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If you want to measure how society is progressing, GDP growth doesn’t work particularly well–it completely misses problems like inequality or climate change. One economist suggests thinking of a doughnut instead. In “doughnut economics,” the inner ring of the doughnut represents a base threshold for human needs (e.g. access to food or education) and the outer ring represents the upper limit that the planet can support (e.g. emissions that will lead to runaway climate change or biodiversity loss). The pastry represents the sweet spot: An economy that meets basic needs without trashing the planet.
A recent study took the theory and looked at how well more than 150 countries are meeting it.
Only three countries in the study–Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands–managed to meet 11 thresholds for basic social objectives, from nutrition and sanitation to equality and self-reported satisfaction with life. But none of those countries manage to stay within so-called planetary boundaries. Germany, for example, is using resources at an unsustainable rate for five out of seven of these boundaries (CO2 emissions, raw materials, the ecological footprint on land and the sea, and phosphorus and nitrogen used in fertilizer).
Read more about economic sustainability by Adele Peters at Fast Company