GLOBAL CONTEXT AND TRENDS

Download Worksheet - English
Download Worksheet - French
Download Worksheet - Spanish

INTRODUCTION

This module explores some of the most pressing environmental threats facing the planet from different frames and perspectives. You will discover the concept of planetary boundaries, biodiversity loss, and the climate crisis, and learn what Doughnut Economics is while getting insights on a new path towards rethinking our relationship with nature and growth.

OBJECTIVE

Through this module you will be able to have a systemic view of your environment, understanding how your local environmental context connects to global trends, and being able to identify those global trends at your local level. To gain a systemic view is to be able to understand the structures, the functioning, and the characteristics of your surroundings. You will be able to look at your country’s economy, food production system, or development model and reflect on its advantages or failures.

USEFUL TERMS

Here are some useful words for understanding this module. Can you find examples for each?

Biodiversity: Refers to the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are a part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

Ecosystem: A dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

Ecosystem Services: Benefits that people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as regulation of floods, drought, land degradation, and disease; supporting services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling; and cultural services such as recreational, spiritual, religious and other non-material benefits.

Biodiversity Loss: The reduction of any aspect of biological diversity (i.e. diversity at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels) is lost in a particular area through death (including extinction), destruction or manual removal; it can refer to many scales, from global extinctions to population extinctions, resulting in decreased total diversity at the same scale. (IPBES)

Climate Change: As defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods”.

Ocean Acidification: CO2 emissions are dissolved in the oceans, which forms carbonic acid, altering ocean chemistry and decreasing the pH of the surface water. This acidity destroys marine ecosystems. (SRC) Doughnut Economics

Planetary Boundaries

The concept was proposed in 2009 by scientists Johan Rockström and Will Steffen. The framework identified nine critical processes of the Earth’s system in which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come: climate change, ocean acidification, biogeochemical nitrogen cycle, global freshwater use, stratospheric ozone depletion, biodiversity loss or biosphere integrity, land-use system change, and phosphorus cycle. Crossing these boundaries increases the risk of generating large-scale abrupt or irreversible environmental changes.

We have already crossed four of the nine boundaries, which is the driving force behind urgently needed action. The most common model found in our current societies is linear thinking, which means thinking in a straight line that brings us from point A to point B with simple connections in between and low consideration for anything outside the line. For example, our industrial system extracts from the earth, makes goods for consumption, consumers purchase the goods, and then the goods are disposed of. This way of thinking does not consider what happens to the earth during extraction, the climate during creation, or what happens to the products after disposal. Doughnut Economics provides an alternative mental model, or way of thinking, about this system.

Doughnut Economics

Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model shows us that we need to find a safe and just space for humanity that allow us to create a regenerative and distributive economy, below an ecological ceiling. This means below the planetary boundaries and above a social foundation. In other words, we need to ensure that we all have access to water, food, health, education, income and work, political voice, and other basic needs in order to have a life with dignity and to thrive as humans while avoiding crossing the planetary boundaries.
The next module will take you on a deep dive into this regenerative concept.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Global environmental issues refers to topics affecting the entire planet. These global topics are often felt at a local level, and can be considered in a local or regional context, too.
  • Nature makes life on Earth possible for humans and all other species. This is considered ecosystem services, and it’s important for us to protect nature and work to eliminate the threats against the environment in order to preserve the functions necessary for life.
  • Overshooting the planetary boundaries is the result of a linear way of thinking and functioning in our societies and economies.
  • Social systems are related to ecological and economical systems, and within those systems we see a lot of interactions. A new, regenerative system is necessary for a fair and just future for all life.

CHANGEMAKER CHALLENGE

  • Beginner: Think about the nature that surrounds your community. Have you noticed any changes over the last 10 years? Was there a river you swam in as a kid that has now dried up? How regularly do you see bees? What is the air like? What does this tell you about biodiversity where you live? Is it increasing, staying stable, or declining? Write down your observations.and
  • Intermediate: Refer back to the Doughnut Economics model on Page 2 and consider your country. Does your country have the elements of a strong social foundation? If not, which parts are missing? What areas could be improved?
  • Advanced: Choose one of the planetary boundaries from the Doughnut Economics model and learn more about it. Is your community or country feeling the effects of overshooting this boundary? If so, how? Write down what steps you think should be taken today in order to shift the current trajectory, and what it would look like to have our planet back in balance again.

Doughnut Economics Action Lab (DEAL)
DEAL is part of the emerging global movement of new economic thinking. They work with changemakers worldwide to lead transformative action and create systemic change. If you want to be part of this community or access different material or events, visit their website. ‘Have you noticed any changes over the last 10 years?’ and ‘Was there a river you swam in as a kid that has now dried up?

OPTIONAL MATERIALS

Reflection corner

After watching the module’s video, reflect on the following question:

  • Take a look through the window, or take a walk if possible, and observe the different dynamics between animals, plants, humans and objects.
  • Can you identify the interconnectedness among all of them?
  • Could you tell the relationship between the ecosystem’s wellbeing and your own?

FACILITATOR

ALEJANDRO ALVAREZ
LEADER OF CIUDAD VERDE*
LATINAMERICA**

Alejandro holds a B.Sc in Process Engineering EAFIT University, a Masters Degree in Sustainability Science from Leuphana University Lünerberg, and is currently studying his PhD in Education Sustainable Development at Maastricht University. Alejandro is Coordinator of Environmental Culture at EAFIT University. He is a member of the citizen movement La Ciudad Verde which has presence in Ecuador, México and Colombia. Alejandro meets twice a week with his neighbours to make bio-compost that attract pollinators.