Doughnut Economics – what can we learn as we rebuild communities?

Last week, I was invited to attend a full-day community planning session with about 100 members of our small resort community (in Whistler, British Columbia). The Whistler Sessions: Possible Futures to Guide Us Beyond Recovery are important conversations for this tiny town. Our municipal leaders took a leap in a planning process that opens space for big conversations to address the challenges we are facing. Over the last six months, a diverse group of people from across Whistler and neighbouring First Nations in Squamish and Lil’wat were lead through a creative process to develop stories and scenarios about Whistler’s possible futures.  The workshops were designed to unpack and grapple with these tough questions:

  • What is happening? How do we see, from our different perspectives, the complex current reality in and around Whistler?
  • What could happen? How could our lives unfold over the decades ahead?
  • What could and must we do? How must we act – individually and together – to recover from COVID-19 and achieve our Vision?

As the #1 ski resort in North America, our town has been crippled from the effects of the pandemic. According to UNWTO, tourism has been the sector hit hardest by Covid-19 and may be the slowest to recover.  It has been a long, exhausting journey but as global travel restrictions are lifting, we’re seeing a return to the busy winter ski visitation of pre-pandemic days.

With travel resuming, we’re also experiencing: major traffic disruptions (on highway is the main artery in and out of town), a public transit strike (that hurts front-line workers and business owners), lengthy lift lines to get up the mountain, hour-long waits for restaurant service, and short-staffed businesses trying to keep up with pent-up demand.  This, after a two years of huge strains on our community’s social services, which saw a massive spike in individuals experiencing food insecurity, mental health challenges and financial instability.

But the big question weighing on individuals, communities and organizations relates to the future we want.

Do we actually want to go back to the way things were a few years ago?

Do we let our resort’s growth surge out of control?

Could we reshape our lives? Choose a new vision for our economic recovery from COVID-19?

These are recurring themes in my work and my personal life.  Living in a resort town and working as a consultant for the tourism sector, there is no returning to ‘normal’, in my opinion. For many communities and destinations around the globe, that would be the wrong choice.

Can’t we do better than we did before?

Is it possible to create a just, equitable and regenerative return to exploring the world as a tourist?

Could we all become more respectful and responsible travellers as we book our next road trip or flight abroad?

Why Doughnut Economics?

After participating in this my-head-hurts planning process, I wanted to dig deeper. My business was founded with the tagline: embedding consciousness into corporate growth. I’ve struggled with the idea of growth for the sake of growth; or growing at all cost. It’s a concept I’ve played with for two decades in my career.

I kept hearing about Doughnut Economics from different sources, including a newsletter from Marie Forleo. I often save content like this so I can focus and pay full attention to the lessons. I searched my inbox and pulled up a chair for a Friday afternoon dose of optimism!

What is the Doughnut? “Think of it as a compass for human prosperity in the 21st century, with the aim of meeting the needs of all people within the means of the living planet”  It consists of two concentric rings:

  • A social foundation – to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials.
  • An ecological ceiling – to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot planetary boundaries.
Between these two boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just – a space in which humanity can thrive.

In this episode, Kate Raworth is interviewed about her book Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. It’s a best-seller for a reason, an idea who’s time has come (and may be overdue).  I keep hearing about Doughnut Economics in my work and after watching this, I realize that it’s more relevant than ever.

Watch this to get your intro into the world of Doughnut Economics. I’ll add this book to my reading list and explore how it can be applied to my work, particularly how it relates to resetting tourism in my community and our province.

Feeling Hopeless? Watch this before you give up on the world…

Here’s a TED Talk that explains the concept:

A healthy economy should be designed to thrive, not grow