Human Interdependence Literacy

by | May 6, 2024 | 0 comments

Human Interdependence Literacy: The path to nurture

peaceful ecosystems to challenge fragmentation and


Vedabhyas Kundu & Ishita Thapliyal

Aaron Cramer’s (2022) insightful article on what could be the strategies to resolve interconnected global challenges in a fragmented world delves on the role of different forces of ‘great fragmentation’ which are fueling ‘deep societal divisions and inequalities’ leading to conflicts and violence.  While we see across societies around the world the ever-growing deep divisions and inequalities, Cramer underlines some of the critical shared challenges which almost every society is facing: a) a just and inclusive energy transition to limit global warming to under 2°C; b) preservation of nature and ecosystems, including food systems, so people thrive; c) action to address income inequality; d) replacing systems thwarting racial and gender equity; e) protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. 

Cramer argues that each force of fragmentation is powerful. The rise of hyper-technological ecosystems is amplifying disinformation and spreading narratives of hatred. Cramer (2022) further points out, “There is then environmental collapse that exacerbates social tensions and political polarization, democratic decline, and geopolitical splits that drive a wedge between and within countries. In addition, social changes that reflect both important progress and powerful backlash and rising economic precarity and inequity further fragment societies”. Further, when there is interconnection between these forces of fragmentation, it becomes all the more challenging to overcome such forces. 

In the backdrop of the above arguments on how deep forces of fragmentation are exacerbating conflicts and narratives of divisions and   intolerance, it is pertinent to explore different innovative approaches to promote the spirit of interdependence, promotion of solidarity footprints, coalition-building, and collaborative efforts.   

One of the approaches that we are encouraging at different levels is developing our critical capacities to become human interdependent literate. This Conversation will delve at length into how skills of human interdependent literacy can be a mantra to challenge the forces of fragmentation and divisiveness from the deepest levels. 

Vedabhyas Kundu: Ishita, as we start this conversation, it would be worthwhile to share about our work on human interdependence literacy. Also as we start our exploration on how it helps to challenge the forces of fragmentation and divisiveness while countering the forces of hatred and intolerance, we would like to underline that the spirit of being human interdependent literate has to start at the individual level and then expand to family level, institutional level and finally to the societal level. Here we would like to describe our understanding of human interdependence literacy as: Developing critical capacities to not only understand and assimilate the deep meaning of human interdependence, but also be able to act on its principles in our daily lives. It also means how we enhance our cognitive capabilities to comprehend the complexities involved in the micro and macro dimensions of the phenomenon of human interdependence and contribute to its realization at all levels of our life and society. It also entails developing our traditional, indigenous and cultural knowledge which underlined the essence of human interdependence. 

Ishita Thapliyal: Vedabhyas, in view of the expansion of the forces of fragmentation across the world, I think we should expand our understanding of human interdependence literacy. As both of us are trying to promote the essence of human interdependence literacy as a pillar to negotiate the challenges of fragmentation, divisiveness, and erosion of values that bind us together, this dimension is critical to share.  

Human interdependence manifests across significant domains of psychology, notably evolutionary psychology, which delves into the impact of natural selection on human behavior and cognition. 

Notably, evolutionary psychology provides profound insights into the central role of fundamental human dynamics like cooperation, social bonding, and group dynamics, shedding light on their indispensable contribution to the intricate tapestry of human interdependence.

Evolutionary psychologists posit that humans have developed a propensity to establish social bonds and engage in cooperation due to the advantageous outcomes these behaviors offer for survival and reproduction. This is evident by gazing at examples across history; collaborative efforts within groups have facilitated the acquisition of resources, safeguarded against predators, and ensured the care and upbringing of offspring.

Moreover, evolutionary psychology underscores the significance of kin selection, a concept where individuals are inclined to assist relatives due to the shared genetic material. This notion elucidates why humans frequently prioritize the welfare of family members and close kin, as it aligns with evolutionary imperatives to propagate shared genetic traits through familial support and protection.

Human interdependence transcends individual relationships and encompasses group dynamics as well. According to evolutionary psychology, humans have evolved to establish cohesive groups marked by shared norms, values, and cooperation, thereby bolstering survival and reproductive success through collective effort and mutual support.

