New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Stewards and Balancers

October 01, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Guest Author

Respecting Nature’s Limits Is the Solution

by Aaron Guthrie Lehmer-Chang

Last month, The New York Times published a fantastical piece on human exceptionalism entitled “Overpopulation Is Not the Problem,” in which author Erle C. Ellis claimed that human societies have no limits to their growth. That’s right — limits are merely an illusion. Expansion über alles! That’s our species’ birthright, and rightful destiny.

“There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity,” writes Ellis, castigating those of us concerned with ecological limits as believers that humans are little different than “bacteria in a petri dish.” Perhaps even more outlandishly, Ellis goes on to state that “[t]he idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future.” Who’s history exactly?

As an associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Ellis should know better. Unless he steered clear of the stacks of thoughtful volumes available to him on the rise and fall of past civilizations, he would surely have encountered chronicle after chronicle of societies that faced progressively daunting ecological challenges, and which plummeted in population as a result. (more…)

Planetary Emergency

May 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Kent Shifferd

‘We Need to Invent a New Way of Life’

by Kent Shifferd

We humans are facing a perfect storm of crises of our own making that could bring a sudden and ugly end to the way of life we have known, but we are not paying attention.

We are all focused on small things — our jobs, the fate of our favorite sports team, the price of gas, the latest clothing fad, the newest app for our smartphone.  For most of us our view is too limited, too narrow and too confined to the present moment. We are looking down at our feet when we should be looking up and outward to the future. We are happily oblivious to the one big thing that will determine our fate. Without realizing it, we stand on the brink of a planetary emergency brought on by our pride and our ignorance. (more…)

A Gospel of Wealth

December 28, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Making Eye Contact with the Poverty in Our Midst

by Robert C. Koehler

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

Well, OK. She wanted $4. I could have done the “pretend not to see you” thing. Taking that option is part of life these days, especially in Chicago. She’d been standing in the middle of the intersection, trying to get money so that — if she was to be believed — she and her daughter could get dinner at the McDonald’s on the corner. When the light changed, she came over to me. I was out for a walk. It was a beautiful, cold December night.

This is what I’d been thinking: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It was a quote from one of my favorite writers, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and at times it feels true — such as when I’m walking through my vibrant, unpredictable neighborhood. Suddenly nothing is ordinary or banal, nothing is to be blown off. Oh, the humanity. (more…)

Ecological University

September 28, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Is a Successful Ecological Civilization Possible?

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

In ancient times people believed in many gods and worshipped the natural world and the Earth. Now our world is primarily a world where most people believe in one god and consider nature a mine for the extraction of “resources.”

Such a dramatic shift from a sacred natural polytheism to a business monotheism does not bode well for human survival.

Of all modern ecological calamities, global warming suffices to bring to an end life on earth. Climate change, the usual name for global warming, is a result of the heavy human footprint on the natural world. This affliction, the human addiction to coal, oil, and gas, is deleterious to human health and to long-term survival.

Unless we slow down and stop dumping into the atmosphere countless thousands of tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, our children and grandchildren will surely curse us. (more…)

Dear Graduates

May 23, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jennifer Browdy, Politics

If I Had Been Asked to Speak at Your Commencement…

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

This is what I would have said:

It’s become a cliché to say that every day is the first day of the rest of your life, and yet like most clichés this one holds truth to it.

When you walk down that aisle today holding your B.A. diploma, achieving a goal which you have worked towards for many years, you will be stepping into your adulthood with all the rights and privileges, but also all the responsibilities that this maturity brings.

The year 2012, long prophesied as a time of great change and transition, is not an easy time to be reaching adulthood.

I don’t have to tell you that times are tough economically, or that our planetary environment is facing its own severe shifts due to anthropogenic global heating.  You have probably heard tell of a “sixth great extinction event” on the horizon, if climate change projections continue unabated on their current course, causing the heating and acidification of the oceans and resulting drought, floods, and violent storms on land. (more…)

Help Wanted

May 14, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jennifer Browdy, Politics

Immediate Action Needed on Climate Change

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Now if only President Obama could show the same leadership on climate change as he has just demonstrated on the divisive same- sex-marriage issue.

The same narrow-minded interests that made same-sex marriage such a boogeyman for the President are also controlling the GOP-dominated boardrooms of Big Oil, from Mr. Cheney on down.

These people seem to be motivated by one thing only: the bottom line.  And they seem to be able to think only as far as a quarter or two ahead.

They don’t see that they are driving us as fast as possible over a cliff from which there will be no recovery.  Or maybe they see, but just don’t care.

It was with great appreciation that I opened up The New York Times Opinion pages last week and saw the indefatigable James Hansen offering the lead op-ed, once more displaying his vision and leadership in 1) insisting that the comfortable NYT readers pay attention to the imminent and grave threat of climate change, and 2) offering a practical solution for bringing about the swift change of course we need to avert disaster. (more…)

Course Correction

April 03, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Randall Amster

Averting the ‘Total Ruin’ of Institutionalized Injustice

by Randall Amster

As a parent, I tend to keep one eye on the present and another on the future. I also keep one (the third eye, perhaps?) on the past, since we need to know where we’ve been to know where we’re going. Or so they say — I’m actually not convinced that history is an accurate predictor any longer in this brave new world we’ve created in relatively short order. Then again, we in the Western world have always perceived the inevitability of an apocalypse of our own creation, from the very moment we decided to flout natural laws in favor of our manmade shackles. So maybe the past does matter.

But it’s the present and immediate future that most concern me these days. Or, more precisely, the ways in which the present is foreclosing, narrowing, and perhaps even mooting the future.

My children are growing up in a world of apparent plenty and wondrous stimulations, but it all comes at the cost of rendering the continued existence of the species — even possibly within the scale of their lifetimes — seemingly speculative at best. Their bubble of ostensible freedom and perceived luxury also comes at the expense of the wellbeing of most of the planet’s inhabitants, including the children of other parents whose capacity to mask the mounting horror is likely far less than mine. (more…)