climate change. They might do now if explained to them that way

    1. Stephen Tooth
      1 April 2020 at 17:10

      I think that parallel works to a point, but not all climate change causes and effects are exponential. Year-on-year atmospheric C02 increases (for instance) have been steady (linear) since the late 1950s. Temperature changes are highly variable but superimposed on an overall upwards trend (not necessarily exponential though). Thresholds may be crossed (e.g. in rate of sea level rise or ice loss), leading to non-linear upwards trends that are other than exponential. Species or habitat losses may be exponential (to a point), perhaps ….
      But generally I agree with you that this crisis has been a good chance to get people acquainted with the ideas of rapid, non-linear change, especially through the use of some of the great virus simulations that I seen (e.g. those that use simple models to illustrate the effects of social isolation measures and so on). And here I would agree with Kate and others about the power of visualisations to convey complex messages.

      1. 3 April 2020 at 23:56

        One reason some phenomena are not exponential is precisely because the basic process has started to foul its nest.

    2. 3 April 2020 at 23:53

      Absolutely! Please see my weblog for aking your theme further

  18. 1 April 2020 at 17:31


    It seems a long time ago since we met in Manchester. Anyway we wrote this piece for the Meteor Newspaper here in Manchester and thought it could be a useful starting point for one of your blogs. Happy to talk about it We’ve got other articles as well if you are interested. BTW enjoyed your XR video

    1. Christian Dufour
      2 April 2020 at 03:33

      La Nature prend sa revanche contre l’Humanité qui l’a trop exploitée…
      Puisse la catastrophe que nous vivons actuellement nous faire refléchir efficacement afin que nous puissions ensemble, tous habitants de Notre Planète, appartenant à la même Race, développer un Monde Meilleur où chacun doit avoir sa place…

      Je suis de nature positive mais je crois que pour s’en sortir, il est temps que l’Homme arrête de faire des bêtises… La récré est terminée! 😂

      Kate, I read your book in both languages (English & French!), very interesting! Congratulations & Thanks. Go ahead…

  19. Douglas Sedon
    1 April 2020 at 17:48

    recommended reading – this article in national geographic – ‘the end of trash’ (the circular [donut?] economy)


    doug s.

  20. Andrew Barton
    1 April 2020 at 20:48

    In terms of “see the big picture” and “dynamic complexity” it seems like a lot of the UK health crisis planning is being done as if flattening the curve (and this the impact on the NHS) was the sole objective. The interplay between health objectives and economic impacts seem to have been lost. Surely, greater investment in Coronavirus testing could have achieved objectives more optimally than some of the other steps taken.

  21. 1 April 2020 at 22:50

    Just heard Herman Daly speaking. Ok, but I think we have to be careful, not to get into a position, where we compete with the trumputeam’s mynationfisties in who are the harshest critics of globalization. Shouldn’t we think about building up a planetary common where metabolism with nature is based on a common sustainability management?

  22. Kevin Danaher
    1 April 2020 at 23:10

    This may be an historical opportunity to innovate a new capital investment model. Instead of a hierarchical model motivated by maximizing corporate profits, we could have a networked enterprise model with locally rooted capital having a greater say than outside capital with extractive intent. Freedom of enterprise can mean either freedom of transnational capital to go anywhere in the world and do whatever they want to people and planet (always searching for the lowest wages and the most lax government rules); or it can mean the freedom of everyone to BE enterprising. Large companies like Walmart and Amazon are interested in removing wealth from your community, but the Mom & Pop retail stores on Main Street that are being driven out of business are committed to your community. Where does our long-term interest lie: with enterprises we have zero control over, or local owners who we see regularly at the Post Office, the PTA, or church? My latest book is a FREE PDF download at

  23. Malthus Anderson
    2 April 2020 at 02:43

    We need leaders with vision, empathy, and a deep understanding of the natural world. Reliance on technology is a straw man and none of those things.
    Its time to put nature first, to change food production completely by regenerative farming, to re-carbonise the soil, to plant hundreds of millions of trees instead of knocking them down, to promote employee-owned businesses (look at the huge successes of Mondragon), and replace fractional reserve banking and capitalism with doughnut economics.
    There are very few, if any, world leaders who have such vision.

