Clarity First Newsletter,
July 5, 2019

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of humans as self-sufficiency. Humans are social beings.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Clarity First

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

It’s summertime, and here in the U.S. many of us are enjoying a long holiday weekend. In honor of the day we celebrate our independence from the British Crown, in this letter I hold up our next collective challenge: learning to honor and support our interdependence.

Happy 4th of July weekend.


Interdependence, Community

Interdependence is one of nature’s most fundamental operating principles, transcending geography, race, religion, political affiliation and economic status.

Research reveals that children begin to associate animals and plants with each other spontaneously in their drawings by the age of eight.

“What if we had an Interdependence Day? It would be a holiday dedicated to advancing policies and progress that support the founding principle of the United States: the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“I pose this not as an aspirational or idealistic pipe dream, but rather as inspiration to explore what it would look like, and mean, to design and align policies, technologies and finance mechanisms in service of a world that actually works for all — all people and all species.”

Article: A Nod to Unalienable Truth of Interdependence


Interdependence, Relationships

Why interdependence is healthy for a relationship

“Most of us value connection with others, especially in our romantic relationships. In fact, we are wired for connection and it allows us to create bonds and intimacy with our partner. The success of long-term relationships depends heavily on the quality of our emotional connection with each other. When we think of our ideal relationships we often think of a wonderful, close, lifelong relationship with our most important person.

“So, how do we build that kind of relationship? That cozy, safe, long-term bond with someone who we know has our back for the long haul? A relationship that give us the freedom to be ourselves, that supports our growth and allows us to have flexibility with each other?”

Article: How to Build a Relationship Based on Interdependence


Interdependence, Ecological Health

In nature, more is better.

“Coral reef” by Jen R is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“Coral reefs are home to so many species that they often are called ‘the rainforests of the seas.’ Today they face a daunting range of threats, including ocean warming and acidificationoverfishing and pollution. Worldwide, more than one-third of all coral species are at risk of extinction.

“My own work examines whether greater diversity of coral species on reefs can help corals survive and thrive. In a study published earlier this year, my colleague Mark Hay and I found evidence that the answer is yes. This finding could help to inform broader strategies for making coral reefs more resilient in altered oceans.”

Article: Biodiversity Helps Coral Reefs Thrive – and Could be Part of Strategies to Save Them.


Interdependence, Biomimicry, Systems Thinking

Looking to nature for design inspiration to develop solutions to climate change

Rice Age is aiming to solve the problems of plastic use, water loss, and methane emissions in the rice growing industry. By emulating the hexagonal shape of the honeycomb and the circulatory system of termite mounds in a closed-loop system, Rice Age is able to maximize land use, oxygenate the soil, and preserve water in rice production.

“The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is an annual competition in its 5th year that invites innovators to learn how to use biomimicry—the process of looking to nature for design inspiration—to develop solutions to climate change. This year, nearly 100 teams from 17 countries entered the Challenge with hopes of becoming a finalist and being invited to join the 2019-2020 Biomimicry Launchpad, a program that supports prototyping, a path toward commercialization.”

Article: 10 Finalist Teams Use Lessons from Nature to Create Radical Solutions to Climate Change Problems


Interdependence, New Economy, Cooperatives

Why it matters that folks engaged in economic justice confront white privilege. 

The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance’s co-op business developers are creating a promising environment for bridging racial disparities in economic terms.

“I never lacked for anything,” Jamila Medley says of her childhood in Brooklyn in the eighties and nineties. But it was there that she “met grandmothers taking care of two or three grandkids with an annual income of $5000, my first introduction to poverty at that scale.”

“This discovery and her own desire to be of service led her to work in the nonprofit world—aiding the homeless, those in recovery or ill from cancer—while earning an MS in Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania.

“But a later position at Mariposa Food Co-op in West Philadelphia exposed her to a different model. No longer helping people, she’s now empowering them to create a thriving co-operative economy.”

Article: Replacing Privilege with Shared Prosperity


Interdependence, New Economy, Agriculture

Small farmers and food businesses are essential to building a resilient food system, but they need flexible, patient capital to thrive. 

“Creating a food system that can feed a growing population in the face of climate change—without replicating the harms of the industrial food system—is one of the great challenges of our time.”

“Small farmers and food businesses across the United States are adopting a place- and equity-based approach to the problem. They’re working to strengthen regional food systems in a way that gives communities more say in the allocation of resources while creating quality jobs and stewarding the land.”

“Financing these enterprises is essential to building a resilient food system. ‘Small’ doesn’t mean insignificant in this sector: Small farmers feed 70 percent of the world’s population and are responsible for 20 percent of agricultural sales in the United States. Yet lack of access to affordable farmland and capital is limiting the number of new farms and farmers—a troubling fact given the average age of the US farmer is 58.”