The field of evolutionary psychology provides intriguing insights into the evolution of morality and trust, which are believed to have evolved because they promote cooperation and reduce conflict. This gives hints of human interdependence.

In essence, evolutionary psychology serves as a foundational tool for exploring the profound origins of human interdependence and elucidating the intricate processes that have sculpted our social fabric across epochs.

Environmental psychology stands as another field within psychology that underscores the presence of human interdependence. Within the framework of human interdependence, environmental psychology emphasizes the bidirectional connection between individuals and their surroundings, accentuating how environmental factors shape social interactions and interdependencies among individuals.

The field acknowledges the crucial role played by shared spaces and resources in nurturing human interdependence and examines the influence of physical environments on individuals’ sense of community and belonging. For instance: Urban design, architecture, and green spaces are among the factors that can either promote or impede social interactions and the formation of supportive networks, thus affecting human interdependence.

This field of psychology integrates cultural diversity into its exploration of how individuals interact with their surroundings, investigating the ways in which diverse cultural norms and values contribute to the shaping of interdependence patterns leading to interesting observations on human interdependence.

As we start exploring the convergence of environmental psychology and human interdependence, we begin to acquire a deeper understanding of the intricate interactions among individuals, communities, and their surroundings. Such comprehension is pivotal for advancing sustainable approaches, nurturing resilient communities, and enriching human well-being in the face of rapid global transformations.

Environmental psychologists emphasize the crucial importance of cooperation, mutual aid, and community resilience in facing challenges. This interdependence among individuals becomes especially evident during crises, as people unite to offer support and rejuvenate impacted communities, serving as a notable illustration of human reliance on one another.

Positive Psychology serves as yet another psychological discipline intricately connected to human interdependence. In the realm of human interdependence, positive psychology as a discipline investigates the elements that foster human flourishing and well-being. It acknowledges the significance of social connections, relationships, and community support in enhancing both individual and collective happiness and thriving.

Positive psychology underscores the importance of meaningful social connections and relationships in nurturing happiness and well-being. Studies indicate that robust social bonds enhance life satisfaction and resilience, showcasing the interconnectedness of human happiness.

It additionally recognizes the essential function of social support networks in difficult circumstances and periods of stress. The existence of a supportive community boosts individuals’ capacity to manage challenges and cultivates mental resilience, underscoring the crucial significance of human interdependence in nurturing general well-being.

It explores the advantages of altruism and prosocial behavior, benefiting both the recipient and the giver. Acts of kindness, generosity, and cooperation bolster social connections and cultivate a feeling of interconnectedness among individuals, resulting in enhanced overall well-being.

The insights gleaned from various branches of psychology underscore the fundamental importance of human interdependence in our world. They underscore the necessity for unity among individuals to ensure not only their own well-being but also the survival of the entire human species. Vedabhyas, this is why I firmly believe that both of us are apt to promote the idea of human interdependence literacy, especially in today’s world

Vedabhyas Kundu: Ishita, you have rightly pointed out the realization of the significance of essential unity of human beings in our pursuit to be human interdependence literate. The core is the realization that I cannot gain while I make others suffer- whether other human beings, nature or other living beings. Here, Mahatma Gandhi articulates the importance of the essential unity of human beings as he notes, “I do not believe…that an individual may gain spiritually and those who surround him suffer. I believe in Advaita; I believe in the essential unity of man and, for that matter, of all that lives. Therefore, I believe that if one man gains spiritually, the whole world gains with him and, if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent. (Young India, 4-12-1924) 

Mahatma Gandhi believed in the cosmocentric nature of human beings where they are only one part of the whole universe and it is a fundamental pillar of his idea of nonviolence. This deep understanding of the cosmocentric nature should be the guiding force behind our relationships with other human beings, nature and other living beings. It is only then we can genuinely challenge the great forces of fragmentation.   

Further, Nobel laureate, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore (1913) encapsulates the relation of the individual with the Universe by underlining how the Indian traditions emphasized the harmony between the two.  He made an important point regarding the phenomenon when individuals were truly in harmony with nature. He notes, “The great fact is that we are in harmony with nature; that man can think because his thoughts are in harmony with things; that he can use the forces of nature for his own purpose only because his power is in harmony with the power which is universal.” 