  24. Christian Dufour
    2 April 2020 at 04:41

    Le Coronavirus fait son travail, comme la pollution de l’air (plus de 8 millions de morts dans le Monde en 2015!)…

  25. Tony Graddon
    2 April 2020 at 10:29

    Maybe COVID-19 is dominating the media only because it is new.

    Do we forget that million of people die from AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis every year.

    Maybe COVID-19 is dominating the media only because wealthy nations do not have weapons yet to control it.

    The interesting question is … when the vaccine is ready, will the world’s poor people evry have access to the vaccine.

  26. 2 April 2020 at 10:39

    Hear hear, Tony

  27. 2 April 2020 at 12:21

    I am a high school social studies teacher who teaches a “Sustainable Futures” class. Just three weeks ago, I began an Ecological Economics unit, featuring…Herman Daly and Kate Raworth!

    Herman Daly has also been a hero of mine, in my case since the 1970s as a teenager, scared to death of biodiversity loss and what we believed was the imminent end of oil reserves (50 years at best, we thought). He is still my hero, for providing a vision of a better world.

    In recent years, Kate Raworth has also become my hero, so I was so thrilled to see and hear the two conversing together with Andy Revkin, who is practically my neighbor here in the Hudson River Valley!

    Thanks to all three of you! Sharing this episode with my students — at a distance now, but very much afraid, much like I was so many years ago. We can and must use this crisis as an opportunity for more fundamental change, so that the next generation takes an ecologically sound path forward.

  28. 2 April 2020 at 17:25

    Kate, I just watched the SustainWhat webinar. How fantastic to witness you and Herman Daly in conversation. The impact that Beyond Growth and Ecological Boundaries had on you, and especially the simple Daly diagram that placed the economy within the context of the planet, were exactly the same impacts on me. Paradigm-changing! Doughnut Economics is another game changer and I use it all the time in lectures and presentations. I am so grateful to you for your work because it does something that the sustainability movement so often fails to do: it offers a vision of what a sustainable future looks like. That’s what Doughnut Economics does. I love the book and don’t know how many times I have recommended it and I have given several copies to others. I hope at some point you will be willing to travel and give lectures. This year we brought Katharine Hayhoe to campus and you are at the top of my list of desired presenters. Thank you for what you are doing.

  29. Robin Edward Poulton
    2 April 2020 at 22:04

    Dear Kate
    Be well, and make homeschooling your priority!
    BLOG ideas:

    1- Time to revive interest on the economics book SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL by Ernest Schumacher, with the sub-title “A Study of Economic as if People really mattered.” He criticizes waste in transport, and an obsession with “bigness” using Indian sugar refineries as one example (better to have dozens of small refineries near to the customers, that half a dozen gigantic refineries involving huge transport issues); and UK biscuit manufacturing which involves biscuits traveling from Glasgow to London and from London to Glasgow.

    2- If we measured output in terms of “energy” instead of “Money” we would come to very different economic conclusions: instead, money distorts our productions systems and oil prices are falling.

    3- I use the model Public Economy, Private Economy, Social Economy: and you might like to develop discussion around boosting the Social Economy (cooperatives, housing assoc, mutual loan-savings groups, etc). Social Economy is the most important part of most African economies, less vital in UK of course. Picture: a triangle, with social economy as the base.

    4- Final suggestion: if we forced companies to follow targets of less transport, more employment, better social impact, better environmental impact, fewer share options, more equitable salary brackets …. instead of “shareholder returns” we would rebalance a lot of our economy, and even replace financial objectives with economic objectives. Then corporations would be more inclined to fit within the Doughnut.

    5– Question: why is a “public company” treated as if it were the private property of the directors? A PUBLIC company should be serving the public; it should not be allowed to buy back its own shares; it should not have any political opinions nor fund any political party; it should behave like a public asset. And when (as in the case of RBS, for example) it is largely owned by the government, it should be treated as a nationalized public asset and its directors should be paid civil servant salaries.

    1. Roger Kapp
      3 April 2020 at 09:19


      Any (serious) work on the topic of « measuring in terms of energy instead of money » you could point at ?

      I’ve been wondering why we’re not doing it.

      To my knowledge, « economy » is not out of the laws of physics.

