Clarity First Newsletter, May 10, 2019


Clarity First

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

This week David Attenborough turned 93. He has been sharing his love and awe of the natural world with us for more than 50 years. His BBC documentaries Planet Earth, The Blue Planet and most recently Dynasties remind us that “every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food that we take, comes from the natural world. And if we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves”.

Happy birthday, Sir David. Thank you for your inspiration and leadership.


Systems Thinking, New Economy
“Without biodiversity the world as we know it doesn’t work.”

In this short video essay Attenborough shares why and how our very survival depends on our learning to protect and “rewild” the natural world he celebrates so brilliantly. He’s not all doom and gloom. He’s got some clear, doable steps we can take to  “reduce our impact by making sure that everything we do, we can do forever”.

Video: How to Save Our Planet


Systems Thinking, Next Economy
“Regeneration is a design principle that works to ensure that all inputs and outputs, upstream and downstream, people and planet, conduce to the health of the whole system.”

Image by is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Last October “the world’s leading climate scientists released the most urgent warning on climate change to date. It describes the implications of our current warming trajectory, including dire food shortages, large-scale human migration and crises ranging from a mass die-off of coral reefs to increasingly extreme weather events. To reverse course, the report calls for a global transformation of historically unprecedented speed and scale. As one of the IPCC study’s co-chairs emphasized, ‘The next few years are probably the most important in our history.’

“Among the ambitious ideas to meet this challenge is to enable a regenerative revolution, one that supplants our extractive economic model and goes beyond “sustainability” to draw down carbon and reverse course on climate change.”

This interview with Marc Barasch, the founder and executive director of the Green World Campaign, is a succinct introduction to this important design concept.

Article: How A Regenerative Revolution Could Reverse Climate Change


Placing the climate crisis in a moral context.

This week the National Religious Coalition for Creation, an interfaith group of Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Orthodox Christians, and Jews gathered for their 20th annual prayer breakfast in Washington, DC. They took the opportunity to release their Religious Declaration of Unprecedented Climate Emergency.

“The Declaration calls for bold, concerted action: ‘Decades of delay on climate action have made small corrective measures and incremental approaches useless. Those who are invested in maintaining the status quo, or who put forth proposals that are clearly incompatible with what climate science demands, are condemning innocent young people – including their own children and generations to come – to a future of unimaginable suffering: the mass death of human populations and the extinction of species.’

“The Declaration places the climate crisis within a moral context: ‘Further delay in addressing climate change is a radical evil that as people of faith we vigorously oppose.’”

Article: U.S. Religious Leaders Issue “Religious Declaration of Unprecedented Human Emergency”


Systems Thinking, Futures Thinking
Futures thinking is about seeing new possibilities

Thinking about the future allows us to imagine what kind of future we want to live in and how we can get there. In her twenty years as a professional futurist Marina Gorbis has developed five core principles for futures thinking:

  1. Forget about predictions.
  2. Focus on signals.
  3. Look back to see forward.
  4. Uncover patterns.
  5. Create a community.

 Article: Five Principles for Thinking Like a Futurist


Organizational Health, Diversity
What if we’re going about this inclusion thing all wrong?

“Most people understand that inclusion is a noble virtue and want to do the right thing. We even think of ourselves as open-minded. But our brains are beset with powerful programming that leads us astray, a form of cultural malware that compels us to quickly assess some people as competent, empathetic, and all the good leadership things, and others as not measuring up.”

But, according to  Lisa Kepinski and Tinna Nielsen, rather than tackling the grand moral issues associated with bias, a more effective way to learn to see more clearly is to “rewire” our brains with small changes. “Behavioral and system changes, consistently applied, can begin to help the individual brain form new patterns and companies to make progress.”

“This is the gently persuasive idea behind Inclusion Nudges, a nonprofit organization they founded in 2013 to research, collect, and share the best behavioral insights to help hapless humans become better at navigating our inevitable blind spots.”

Article: Nudging Toward an Inclusive Workplace


WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) humans have a strong bias for the familiar.

A study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology found that when you assign a simple problem to the Himba, the semi-nomadic people of Namibia, and to a group of Westerners, the Himba are more cognitively flexible. “They were better able to switch away from a learned rule and use a shortcut when the opportunity presented itself.”

Article: Why The Semi-Nomadic Himba Are So Good At Thinking Outside The Box


Social Messaging
A fake ad that is depressingly accurate.

“In a new parody ad, designer Alex Cornell makes fun of our ever-increasing smartphone dependency, using the language of tech advertising so precisely that some viewers might not even realize it’s a parody.”

Article: This tech ad parody is so spot-on, we almost refuse to believe it’s not real



“Jamila Woods is a thoughtful soul. Not just in her music and poetry – with its emphasis on black ancestry and feminism – but in the way she acknowledges those that came before her, her native Chicago, and the young people there that she teaches. Part of a poetic and soulful local sound alongside Chance the Rapper and Noname (she’s worked with both), her mission is to champion forgotten voices in black art by building on the legacies they left behind. Woods is not just a poet, musician or youth worker but a beacon for self-empowerment in a city that gets a bad rep for violence.”

Wikipedia describes her music as “R&B, Neo soul, soul and hip-hop”. But as she says, “Soul doesn’t have to sound any one way. It just has to hit you in the gut with its transformative power.”

Her latest album, LEGACY! LEGACY!, is out today on Jagjaguwar records.

Article: Jamila Woods: ‘I want to pass down the power to speak on how you should be treated’
Live Concert: Jamila Woods – Live at Fraser
NPR Tiny Desk Concert: Jamila Woods


Image of the Week

The image of the week is entitled No Vacancy by Oliver Jeffers. It is hanging now at Lazinc Sackville in London, in the first comprehensive showcase of the artist’s work from the past decade.

“Through his exploration of sculpture, painting, found images and collage, Jeffers takes inspiration from the world today and reflects this through his often social, political and humorously led works.

“’…In recent years I have started taking political motivations for how maps have been drawn, and turning them on their head, using the visual language of cartography as a means to make another social commentary. By making environmental, apolitical and sometimes humorous comments on maps and globes, I have been addressing issues I feel strongly about regarding how random maps are in the first place, how arbitrary the carving up of things and drawing of borders are.’”

Article: Oliver Jeffers’ Exhibition, “Observations on Modern Life,” Visits Lazinc Sackville, London


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