Ishita, in our tryst to construct the understanding of human interdependence literacy to counter the forces of fragmentation, we have to further understand from Tagore the essence of inter-relationship between all in the universe. In the context of Indian tradition and culture, Tagore points out (1913), “The fundamental unity of creation was not simply & philosophical speculation for India; it was her life-object to realize this great harmony in feeling and in action. With meditation and service, with a regulation of her life, she cultivated her consciousness in such a way that everything had a spiritual meaning to her. The earth, water and light, fruits and flowers, to her were not merely physical phenomena to be turned to use and then left aside. They were necessary to her in the attainment of her ideal of perfection, as every note is necessary to the completeness of the symphony. India intuitively felt that the essential fact of this world has a vital meaning for us; we have to be fully alive to it and establish a conscious relation with it, not merely impelled by scientific curiosity or greed of material advantage, but realizing it in the spirit of sympathy, with a large feeling of joy and peace.” Elsewhere, Tagore was talking about the essential unity of the ‘inner inter-relationship’. 

So Ishita, I think when we are thinking of human interdependence literacy, it has to start from our own inner self, realizing and acting on the essential unity of our ‘inner inter-relationship’. Also, as we learn from Tagore, the idea of human interdependence literacy hinges on the fact that the harmony between human-nature-all other beings is not just a feeling but dynamic action. This action and feeling have to be part of our consciousness; only then can we challenge the forces of divisiveness. Also, Ishita, I think many of the problems of divisiveness and narratives of fragmentation that we see today are a result of a complete lack of understanding of the essential unity of our inner inter-relationship and that with others. The result is creation of negative and toxic ecosystems- both at the inner level and outer level which then starts to glorify the divisiveness and deep fragmentation. This to my mind is the starting point of the evolution of violent conflicts. 

Ishita Thapliyal: Vedabhyas, you have rightly pointed out the essence of the unity of inner inter-relationship for the evolution of positive ecosystems. This type of inner environment is urgently needed and offers a solution to cleanse the negative and toxic ecosystems in which we, unfortunately, find ourselves residing. In response to such circumstances, it becomes imperative to promote positive shifts in human behavior, aiming to mitigate excessive greed through a diverse range of strategies.

Encouraging empathy, loving kindness and compassion among individuals can play a pivotal role in fostering positive changes in human behavior to deter excessive greed. By nurturing these qualities, individuals become more attuned to the effects of their actions on others, cultivating a greater sense of responsibility for the overall welfare of society.

Moreover, instilling ethical values and moral principles across educational institutions, workplaces, and communities can cultivate integrity and accountability among individuals. This guidance encourages individuals to prioritize principles of fairness, honesty, and altruism over self-centered pursuits, fostering positive changes in behavior and discouraging excessive greed.

Emphasizing the benefits of cooperation, kindness and collaboration, rather than competition, can in addition reorient individuals’ focus from pursuing individual gain to advancing the prosperity of the collective. This shift in perspective reduces the propensity for behaviors driven by greed.

Additionally, fostering habits of gratitude and contentment can enable individuals to acknowledge and value the abundance present in their lives, thereby diminishing the urge for excessive accumulation and nurturing a sense of fulfillment and appreciation for what they already possess.

By advocating for the values of empathy, love, kindness, gratitude and compassion, societies can endeavor to alleviate the detrimental impacts of greed and cultivate a culture characterized by generosity, empathy, and mutual assistance. This, in turn, can precipitate favorable shifts in human behavior and create a society of interdependent, literate people with recognition of mutual reliance among individuals and communities.

Vedabhyas, to my mind, in a world characterized by high human interdependence literacy, individuals wouldn’t simply grasp these concepts—they’d actively integrate them into their daily routines, decision-making, and interactions to foster cooperation, empathy, and sustainable behaviors leading to a more compassionate, empathetic and progressive world.

Vedabhyas Kundu: Definitely, Ishita the nurturing of empathy, love, kindness, gratitude and compassion are essential pillars of our endeavours to be human interdependent literate. Also, to my mind another important feature of human interdependence literacy should be our critical abilities to be able to resolve conflicts constructively and as Mahatma Gandhi underlined finish the antagonism not the antagonists. If we have to celebrate the essential unity of all human beings in the real sense, I think all conflicts should aim at transformation of relationships and not erosion of relationships. The transformation of the heart in the real sense should be an important pillar of human interdependence literacy. 

