Culture in the Doughnut

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Many people make a clear distinction between environmental issues and the social-economic crisis. This is partly because the airwaves are clogged with a two-sided political debate which emphasises the economy. The Neo-liberal gloss on the social-economic crisis is ‘we need to get the economy moving’ and the Left wing gloss is ‘inequality is the root of the crisis’. Another reason is the competition between academic/specialist disciplines such as Ecologist, Climate Scientist and Development Studies, as well as the campaigns or charities that emerge from these.

If we focus our attention on the interaction of human communities with their planetary habitat, we notice the dependencies of our future wellbeing. Kate Raworth has come up with the ‘Doughnut Model’ to show how our global challenge is to create a ‘safe operating space for humanity’ between the UN’s goals for social justice and the Stockholm Resilience Institute’s Planetary Boundaries.


Looking at the Doughnut, where would you put Culture? You might make a distinction between the expressive arts, design and heritage, and place them in different places.

You might go through every element and ask what is the role of Culture here, or you might prefer to decide where it fits in the overall pattern.

Create an annotated version of the Doughnut, or a simple drawing that shows where you’d put it.  

You might decide to turn it into another metaphor. In one trial workshop, we turned it into a life-belt (one you throw into the sea to rescue a drowning person). Here Culture is seen as an engine at the heart of the Doughnut pushing back against the social shortfall as a way to reduce the environmental overshoot.