The Doughnut Economy

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot. Now I’m no economist, but I can see that the conventional model must be replaced with one that is sustainable. We cannot keep using up our un-renewable resources, especially because alternatives do exist. We cannot live on credit; we must accrue real assets we can fall back on. And we cannot continue to ignore the complex issues of the poor; they must receive the support that will make their lives more secure.

We have seen that it is possible for the whole world to almost grind to a halt, and if we continue to live day-to-day, the next pandemic will be even worse for us. And we know it is likely there will be another.

A month and two days ago, on March 11th, COVID 19 was declared a pandemic. And that very day, Jorge and I began our voluntary isolation. We know we’ll still be at this for a while yet; and I admit it is taking an emotional toll. We talk a lot, and we wonder if humanity will learn anything from this experience.

“This experience” – what a weak term to describe the most devastating event of our era. There is not a single country that is not affected. There is nowhere to hide from COVID 19. As I write this post, 108,837 people have died, worldwide. Amongst my circle and on the internet, I hear rumbling and grumbling. According to the orange head-of-state who calls himself (choke, gasp, chortle) a “wartime president”, as soon as the pandemic has passed, “we should just forget about it right away.”

George Santayana, a late 19th – early 20th century philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist, said: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I strongly agree. I Once the crisis is over, I sincerely hope we will not go back to “business as usual”.

But must we have one political ideology? Why can’t we keep some of Capitalism’s drive and combine it with Socialism’s concern for equitable treatment for all. Why are some country leaders so scared of Socialism; many highly productive economies and stable political governments run on basically socialist principals.

I do not know what such a model would look like, but Amsterdam is giving serious thought to a new socio-economic model, and they are positioning to be one of several pilot cities.
You can read a lot about this novel approach, called, the Doughnut Economy, on several sites but none of them are a “lazy-day read”; all the articles I found are extremely detailed, but this one seems the clearest:  Doughnut Cities  By: Professor Herman van den Bosch, Professor at the Open University of The Netherlands.

Doughnut cities

It is a long read, but extremely interesting; following are a few citations from Professor van den Bosch’s writings. I hope you’ll pursue the entire essay.

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The doughnut economy

The model for a doughnut economy was developed by the British economist Kate Raworth in a report for Oxfam entitled A Safe and Just Space for Humanity. The idea quickly spread throughout the world.


The essence is that social and environmental sustainability must be guiding principles for economic policy in the 21th century, and together, they will direct economic behavior.
There is no triple bottom-line: if social and environmental sustainability are in the lead, the economy follows.

The idea behind the doughnut model is simple. if you only look at the shape of a doughnut, you see two circles. A small circle in the middle and a large circle on the outside. The smallest circle represents the minimal social objectives (basic-needs) that apply to each country. The large circle represents the self-sustaining capacity of the planet. All societies must develop policies that stay between the two lines. Where economic behavior nowadays has far-reaching consequences that go beyond both lines, future economic policy must aim to make societies thrive between the lines.

Taking the doughnut principle as a point of departure, economic activities that overshoot the ecological ceiling or do not comply with the social basement need to be redesigned, or new sustainable and just activities have to be developed.

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Is your head reeling with the idea of so much change? It is a lot to take in, but building a 25 year time frame makes the goals reachable – not easy – but slow and steady wins the race.

COVID 19 – Causes, Cures and Consequences

My article, “COVID 19 – Causes, Cures and Consequences” was published today in Yucatan Expat Life. I wrote the piece because I think we should be looking more closely at why we are in the midst of this pandemic. Corona viruses were first discovered in the 1960s, and in 1965 the first that effect humans were identified. If the scientific community and their governments have known since 1965 that Corona viruses can infect humans with mortal illnesses; why haven’t we been paying closer attention? Were economic resources and political interests more focused on the neoliberals’ push to favour profit-driven businesses over human security and well-being?

You can read the full article on Yucatan Expat Life’s website:

COVID-19’s causes, cures and consequences

The following slideshow shows the residents of a very poor community that Merida’s Episcopal Church is supporting to the best of their ability. “The families who come to the Good Shepherd Refuge need care and relief from desperate poverty,” says Father José V. Aruda, the pastor at St. Luke’s, the church that supports the facility. His congregation collects food, clothing, and household articles for this extremely marginalized group, but he feels the families’ pain and desire for a real home. “Most of the adults are street vendors who live day by day,” he says, “they have so little and now they face a pandemic and hunger they are not at all equipped to handle.”

The most necessary items right now are non-perishable food and money to buy medication. Cooked food is also greatly appreciated.

For me, one of the most difficult aspects of this crisis is feeling unable to do anything that actually helps the situation in a tangible way. Jorge and I are quarantined in our house – we are comfortable and we have all we need – the authorities assure us this is the best contribution we can make.

But when we learned that hot meals were needed, we realised that this was a way we could participate without any additional risk to our health. I am the “designated shopper”, and on Fridays, I buy our household provisions from a small market six blocks from our house. It is not any extra work to also get the ingredients for a big hearty stew. I put on my mask and gloves and drive to the market; and then, as quickly as I can, I gather everything up and go right back home. Jorge is waiting in our side garden with two plastic tubs full of water with bleach or vinegar. I empty all the fresh produce in there and place the non-perishables on the garden table – in the strong Yucatecan sun – apparently the virus does not thrive as well in heat. After half an hour soaking, I dry and store the fruits and vegetables; and three hours later, I wipe down everything that’s been in the sun, and put it all away. Today is Saturday and we’ll cook Sunday’s stew. We feel grateful for this opportunity to do SOMETHING that we know is of help. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to meet the people who are receiving the food.