Also, our idea of human interdependence literacy should enable us to practice the ancient Indian aphorism taken from Chapter 6 of the Maha Upanishad, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, in its real sense and spirit. It means the world is one family. In the backdrop of the fragmentation and divisiveness that we discussed, nurturing the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam has become a global necessity. It reflects the idea of global citizenship and cross-cultural understanding, develops deep respect for each other’s culture and traditions, and paves the way for deep engagement between global citizens on issues confronting our planet collaboratively. 

Here, Ishita, while we are trying to put together the essential elements and pillars of human interdependence literacy, what is needed is to promote it right from the school level. The spirit of human interdependence literacy should be able to percolate in institutions like families, the places where we study or work, in businesses and in the society at large. Then only we would be able to realize the actual benefits of being a human, interdependent, literate person. How do you think we should work to realize this goal of a human-interdependent literate world? What framework would you suggest to be able to percolate this idea at different levels of our society? 

Ishita Thapliyal: You raised some very valid questions, Vedabhyas. Realizing the goal of a human-interdependent literate world may require a multifaceted approach that includes various aspects of awareness, education, technology, culture, and societal values.

You’ve posed some pertinent queries, Vedabhyas. Realizing the goal of a human interdependent literate world may necessitate a multifaceted approach encompassing aspects such as awareness, education, technology, culture, and societal values. Initiatives like launching educational campaigns tailored for schools, universities, and communities could play a pivotal role in instilling the principles of human interdependence. These efforts might involve curriculum enhancements, hosting workshops, seminars, and engaging in interactive learning activities. This approach will help foster an understanding of the concept of human interdependent literacy starting from the grassroots level.

Additionally, launching collaborative projects that engage a range of stakeholders, including governments, voluntary organizations, businesses, and civil society organizations, can extend the reach of the concept by addressing global challenges through the lens of interdependence.

Teaming up with media outlets and harnessing the power of the digital media to raise awareness through various channels such as articles, documentaries, interviews, and social media campaigns can be instrumental. 

Furthermore, leveraging digital platforms and online communities to disseminate information, resources, and success stories pertaining to human interdependence literacy can be impactful. Developing compelling content such as videos, podcasts, and info graphics can help broaden the reach and engage a wider audience. 

Moreover, involving young people in discussions and activities that underscore the significance of comprehending interconnectedness and nurturing global citizenship can be crucial. Empowering youth to advocate for positive change within their communities and on a broader scale can catalyze impactful transformations and can serve as a catalyst for integrating the concept of human interdependence literacy into society.

Another significant avenue involves facilitating cultural exchange programs and intercultural dialogue to foster mutual understanding and appreciation of diverse perspectives. By highlighting the shared humanity that transcends geographical, cultural, and ideological boundaries, we can further promote the concept of human interdependence literacy in society.

Moreover, proponents of policies at the local, national, and international levels can prioritize cooperation, solidarity, and sustainable development while also underscoring the advantages of policies that foster inclusive growth and tackle systemic inequalities.

Lastly, maintaining continuous communication and engagement with stakeholders to sustain discussions about human interdependence is undeniably a critical aspect that cannot be overlooked and needs to be taken right from the local level to the global level. 

By implementing these strategies and nurturing a collective comprehension of human interdependence, we can cultivate a more interconnected and resilient global community and tackle shared challenges while striving towards our common objectives of furthering a culture of peace and nonviolence.


Cramer, Aron (May 25, 2022). How do we resolve interdependent global challenges in a fragmented world?; retrieved on March 5, 2024. 

Tagore, Rabindranath (1913). The Relation of the Individual to the Universe. Sadhana: The Realization of Life. Macmillan and Co. Limited.  

Dr Vedabhyas Kundu is Programme Officer, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi. He writes on nonviolent communication, nonviolent conflict resolution, human interdependence and media and information literacy. 

Ms Ishita Thapliyal is a psychologist who specializes as a counseling psychologist, positive and peace psychologist.  


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