      1. John Caldwell
        18 April 2020 at 19:53

        The work of Tim Morgan author of “Life after growth” uses the energy based approach to economic analyses.

        1. Roger Kapp
          19 April 2020 at 07:20

          Tx, will check it !

  30. judy seymour
    3 April 2020 at 10:29

    Hi Kate, thanks so much for this. I was listening to Rupert Read (video link here:

    talking on climate change and coronavirus last week and one thing particularly stood out for me. He suggested we look at climate change as a pandemic. I thought that was a very practical suggestion allowing us to use the current crisis as a model.

    If we did, what would it tell us?

    And another thing that’s been on my mind is the need to awaken our imaginations…if too many people cant imagine a different value system to the one we have, its going to be really hard to shift our thinking. What’s the role of artists here and how can we foster connections? e.g…

  31. 3 April 2020 at 11:03

    Dear Kate,
    what a brilliant conversation with yourself, Andy Revkin and Herman Daly! I got so much out of that conference call.
    May I bring your attention to a paper I had published in December?

    It flips the current method of measuring the ecology on its head to reveal a remarkably simple way to bring one planet lifestyles into each home.
    I think it would contribute to your economic ambitions.

  32. 4 April 2020 at 00:05

    I wold like to suggest to robert Mostyn(as per the last comment) and Kate herself, the unconditional basic income as a c aalysgt, or lubricant to facilitae the necessary measures to save the ecopshere.

    1. 4 April 2020 at 04:28

      In my work I distinguish between the financial economy and the ecological economy. Without reading your work to inform me fully, a basic income may save the ecosphere but it sounds like it is based on a kind of collective “poverty”. i.e. we only have access to so much resource because that is all I can afford. I don’t find that an inspiring thought. Please forgive me if I have jumped the gun on your approach.

      My work, called myEcoCost, expresses ecological impact using the premise of the life cycle inventory (LCI)… a catalogue of substances, quantities and vectors (where the materials have come from nature or returned to nature). The LCI is very detailed with thousands of entries for each product. But the LCI in its current form constrains the architecture of material flow economics. The ecoCost of a product breaks through this constraint.

      The idea is that by using a DIFFERENT unit of measure (the ecoCost), that is accessible to the individual through the products and services they buy, provides a direct link between individual consumption and planetary boundaries. I buy, I receive an ecoCost, I compare my aggregate ecoCost to a personal budget derived from planetary boundaries, and I know if I am living sustainably or not. The individual is free to choose sustainability (with social expectations to do so).

      Money does not have any economic correlation to planetary boundaries. Its the wrong unit of measure!

  33. 4 April 2020 at 00:09

    May I correct the typos above please:
    The unconditional basic income is a catalyst to facilitate what will save the ecosphere

  34. 4 April 2020 at 14:36

    Excellent podcast! I have been working with Buzz Holling’s adaptive cycle for nearly forty years and its implications for management. With the advent of the coronavirus its time has come for broader use and recognition of its value. For an example of how it can be used see my presentation at the 2018 Global Drucker Forum here:

  35. Raúl Hirata
    6 April 2020 at 04:30

    I think that this crisis is challenging the direction me were following the last 20+ years.
    Its challenging globalization that was transferring production from one country to other based only on profit. When you have all production concentrated in one place you have serious problems if something happen there. And more dramatically you can not even produce masks or ventilator that you desperately need.
    Its challenging health systems. I´m finding great differences in how the virus is affecting the countries. I think that it will be a test of how well a country is working to keep its people really healthy.
    It will challenge the financial system. So far the cost of the crisis has been passed to the people. This time I think it will be too big to pass as usual.
    So far this crisis has been very good to the environment. I hope we take advantage of this great opportunity to make a real change and save us from autodestruction.

    1. 9 April 2020 at 00:16

      You question the value of a basic income. I think your caveat will be avoided by the cultural, mind set change it makes possible, to a realization that we must observe ecological limits. Without that realization, the basic income is actually capable of enhancing economic growth, not what we need.

  36. Tony Sudworth
    11 April 2020 at 08:29

    Put the Amsterdam story on LinkedIn, be a great example if its followed through
    Post 1945 we didn’t want to go back to the society we had before WW2 – hoping we can get a similar movement after this c19 is done ..