by Tom Atlee
It is so good to celebrate INdependence Days in the United States and the many other countries that have successfully gained and defended their independence from colonial rule.
For countries as well as individuals, independence is a dramatic move from dependence into a more self-defined, self-created life.
The next developmental step takes us into greater INTERdependence – bringing ourselves into increasingly mutual, peer, give-and-take relationships with others.
Nature has been developing interdependence as an art form for billions of years. Animals like us depend on plants for oxygen; plants depend on us for carbon dioxide. Flowers feed bees with nectar; bees pollinate flowers. Rabbits feed foxes; foxes keep rabbits from destroying their own habitat and starving.
We humans have our own ways of being interdependent. With each passing year, global economics, technology, media and mobility have woven us all together. On the other side of the coin, climate change, ocean exploitation, terrorism and wind-borne toxins and radiation have taught us — or should be teaching us — how relative our boundaries are and how solidly real our shared destiny.
As the fundamental fact of interdependence becomes increasingly obvious, we are slowly learning how to use it consciously to further our collective well-being. We are developing new forms of mutuality, community, synergy, sustainability and co-intelligence which empower us to make our shared fate a good one.
Declarations of Interdependence and Interdependence Days can help us remember just how important and valuable interdependence is.
DECLARATIONS OF INTERDEPENDENCE
Although I’ve seen no official _national_ Interdependence Days or Declarations of Interdependence, there is a surprising amount of both elite and grassroots activity in this area. A web search for “declarations of interdependence” brought up thousands of pages. (Google showed 3020 pages in May 2003. By July 2011 it showed 76,800 pages!) These diverse sources deal with widely diverse aspects of interdependence like humanitarian, ecological, spiritual, and economic interdependence.
From what I’ve seen so far, the term “Declaration of Interdependence” was first used by Henry A. Wallace in his 1933 speech promoting U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Farm Bill in 1933.
But the first comprehensive Declaration of Interdependence was proposed by historian Will Durant on April 8, 1944. Durant, Meyer David and Dr. Christian Richard wrote their version and then launched a movement around it on March 22, 1945. This basically humanitarian document about tolerance and respect was introduced into the Congressional Record on October 1, 1945.
Historian Henry Steele Commager seems to have instigated the next major Declaration of Interdependence in 1975. He was concerned about a variety of global threats and suggested that a global government was needed to address them all — a view shared by many others, including Albert Einstein. Commager’s document was, however, a major source of the “New World Order” vision which many independence-minded people have since viewed as a vehicle for elites to expand their global power.
Almost 30 years later, a democracy-oriented Declaration of Interdependence
In 1992 an ecologically-oriented Declaration of Interdependence was produced by the David Suzuki Foundation for the United Nations’ Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro
The nonprofit We The World group created a brilliantly simple Declaration of Interdependence based on the Earth Charter. Their work is supported by alternative luminaries like Jane Goodall, Desmond Tutu, Deepak Chopra, Daniel Ellsberg, Riane Eisler, Hazel Henderson, Thom Hartmann, Ervin Laszlo, Paul Ray, and many others.
So, while it seems historians were the ones who started this movement, the torch was soon picked up by the twin forces of global capitalism on the one hand and global environmentalism and civil society on the other, with a few political commentators joining in for good measure.
Delightfully, the idea of declarations of interdependence spread beyond global manifestos. One of the most intriguing aspects of this almost invisible movement is that local regions, counties, communities, school systems, and others have been writing up their own declarations of interdependence for their own purposes. For example, the counties and cities of Virginia’s Hampton Roads region crafted one to further their regional development
A number of people and groups have suggested that July 4th (or 5th) should be Interdependence Day — see, for example,
But the major efforts to organize a widely-recognized Interdependence Day have been inspired by the 9-11 attacks. The collapsing Twin Towers highlighted the USA’s interdependence with the rest of the world.
In 2002 We The World envisioned Interdependence Day as a new global tradition, part of a “Culture of Peace Month” which would include September 11 and September 21 (the International Day of Peace designated by the UN). They now celebrate Interdependence Day September 12 as the second of their “11 Days of Global Unity” which goes from September 11 until September 21.
CivWorld also scheduled Interdependence Day for September 12. They figured we woke up to our interdependence the day after 9-11. Their first celebration was in 2003 in Philadelphia, home of the original U.S. Declaration of Independence. They’ve sponsored World Interdependence Days ever since, each year in a different city around the world. See
Somewhere along the line We The World and CivWorld teamed up with many other organizations and built an alliance to celebrate September 12 as Interdependence Day.
Some individual cities have adopted this September 12 idea and are now celebrating it annually themselves.
Perhaps some of them use J.P. Taylor’s simple little Interdependence Day song
It seems to me we could use the months of July, August AND September — or at least the period from July 4th to September 12th — as a “Season of Interdependence.” Different cities, countries, organizations, groups, individuals, etc., could put on their own Interdependence Day celebrations whenever they wanted in this season, linking to each other to share approaches and experiences.
NURTURING ACTIVE INTERDEPENDENCE
Interdependence Declarations and Days can help us observe and celebrate our interdependence.
But let us not stop there, just observing and celebrating. Let us move on to co-creating active interdependence. Let us familiarize ourselves and each other with paths, tools and guidelines that can help us co-create more just, wise and sustainable cultures.
Anything which evokes or facilitates our co-creativity and our healthy collective self-organization is an empowering form of interdependence.
Interdependence can look like dialogues where we all learn from each other, weaving our lives, stories and hearts together and discovering new understandings and possibilities we could never have found alone. We can experience a near-magical interdependence through good dialogue in our relationships, in our groups and organizations, in our neighborhoods and communities, and in our conversations over great distances and times — through telecommunications, scholarship, art and imagination — into the heart of the past, into the heart of the future, into the heart of the Other….
Interdependence can look like democratic feedback systems — fair and open elections, citizen deliberative councils, public conversations, governmental checks and balances, freedom of information, association, and speech — through which public officials and citizens empower, monitor and depend on each other for creating a democracy that works for all.
Interdependence can look like co-creative partnership with nature — like permaculture, bioregionalism, green city planning and architecture, sustainable energy, local economics, and even statistics that measure real quality of life.
Interdependence — if we wake up and live it — looks like all life working together to enhance all life.
So my Declaration of Interdependence would go something like this:
We hold this truth to be self-evident:
We are All.
Therefore we live this truth
in our lives, communities and societies,
and thrive together into a long future
that we create together.
We are the world
that is awakening
to both the fact and the opportunity
of our interdependence —
fully, finally and beyond a shadow of doubt.
We are the world
who are making
ourselves a good world
that works for all people and all life.
Because we know the Greatest Secret
“We are All
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