Interdependence Day
By Trudy Wischemann
7:54 am,
July 9, 2024

I started Independence Day by harvesting some of my baby carrots. While scrubbing them in the kitchen sink, I dreamed that I was celebrating my independence from the carrot magnates who are busily destroying Cuyama Valley with their deep pockets and deep pumps (for an update, see Melinda Burns’ fine July 1 article “Draining Groundwater and Pocketbooks in the Cuyama Valley”).

Putting the carrots in the refrigerator, I realized my freedom from the Jolly Orange Giants is only partial. There are carrots in the special canned food I’m buying for two old cats whose digestive systems are failing. There were shaved carrots in a bag of salad mix I’d snagged for cold suppers last week. Carrots are used as a coloring ingredient in some juices and salad dressings, not to mention dry dog and cat food. Our dependence on global food producers is almost total now unless we start to eat food raised only from our own hands. With my gardening skills, I’d starve.

The heat also was bringing home the frightening truth of our dependence on infrastructure. Over the last week many of us have wondered what would happen if the power grid failed, like Texas’s did in 2021, or if something interrupted our water supply. The hidden blessing of the heat is that it makes us realize our vulnerabilities.

I’d written last week’s column, “Land of Liberty,” a few days before. In it I was wrestling with what I’d learned from reading several books on water, including the new book by Visalia notable Greg Collins and his buddy James Holloway, both city planners by trade. All of these books are looking for a better way to live in this region, and in the arid West, under the necessity of water projects for storage and delivery. Some of these books blamed our constant conflict over water on the notion of independence under which our lands were settled. Some were recommending a more integrated, planned approach to make our region sustainable, an approach that depends upon recognition of our interdependence on each other and the environment in which we live.

And then I stumbled across a piece written by a former Berkeley professor of mine, Randy Hester, called “The Declaration of Interdependence: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sustainable Happiness.” Presented in 2016 at a Landscape Architecture Foundation conference, his speech made me cheer because it’s a radical declaration of independence from the limitations of his field that I found impossible to accept back in 1981.

“Today and every day,” he begins, “we reaffirm our interdependence. We offer gratitude to those prophets who declared interdependence before us: from the ancients Isaiah and Buddha to Harriet Tubman, Rachel Carson, Stewart Udall, among others. In their honor, we acknowledge our responsibility to make places for life, liberty, and the pursuit of sustainable happiness.”

He goes on to say that this can be attained only through what he calls “ecological democracy, a participatory government driven by systemic ecological thinking.” With characteristic clarity, he said “We can see our choice as living happily within our limits or perishing as ecological illiterates.” Then, “with every resource,” he commits himself and like-minded others to promoting egalitarian communities as well as “slaying” myths and behaviors that destroy each other and the world we all need. (I always loved this guy, but who knew he’d turn out so well?)

The difference between dependence and interdependence is a matter of power. Recognizing that we are dependent upon others can make us feel helpless unless we also can sense or know that they are also dependent upon us. Experiencing mutuality is the key to working out a sustainable future. In order to experience that, we have to create the conditions under which it can exist, which includes undoing the power structures that make mutuality impossible.

The freedom we celebrate on July 4th every year is the freedom from oppression by people who do not believe in human equality. In 1776, it was Brittain’s King George and his empire. If we’re not careful, after the next election we might have to fight that battle again.

But here is my hope: that someday we will be celebrating our interdependence as equally as our independence from oppressors.

Trudy Wischemann is a remedial carrot grower who writes. You can send her your sightings of interdependence c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247. This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of the Mid Valley Times newspaper.

About the Author

Trudy Wischemann
Local writer of the column ‘Notes From Home’