NCDD Commenetary - July 1, 2003

Declaring & Celebrating Our Interdependence

Submitted by Sandy Heierbacher based on material written primarily by Tom Atlee.

My good friend Tom Atlee, Director of the Co-Intelligence Institute and NCDD Steering Committee member, sent out a recent email to his list about the various 'Interdependence Days' and 'Declarations of Interdependence' that different organizations are spearheading on July 4 and other days.

As Tom says, ?In most people's minds, democracy is based on independence (e.g., rights and freedoms). We need more democracy grounded in interdependence (e.g., mutual aid and dialogue). I thought I?d share some excerpts from Tom?s email ? with some additions of my own ? in time for the U.S. Independence Day. For Tom?s full email and the texts of six Declarations of Independence, go to

Tom Atlee.

Tom Atlee presenting a session at the 2002 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.


While independence is a very difficult and important developmental stage -- a dramatic step up from dependence, as anyone who has teens and two-year-olds will tell you -- it is not the ultimate goal of maturity.

As we mature, life encourages us to bring the healthy individuality (which we developed through our independence) into relationships and networks which involve a lot of healthy interdependence. People use words like mutuality, community and synergy to describe this good kind of interdependence.

When Chernobyl melted down on April 16, 1986 , and New York 's Twin Towers crashed a thunderous hole in our security on September 11, 2001, we got glimpses of the dark side of our interdependence. And every day, from our front-row mass media seats, we watch global warming, terrorism, SARS, and the deaths of oceans and war-torn children unfold.

It seems that the world is trying to tell us something. Perhaps it hopes that demonstrating our intrinsic interdependence will stimulate us to consciously co-create positive forms of interdependence -- mutuality, community, synergy and collective intelligence.

Interdependence Days and Declarations

Interdependence Days and Declarations of Interdependence give us ways to remind ourselves and each other just how important interdependence is. Since there have apparently been no official national Interdependence Days or Declarations of Interdependence, grassroots creativity has moved in to fill this need. Websurfing this subject produced hundreds of pages. Each one focused on a different aspect of interdependence -- humanitarian, ecological, spiritual, economic...

In fact, one of the most intriguing things about this almost invisible movement is that local regions, counties, communities, school systems, and others have apparently been writing up their own Declarations of Interdependence whenever they wanted to, for their own purposes. Interesting idea, isn't it? We could all do it.

Here?s what I have found so far:

It seems the first major Declaration of Interdependence was proposed by historian Will Durant on April 8, 1944 . He, Meyer David and Dr. Christian Richard wrote it -- you can read it at -- and 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 . It was a nice beginning -- but only a beginning.

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, notably Albert Einstein.

While it seems historians are 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.

Somewhere along the line Commager's version was adopted by the Global Interdependence Center run by elite global financial institutions in their efforts to further their vision of a new world order -- a vision that has been intensely critiqued by numerous factions on both the Left and the Right.

In 1992 an ecologically-oriented Declaration of Interdependence was written by five members of the David Suzuki Foundation for the United Nations' Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro

And recently a democracy-oriented version was written for the CivWorld global Citizens Campaign for Democracy, a project of Benjamin Barber's Democracy Collaborative. This declaration includes such text as ?without prejudice to the goods and interests of our national and regional identities, we recognize our responsibilities to the common goods and liberties of humankind as a whole.?

Meanwhile, as I said, many others have been formulating their own declarations of interdependence. For example New York , New Jersey and Connecticut crafted one to further their cooperation in regional development and Bloomington and Monroe Counties in Indiana came up with one to express their shared commitment to children and education I find this a fascinating approach to organize a community or region....

And what of Interdependence DAY?

Interestingly, in spite of many individual and local assertions of July 4th (give or take a few days) as Inter dependence Day, the major efforts to organize a widely-recognized Interdependence Day have been inspired the 9-11 attacks. The collapsing Twin Towers highlighted the USA 's interdependence with the rest of the world.

The nonprofit organization "We, The World" called together peace and environmental groups to build mass public involvement in Interdependence Day as a new global tradition starting September 1, 2002 (see globalmeditations/interdependenceday.html). They proposed this as the first special day of "Culture of Peace Month" which includes September 11th and September 21st, the International Day of Peace designated by the UN. Their effort was endorsed by alternative luminaries like Dr. Jane Goodall, Daniel Ellsberg, Dr. Riane Eisler, Hazel Henderson, Thom Hartmann, Dr. Ervin Laszlo, and Paul Ray.

The Democracy Collaborative?s CivWorld Citizens Campaign for Democracy -- which created one of the Declarations of Interdependence, above -- have scheduled their Interdependence Day memorial for September, as well. They figure we woke up to our interdependence the day after 9-11, which suggests September 12 as a good time to celebrate Interdependence Day. They plan a major kick-off this year in Philadelphia , home of the original U.S. Declaration of Independence. CivWorld?s Interdependence Day celebration and the Declaration of Interdependence will also be the focus of a schools and adult education curriculum that addresses issues of civic responsibility, citizenship and global civil society and assures that interdependence becomes an indispensable element of how we think about citizenship in the post 9/11 world. Go to for more details.

And mediator Cathy Gilmer is spearheading a state-wide Interdependence Day in Maine , also on September 12, during which mediators, dialogue leaders, educators, peace builders and others will facilitate dialogues, train people in conflict resolution skills, resolve conflicts in their own lives and help people explore the importance of interdependence. Email Cathy at [email protected] for more details.

As far as I'm concerned, 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," with different cities, countries, organizations, groups, individuals, etc., putting on their own Interdependence Days, and linking to each other to share approaches and experiences. If anyone would like to operate a clearinghouse for such information, buy up an appropriate domain name, set up a website and/or start a listserv, let me know. I'll announce it to this list.

Nurturing Active Interdependence

So these are ways we can observe -- in all meanings of that word -- our interdependence.

But let us not stop there, just observing. Let us move from observing to co-creating interdependence. Let us familiarize ourselves and each other with active forms of interdependence -- paths, tools and guidelines that can help us co-create more just, wise and sustainable cultures.

Anything which evokes or facilitates our co-creativity, 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 dialogue, 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 a 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.

Note: You can read more about many of these subjects on the Co-Intelligence Institute's website ( and/or in THE TAO OF DEMOCRACY (ToD)


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