Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space? Using the doughnut model to explore environmental sustainability and social justice

Publication date

28 May 2015

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The world has entered an era of unprecedented environmental change and social inequality. South Africa is no exception having suffered unique challenges following decades of injustice under apartheid. The future of South Africa depends on the country’s ability to end social deprivation and manage environmental stress, enabling its people to live in a space where it is both safe and just for humanity to exist.

This paper uses Oxfam’s ‘doughnut model’ to describe the multi-dimensional nature of poverty and environmental change, providing a snapshot of South Africa’s current position against the suggested set of domains and indicators. It reveals that a significant proportion of South Africans are living below the social floor, while the country has already crossed its safe environmental boundaries for climate change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss and marine harvesting.