The power of graphics, and particularly the alluring quality of the circle, has once again been appropriated to communicate a critical, much-needed theory. Oxfam senior researcher and former co-author of the UN’s annual Human Development Report Kate Raworth has introduced a popular diagram that integrates a series of planetary boundaries with a set of social responsibility elements. This image has become so popular that it’s currently driving the emergence of a new label called “Doughnut Economics”. This phenomenon is not necessarily new. There are numerous examples of a specific graphic model having such a powerful influence that it becomes the ultimate epitome of the underlying concept. Think about Darwin’s Tree of Life or the Copernican model. This occurrence seems to corroborate the general principle of a successful information graphic: have a strong/unique underlying thesis or point of view. Here is the image that’s generating such a buzz:
You can also see below an insightful talk by Raworth at the Royal Society of Arts where she explains the theoretical framework behind the image.
“I’m really stoked by the traction this diagram has had […] and I’m asking myself why?”, stated Raworth during her talk, and she then exposed three reasons to explain the diagram’s recent popularity (in her own words):
(1) The framing of planetary boundaries is a very very powerful one, it makes the complexity of earth system science accessible to non-scientists and helps us to see the planet as a whole, as a system of interlocking processes that we depend upon for our well-being.
(2) By putting that social foundation in the heart of it, it brings into one simple picture the world of development and the world of environment, and it helps to end the false dichotomy that we face that either you are for development and ending poverty, or you are for protecting the environment (…)
(3) People are interested in it because it gives us a chance to rethink economic development, instead of starting with economic growth, we start with the fundamentals of what we care about (…)