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Next week one of my friends will be helping too; she’s going to bake cookies for everyone. If any readers would like to know how they can help, please contact Father Jose – he speaks English, French and Spanish – and he’ll give you all the information. His number is: 999-247-1519

Another excellent way to help is through Yucatan Giving Outreach. This organization is working with several more communities. You can contact them at their website: https://ygo.mx/

And finally, helping out the local restaurants is yet another way to give a bit of relief to the small business community. This week we bought a meal from Hennessey’s; Sean himself delivered the food, hot and delicious, to our door. You can place your order (in English or Spanish) at : 999-509-7089. We also ordered French pastries from L’Escargot this morning; these freshly baked delights were also delivered to us by the owner, charismatic Antonio Serrain: 999-407-7852 or 999-331-5135. All businesses are hurting, so your patronage is important to all.

As I learn of other initiatives, I will post the details on my blog. I am quite sure this isolation will continue for quite a while, and of course the needs in our city will grow. From personal experience, I know that receiving help when I really needed it, meant everything to me. And also when I am on the giving end, the personal satisfaction of knowing I made a difference helps me to feel more optimistic.

Be well everybody!

A Chocolate Memory…

Joanna (standing with hands on Loretta’s shoulders at Christmas 2006 Christmas
Ken and Jorge at our home, Christmas 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My day began with a chocolate memory that made me smile; and as I reminisced, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for the years of a special friendship…

For about a decade, during the late 1990s and early 2000s, we spent a lot of time with Ken and Loretta. Their three bedroom home was on the third floor of a condo, maybe 30 meters from the sea. A bank of floor-to-ceiling glass windows ran along the front of the unit, and from about 2 o’clock onwards, wind gusts would rattle them with such force; I wondered how they didn’t shatter. But the eerie howling going on outside didn’t faze Ken and Loretta; not even when a worrisome pinging would start bouncing off the stressed panels.

Always, when the four of us were together, we listened to music, all kinds of music, played at high volume in order to compensate for the gale raging around us. Art they picked up on their travels, popped out from a bright orange accent wall, rattan chairs that Loretta made comfortable with pillows, a towering statue of a giraffe and tidy piles of books made their seaside apartment look like an artist’s studio. The aroma of Loretta’s fabulous food cooking on the stove, and the mellowing affect of Ken’s signature margaritas, melted away any cares I might have brought with me. We probably spent hundreds of afternoons together, and the memory of their home’s sounds, sights and smells wraps comfort around me, like a Mexican rebozo.

Loretta was always a stimulating conversationalist, and Ken, an unparalleled listener. Jorge and I never knew what the focus of our repartee would be, but without fail, it proved to be just what we wanted to talk about that day. Our opinion on most topics was sufficiently in sync with each others’ to be friendly, and opposing enough to be lively.

And then there was Loretta’s skill in the culinary arts. Oh my, some of the most superb meals I’ve had in my life floated from her little kitchen. She had worked as a food writer and restaurant critic at a big San Francisco daily; so she knew her stuff. While living here, she wrote a cookbook about Yucatecan cuisine. The current coffee table book by David Sterling is a work of art, but for content and authenticity, Loretta’s “Yucatecan Kitchen” certainly holds its own. (BTW it is available on Amazon)

https://books.google.com.mx/books?id=qr0DnwEACAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:ISBN1589801326&hl=es

Her teacher and mentor was “Adelita”, an accomplished cook from Chicxulub, the beach community where they lived. This lovely woman came every Wednesday to cook with Loretta, and she taught my friend about more than cooking. Adelita, a Mayan grandmother, used to say: Una comida sin frijol es muy triste – A meal without beans is very sad. I asked Loretta if she knew what that implied. “Oh I do,” she said, “Adelita knew terrible hunger during several periods of her life.” Indeed Loretta understood her teacher’s soulful respect and gratitude for food.

Although Loretta and Ken eventually moved away from Yucatan, our friendship remained intact. We visited each other and have shared some of our happiest and saddest experiences with them. Ken passed away several years ago and Loretta lives in Florida now; she has become an accomplished, prize-winning ceramicist. And why you may ask did I feel the need to share this particular story today?

Since the COVID-19 virus arrived into our lives like an army of storm troopers, I think we have all turned inward; we find refuge in memories. Quite frankly, mine are all that’s keeping me sane right now. This morning on facebook, Loretta wrote that in her isolation, she is pursuing old cookbooks; she had an amazing collection of both books and file cards with favourites passed on by friends and family.

Today she posted one from “Ruth”, a southern belle who knew a decadent rich dessert recipe when she saw it. Jorge had us doubled over with laughter when he described it as a “happy ending”. Later I asked if he’s understood his double entendre. He just smiled.

Baked Fudge or Lava Cake

Preheat oven 325 F.

You will need a baking pan for a Bain Marie and 8 to 10 baking cups

Beat four eggs with 2 cups sugar. Add one cup (2 sticks) of melted butter.
Sift together 1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa and add to egg-sugar-butter mixture.
Stir in 1 tsp. Vanilla extract and 1 cup chopped nuts, if desired.
Pour. Mixture into 8-10 custard cups and set in a pan of hot water. Bake at 325 F. for one hour or un til it’s crusty on top. Serve warm with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream or creme anglaise.

Enjoy!