Speaking for the trees
If you have been following the blog for a while then you'll know that books are one of the things that I am passionate about. This week I signed up for a webinar on Nature & the Economy hosted by The Green Party. It came to my attention via a newsletter from the Network of Wellbeing and the thing that really piqued my interest was the fact the information about it mentioned the 50th anniversary of The Lorax by Dr Seuss. Disappointingly I don't remember reading Dr Seuss as a child, but as an adult I am a big fan. So, tonight after work, I signed into zoom to hear Caroline Lucas (Green Party MP), Kate Raworth, (author of Doughnut Economics), and Richard Benwell (Chief Executive of Wildlife and Countryside Link) read The Lorax - and oh my word, what a great episode of Jackanory that was! Of course it wasn't just about the book, it was followed by an enthusiastic discussion about nature, economics and the wellbeing economy. If you don't know the story of the Lorax, it's a tale about environmental destruction, brought about by greed, and encourages personal action to improve things:
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
It's actually quite terrifying to think that this was written 50 years ago, and yet, here we are today, really facing the effects of environmental destruction, much of it brought about by greed. And this is where Doughnut Economics and the Wellbeing Economy comes in. Nature is one of the non-negotiables of a wellbeing economy: a restored and safe natural world for all life, ensuring that the planet's resources are protected for future generations as well as for other species. This is also one of the key points behind Doughnut Economics.
The doughnut of the theory consists of two concentric rings. The middle circle forms the social foundation, listing 12 areas considered essential to life - including food, water, housing and political voice. to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials. The outer circle is the ecological ceiling, covering for example pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive. The trick is to ensure that no one is left short of life's essentials (falling through the middle of the doughnut) whilst also ensuring that humanity does not collectively overshoot the 9 planetary boundaries that protect the earth. You can read more about doughnut economics on their action lab website as well as download really useful tools to support you if you want to start applying them to your life, your work or the whole economy.
The webinar rounded up with questions from the audience. The final question was an interesting one: did the panel think that the story of The Lorax was problematic, because the Lorax tries to deal with the issues on his own in a somewhat grumpy and condemnatory way, rather than building a community? I've been mulling the answers over ever since: no single malevolent mastermind that came up with the way we do things now; the current economics system is built on centuries of cultural development and what we need is an entire system change. That change can start with one Lorax, because we - all of us - all of nature - are so delicately and intimately connected. The story of the Lorax is about waking up individually to what is happening - whether that is through data, facts and figures, or whether it is something feel it when we walk in the woods and realise there isn't as much wildlife as there used to be. Maybe we are all part Once-ler and part Lorax, we need to make changes ourselves. We also need to show up and help make change for those with less power.
And how can we do that? The call to action from the evening was to sign the petition to the UK Government urging them to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet through shifting to a wellbeing economy. That's one simple action you can take right now. I'll leave you with Dr Seuss: