Clarity First Newsletter,
January 28, 2022

“We should be angry about climate change and the destruction of ecosystems. But without optimism, that outrage goes nowhere.”

– Thomas Crowther

Love & Work

A notebook about how we work, learn, love and live.

Many readers comment to me how much they appreciate the sense of optimism that I conjure in this letter. It is not that I do not feel anger, fear and despair, I feel these things more than ever. But the act of gathering and collating stories of hope and learning does manage to assuage them some.

I hope you get the same value.

Happy Friday.


Climate activists young and old remain optimistic as they find that action spurs hope, leading to more action in a virtuous cycle.

“It can be hard to stave off despair these days. We’re inundated with bad news about everything from COVID-19 to the mounting threats against democracy to, of course, climate change. The headlines on that front have been particularly awful. Killer heat waves in the Northwest. Deadly flooding in New York. Fires scorching the West. Word that we’re actually destabilizing the world’s poles. And then there’s the International Panel on Climate Change report that made clear we’re locked in to a certain amount of damage. No wonder one recent survey found 52 percent of people have little confidence in international efforts to address the crisis.

“Yet not all have lost faith, particularly among the young adults coming into the climate movement. Many of them are hopeful, even guardedly optimistic, that things can — and will — get better. Their outlook is shaped not just by an acceptance of the problem, but also a belief in solutions along with the determination to implement them. – Maddy Lauria

Article: Hope is Not Passive: How Activism Keeps Optimism Alive


Impact networks underlie some of the most impressive and large-scale efforts to create change across the globe.

“Networks have been around forever. But only recently have we been able to draw on a variety of fields—including network science, community building, systems thinking, and organizational development—as well as a range of collaborative software tools to intentionally create networks not just for social connection but also for collective action. Not only are networks the organic social structures that we naturally form; they can be cultivated to accelerate learning, spark collaboration, and catalyze systemic change. As a flexible organizing system that can span regions, organizations, and silos of all kinds, these purpose-driven networks, called impact networks, underlie some of the most impressive and large-scale efforts to create change across the globe.” – David Ehelichman

Book Excerpt: Impact Networks

Feminism, Abolition

“Some people might think feminism and abolition are at odds with one another because so much of mainstream feminism’s response to violence against women is a carceral one. Can you explain what the two movements have to offer to one another?”

“In 2003 author, scholar, and world-renowned activist Dr. Angela Davis published Are Prisons Obsolete, a landmark book arguing that prisons, along with other carceral institutions, should be abolished. It’s a subject that Dr. Davis has been rigorously studying and organizing around for decades, especially during her own period of incarceration and then acquittal on murder and kidnapping charges in the ’70s. Now Dr. Davis, in collaboration with fellow scholar and writers Beth Richie, Erica Meiners, and Gina Dent, has revisited the subject of anti-prison activism in her latest book Abolition.Feminism.Now.

“ spoke with Dr. Davis and Dr. Dent about their new book, what justice without prisons looks like, the passing of bell hooks, and more.”

Article: For Angela Davis and Gina Dent, Abolition Is the Only Way



Helping people find hope that the earth isn’t doomed

The Nachusa Grasslands in northwestern Illinois, about 100 miles west of Chicago.   Image courtesy of Charles Larry/The Nature Conservancy

“This 3,800-acre piece of tallgrass prairie teems with life, just like the entire state did until just 200 years ago. Over the past two centuries, the Prairie State lost all but about 0.01 percent of its original prairie. This particular region, now known as the Nachusa Grasslands, was covered in part by neat rows of corn and soy, and that left little habitat for monarch butterflies, bison, or any of the thousands of plants and animals that depend on prairie ecosystems.

“That started to change in the 1980s, when a crew of volunteers and scientists began reviving the land — planting seeds, carrying out controlled burns, and reintroducing native species. The ecosystem bounced back, and today, the Nachusa Grasslands are home to 180 species of native birds, more than 700 species of plants, and a small herd of bison.”        

Those volunteers are not alone.  

“Last summer, Thomas Crowther, an ecologist at ETH Zurich, launched Restor, a mapping tool that shows where in the world people are restoring or conserving ecosystems.

“‘We should be angry about climate change and the destruction of ecosystems’, Crowther told Vox. ‘But without optimism, that outrage goes nowhere,’ he said. Examples of people restoring land give us all something to root for, and now there’s a spot to find a whole bunch of them — tens of thousands, actually.

“There are more than 76,000 examples of restoration on Restor. In a former cattle ranch in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, for example, a nonprofit planted trees to revive an ecosystem that’s now home to more than 170 species of birds. In the Tanzanian savanna, members of local villages have helped restore acacia woodlands, which provide fuelwood and timber, as well as habitat for hyenas, jackals, and other animals. (You can find several other inspiring examples here.) Restor is an open platform, so anyone can upload their own project if it involves conserving land.” – Benji Jones

Article: This Map May Make You Feel Better About the State of the Planet


Futures Thinking

What is the point of imagining new technologies without new ways of living?

Image: France in 2000 year (XXI century) — Electric scrubbing (1899) by Jean-Marc Côté.

“The tagline was clear: ‘George Jetson heads a family of the future in a way of life very much like our own!’ Premiering in 1962, the American cartoon The Jetsons showcased a glistening technofuture set in the year 2062. George Jetson, working man, enjoys the leisure of a largely automated society, only working two or three hours a week — but still commutes to the office by aerocar. There, his boss appears on wall-mounted screens to prosecute his productivity, in a space almost visually identical to Charlie Chaplin’s assembly-line factory in the 1936 classic Modern Times. Back at home, a robot maid takes care of most of the housework, but Jane Jetson retains the role and identity of the housewife. When George retires to the lounge chair, it is Jane who serves refreshments and asks, ‘bad day at the office?’