“We need a new approach to food-system finance, one in which foundations—which have the kind of flexible, patient capital these enterprises need—go beyond grantmaking and start investing.”

Article: Foundations Can Unlock a Food System to Feed the World


Community, Diversity, Inclusion

“Refugees like me know that we can never go home.”

“fireworks #4” by humbletree is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Today I’m celebrating my first Independence Day as a US citizen, eating barbecued veggie burgers and watching the Universal Studios fireworks with friends. I’m so grateful for the incredible hospitality I’ve received from ordinary Americans, and for the community I’ve found since being granted asylum here.”

Article: Opinion: It’s My First July 4 As An American. I Hope More Refugees Are Welcomed Like I Was.



As they do every other year, last weekend Jeff Tweedy and Wilco brought the Solid Sound Festival to MASS MoCA in nearby North Adams.

Brooklyn Vegan was there and reposted several Instagram feeds of the Feelies, with Tweedy, covering Neil Young’s Don’t Cry No Tears. What a treat.

Article: Solid Sound 2019 Saturday in pics (Wilco, Feelies, Cate Le Bon, The Minus 5, more)

Las Cafeteras play the Dean’s Beans stage Friday night at the Green River Festival. July 13, 2018

Las Cafeteras play the Dean’s Beans stage on opening night at last year’s Green River Festival. For the Athol Daily News/PAUL FRANZ

Speaking of festivals, the Green River Festival will open right here in Greenfield one week from today. This is a fabulous 3-day, 4-stage festival that brims with great energy. This year’s lineup includes the Wood Brothers, Lakou Mizik, Rhiannon Giddens, Low Cut Connie, Fantastic Negrito, Angelique Kidjo, Mtali Banda Oneness Project and Lucinda Williams. I’m volunteering in the Greenfield Community College tent on Saturday afternoon. Stop by and say hello.

Website: The Green River Festival



Image of the Week

The image in the header of this letter is a sketched drawing of the shoes in red colored pencil by Teresita de la Torre.

The image of the week is by Teresita de la Torre. It is a photograph of facsimiles of the shoes her mother wore to cross the U.S. border for the first time 40 years ago.

The work was sparked by a conversation she overheard in 2017. “Her niece was interviewing the artist’s mother in regards to her migration story and how she ended up living in the United States.

“…There was one detail that stood out during this telling. The artist’s mother, during the interview, mentioned that when she crossed the border in Tijuana using a ‘coyote,’ she did so in red heels. The artist was in disbelief and inquired if her mother had known what she was getting herself into in terms of the crossing. Her mother responded ‘pues si,’  but the heels were not that high and that she wanted to look ‘guapa’ for the artist’s dad who had crossed prior and was waiting for her ‘en el toro lady’.”

Image via OCWEEKLY

“The artist sketched a drawing of the shoes in red colored pencil, as she sat with her mother who described in detail – wedges, not heels, not super high, how they wrapped and straddled the heel, the latch, and how the eight straps interlaced the front of the shoe.

“Using that sketch, the artist decided to create a replica of the shoes using cardboard, paper mache, and chicken wire, which she would wear to cross the border in a performance action to  “recreate” her mother’s story and honor her sacrifice.” To quote the artist:

“I have citizenship status and decided to cross the border through legal points of entry, which is something that I’m very familiar with, as I grew up on the border and crossed back and forth thousands of times.”

“Through the initial border crossing in Tijuana, her replica red paper mache shoes got ruined.” So, she found Fito Vasquez from Fito’s Shoe Repair in South Central, LA. He made a high quality replica of the red wedges exactly as her mother remembered them.

Again, the shoes walked across the border in Tijuana. And she had only just begun.

Next she staged and filmed performances “‘at every point of entry that is significant to her mother and family migration story’. She crossed in El Paso, where in 1991 her family had an immigration appointment in Ciudad Juarez to become residents after a twelve year of wait in Mexico. It was that location where, as a family, they crossed the border for the first time with their green cards. Her third and final performative action for the project took place in Laredo, Texas, where the family made a crossing in 1994 to settle in that community and pursue the ‘American Dream,’ so the artist, her brothers, and sister could go to university and have a better economic future.”

These performances form the basis for her current solo exhibition antes muerta que sencilla (roughly translated to ‘I’d rather be dead than simple’) which is closing on July 14 at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, CA.

If you’re near Santa Ana tomorrow evening, de la Torre will be speaking about the work and its connection to how we all connect, at the gallery, at 6.

Article: Teresita de la Torre: Antes Muerta Que Sencilla


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