On the VERGE

A nod to the unalienable truth of interdependence

This article is adapted from the VERGE newsletter, running Wednesdays. Subscribe here.

The Fourth of July always gets me thinking about declaring our interdependence. You read that right: interdependence, not independence.

By interdependence, I mean the inextricable interconnection that fuels all life — the web of relationships among people, industries and living systems. It’s one of nature’s most fundamental operating principles, transcending geography, race, religion, political affiliation and economic status.

Consider: 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. 

Of course, a true Interdependence Day inherently would be global in scope — ecologically, and even socially, none of us is an island. But given that this week is a uniquely American holiday, I’m going to hone in on my home country.

The Green New Deal represents the closest thing to a platform for advancing truly interdependent solutions in the United States’ 243-year history. And I’m especially tuned into the role of business, and technology companies in particular, in enabling and accelerating the kinds of principles for which the Green New Deal framework stands.

Let’s get one thing straight: The vision outlined in frameworks such as the Green New Deal need to transcend politics. As a Declaration of Interdependence, it needs to be wholly inclusive. It needs to be rooted in a deep recognition of the connectedness of environmental and social issues — the premise that we won’t see progress on one without the other, and we won’t see meaningful progress if the solutions benefit only some of us as opposed to all. 

Increasingly, we are seeing growing awareness from the public and private sectors, even from engaged citizens, of the interrelationships among a broad range of issues, including decarbonizing our energy and transportation systems, investing in resilient infrastructure, restoring damaged ecosystems and ensuring livable wages and healthy communities for all.

This is where companies come in — especially those in the technology sector.

I was inspired by a recent piece written by Katharine Schwab for Fast Company, in which she makes a compelling case that Big Tech has a lot to learn from the Green New Deal. While the progress we’re seeing from major tech companies to reduce their energy footprints is both critical and laudable, achieving a larger, more interdependent vision requires companies — and tech companies in particular — to go a lot further than that.

Technology, after all, is a critical component of adopting and accelerating interdependent solutions — it underpins everything from the transition to clean energy, enabling more efficient manufacturing processes, electrifying transportation and the move to more sustainable, ideally regenerative agricultural practices. (The phrase "as much as is technologically feasible" is scattered throughout the Green New Deal framework.) And tech’s Big Five — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — command a significant portion of the economy: Their products, platforms, hardware, cloud networks and internet infrastructure touch nearly every industry and individual. 

That’s why Schwab’s call to action to the Big Five — and, for that matter, to all businesses in whatever industry — is so important in pushing the limits of what’s possible by throwing companies’ innovation capacity and investment behind interdependent solutions. 

With that, I wish you all a happy Independence Day, and Interdependence Day, no matter where in the world you are.