Creating New Scripts of Interconnectedness

Ravi Agarwal

We have come to imagine ourselves in fragmented realities, denying our fundamental connections with the planet we live on. A lack of acknowledgment of our deep­time histories, the fragile navigations through which we have come to be as a species, or our multispecies codependencies, have led us to act recklessly. Alienated from our own planet and its cosmologies, our actions have been marked by narrow interests blinded by extractive capitalism and the power of technology to influence and destroy at a planetary scale. The material traces of product economies are everywhere, interlinked through supply chains causing displacements and extinctions in vast landscapes. To change the imagination through which we act, and to create a just and equal world that has the resilience to steer us in volatile times, will require living in a deeper consciousness of our “realities” and interconnectedness. This is as much an endeavor of knowledge as it is of values.

Listening: Stories and narratives of mutuality have long existed, albeit in heterogeneous contexts of cultures, times, and places. They have been suppressed through the long violence of colonization and globalization. We can start by seeking them out, by conversing with those who already live in such interconnected ways. Not only do they possess learned and experiential knowledge about worlds they inhabit, but also they do so with values of respect, coexistence, and community. Oſten these ways could be ontologically and epistemologically different from those of the modern world and not easy to relate to. My work with traditional fishers in South India, off the Bay of Bengal, has shown to me their immediate and respectful relationship and knowledge of the sea, dating back to 300 BCE, as reflected in their Sangam poetry.1 Urgently listening to their ways and acknowledging their relevance to us, before these have been totally erased, is a place to start.

Imbibing: At the same time, the stories that science tells us should adopt an interdisciplinary and participatory approach, enabling them to be inclusive of other ways of knowing. Yet, we also need to be aware of what scientific inquiry has already been telling us for some time now of our connected realities, the manner in which planetary phenomena are part of complex systems, and of our continuing co-evolution and interdependencies with other species. For example, our research for Toxics Link ( reveals how toxicity can be locally generated but becomes globally distributed to faraway places and populations through ocean and air currents.

An awareness based on various knowledge and value systems must form part of our everyday understanding of the world and reaffirm our need to act responsibly not only to local but also to the larger community. Creating new narratives based on such understandings could enable a repositioning of ourselves, politically and socially, and will help relocate us in our local, planetary, and cosmic worlds to act differently. Our similarities rather than our differences should guide us as we come to realize the precarity of our existence. A deep immersion into our realities can guide our options and decisions for our futures, through stories that are consonant with an unalienated existence.

1 Tamil Sangam Akham poetry (300 BCE to 400 CE) is set in five natural landscapes where human life and love coexist with nature, without it being instrumentalized.

Ravi Agarwal