July 30, 2014
Oxfam Scotland’s conference last week on wealth inequality presented a whole series of depressing statistics, all of which confirmed what we already knew – that the gulf between rich and poor is growing rather than closing. The event was also used to introduce a potentially useful new tool designed to help focus the debate about how society might be able to deliver a decent standard of living for everyone while living within safe environmental limits. Called Scotland’s Doughnut, it sets the boundaries within which we should all seek to live.
Oxfam believes the world faces twin challenges: delivering a decent standard of living for everyone while living within our environmental limits. These two interwoven concerns are depicted by the Oxfam Doughnut. It allows people to visualise a space between planetary boundaries (the outer edge of the Doughnut) and a social foundation (the inner edge of the Doughnut). We believe this space is where it is environmentally and socially safe and just for humanity to exist. It is where we must aim to reach.
Scotland and the UK face multiple and interlocking social challenges, developed over decades: deep inequalities in wealth and power; rising levels of in-work poverty; and growing stigmatisation of people living in poverty. At the same time we face a global environmental challenge across many fronts, including climate change. As such, we need to develop a model of sustainable economic development that tackles inequalities in the distribution of resources, while respecting our environment. The Doughnut helps us visualise these twin challenges. Building on work undertaken by both the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Oxfam’s Senior Researcher Kate Raworth, the Scottish Doughnut suggests domains – or areas of life – that might constitute a social foundation below which, we argue, no one in Scotland should fall. It also begins the process of identifying which planetary boundaries might be useful for incorporation into a national Scottish analysis.
How has the Scottish Doughnut been produced?
In suggesting the domains that might form the social foundation, the paper draws on existing research regarding what people in Scotland and the UK deem to be important factors to realise an acceptable standard of living in today’s society. The Doughnut also begins the process of identifying which of the planetary boundaries suggested by the Stockholm Resilience Centre might be useful for inclusion in a national Scottish analysis. A variety of sources, including many covering consensus-based notions of minimum standards, along with discussions with subject experts, have been used to identify these domains. We have therefore selected domains that we think fit the Scottish context, but these are open for debate and revision – indeed we would welcome this discussion.
To see illustration of the Scottish Doughnut click here