“Some of these technologies have come to pass, while some continue to be sold as fantasy. But what The Jetsons really has in common with today’s technofutures is an unchanging, uncritical view of society itself. For decades, popular imaginings of the future have promised difference, but delivered more of the same: not only by recycling technical functions (the self-driving car, the robot housemaid) but, more perniciously, their underlying social relations. These technofutures regurgitate essentially the same office or kitchen as in decades past, and the same kinds of users and workers to inhabit them.”Such recycled futures that regurgitate the same office or kitchen from decades past masquerade as innovation to suck the life out of other possibilities.” – Sun Ha Hong

Article: Same Old


Personal Development

How productivity culture is a lot like a religion

“It’s a common misconception that self-help is not a spiritual genre, which it is. It’s largely based on the metaphysical tradition that imagines that our minds are powerful incubators. It has formed some of the primary assumptions of what we call the American Dream. It’s individualistic, and assumes a very inflated sense of agency. It’s hyper instrumentalist, meaning it always assumes that you don’t just have truth, you need tools, you have to make everything into a strategy. All of those are really based on beliefs that have a long religious past. That metaphysical tradition believed that the mind was the most important spiritual generator, that our minds were the thing that aligned the power of the universe with our own abilities.” – Kate Bowler

Interview: Why Simply Hustling Harder Won’t Help You With the Big Problems in Life 


Corporate Social Responsibility, Advertising

Creatives say that working for companies that pollute is a big “reputational risk”.


“Fossil-fuel companies, like ExxonMobil, know they’re no longer, um, en vogue. According to a 2019 Yale survey, 57% of Americans think fossil-fuel companies are at least partly responsible for the damages caused by global warming. In turn, ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron spent a combined $223 million on digital and television advertising in 2019, according to Kantar estimates.

“Many of these ads include messaging around renewable energy efforts. For example, a Chevron commercial tries to give the impression that it’s “finding inspiration in nature” even though it spent only 0.2% of its annual capital expenditure budget on low-carbon energy sources, per a complaint against the corporation filed by environmental groups with the Federal Trade Commission this year.

“Now, one group of activists is trying to sever the ties between the creative + communications industries and fossil-fuel companies altogether.

“Clean Creatives is made up of nearly 400 creatives and 153 agencies that have each agreed to cut ties with—or at least never take on—fossil-fuel clients, like ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, and the American Petroleum Institute. The group is funded by the nonprofit Fossil Free Media and was started in 2020 in response to a flood of advertising from fossil-fuel companies during the presidential election.” – Ryan Barwick

Article: A Group of Creatives is Pressuring Agencies to Give Up Fossil-Fuel Clients


Article: Google Has Been Allowing Advertisers to Exclude Nonbinary People from Seeing Job Ads

Article: European cities that installed pop-up bike lanes during the early days of the pandemic increased the number of daily cycling trips by as much as 48 percent.

Article: Climate change is stressful, scary, and sad. We’re gonna need therapy.


Venezuela’s Orquesta Sinfónica Gran Mariscal de AyacuchoIn started 2020 by playing packed concerts and they had multiple projects underway. But as it did to so many creative endeavors, COVID-19 brought an abrupt halt to that momentum.

But the team was not daunted. One project already in development was called Sinfonía Desordenada (Disorderly Symphony). It was rooted in the idea of bringing many musicians from diverse backgrounds to blend elements of classical music with Afro-Caribbean rhythms. The original concept was to create and perform it as a symphonic performance. Instead, using tech as simple as a cell phone on a spotty internet connection, with each artist recording their own parts at home, they coordinated and conducted 75 musicians to make an amazing album.

“With vocals by Horacio Blanco, the lead singer of the iconic local ska band Desorden Público, the group puts a new twist on decades-old lyrics that remain relevant during a complex era—laments of corruption, inflation, social inequality, deadly violence.

“Social and economic issues have been exacerbated under the leadership of Nicolás Maduro, who assumed the presidency in 2013. Since then, hundreds of dissidents have been jailed or forced into exile, an economy wracked by years of hyperinflation has taken a dive, made worse by the pandemic. And the rate of extreme poverty has spiked to 76 percent, resulting in an exodus of more than six million Venezuelans—the largest in the history of the region.”

National Geographic has posted a great article about the inspiring effort. The writing is clear. But go for the stunningly beautiful photo essay of the musicians in their environs, and of their triumphant public performances of the work.

Article: This Orchestra’s Symphony Found Sweet Harmony During Venezuela’s Lockdown.

Album: Sinfonía Desordenada (Disorderly Symphony)

Image of the Week

“14 years ago in Taiwan, an 84-year old military veteran painted an entire government village to prevent it from being torn down. Now aged 98, the painter is still there, as is the village—and it’s since become a famous travel stop.”

Image by Steven Barringer via Flickr; CC license

Article: Rainbow Village: 84-Year-Old Saves Neighborhood From Bulldozer By Painting Every Street With Joyful Colors

What’s Love & Work?

Love & Work is the weekly newsletter by me, Mitch Anthony. I help people use their brand – their purpose, values, and stories – as a pedagogy and toolbox for transformation. For five years, 360 issues, I called this letter Clarity First. But as of this anniversary – August 20, 20121 –  I renamed this labor of love as Love & Work. It will still be a “notebook about how we work, learn, love and live”, but the new name, inspired by a statement by Freud, reflects this mission more accurately. Learn more.

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