New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted
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Losing Another Decade

April 30, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Can We Turn the Tide While There’s Still Time?

by Robert C. Koehler

“We cannot afford to lose another decade.”

My God. There’s more darkness in this quote than the New York Times intended. I winced when I read these words of Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chairman of the committee that wrote the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC report, which the Times quoted in a recent editorial headlined “Running Out of Time.”

Suddenly, ten years felt vital, alive with possibility. Edenhofer wasn’t referring to some abstract decade embedded in the history of the human race, or the history of the planet, but ten years gouged out of our own lifetimes and certainly out of our children’s lifetimes. We can’t afford to lose … ten years of breath and heartbeat. (more…)

Growing Up

April 21, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Robert C. Koehler

Living in Partnership with Mother Earth

by Robert C. Koehler

Okay, humankind, it’s time to grow up, and I see a good way to start: Change the wording of Genesis 1:26. Change one word.

I recently quoted that Bible verse in a column about the increasing velocity of climate change: “And God said . . . let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,” etc. Dominion! Nature belongs to us, to suck dry and toss away. And thus we moved out of the circle of life and became its conquerors, an attitude at the core of the Agricultural Revolution and the rise of civilization. The momentum of this attitude is still driving us. We don’t know how to stop, even though most people now grasp that we’re wrecking the environmental commons that sustains life. (more…)

The Carbon Crisis

February 07, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Kent Shifferd

Can We Fix Humanity’s ‘Biggest Mistake’ in Time?

by Kent Shifferd

The great release of carbon-based energy began in the second half of the eighteenth century, prompting the poet William Blake to coin his famous line about “England’s dark, satanic mills.” All history before that was characterized by an organic tool kit. Our technology was mostly biodegradable and not very powerful. Nature was strong — humanity was weak. I am not suggesting we want to revert to that relationship, but did we go in the right direction, and if not, what can we do about it now?

Why was the release of carbon energies humanity’s greatest mistake? The answer is simple; it has led to the severe damage to the biosphere we now see all around us. The biosphere, that thin zone of life that surrounds the earth like the skin on an apple, is the only place in this solar system that we can live and we are utterly dependent upon its natural processes. It provides oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and soil that produces all our food. As everyone knows, it is a vastly complicated, living web whose interconnections we will never fully understand. The release of carbon energy has made it possible for us to recklessly pull apart the strands. (more…)

Spoiler Alert

November 21, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Missy Beattie

Reality Is No Stranger to Fiction

by Missy Beattie

Laura and Erma had a solution for my anxiety. “We’re calling a moratorium on reading news articles after dinner. Start The Walking Dead.”

Pillow-propped in bed, I’ve watched the series on my laptop, via Netflix.

In two frenzied installments, I zipped through Season 1, saying, “Just a little more,” and I’d click another episode as soon as the previous ended, seduced by each cliffhanger ending. I finished Season 2 and then 3, ahead of Laura and Erma.

I had a couple of panic attack symptoms, racing heart for one, and had to talk myself down with, “This isn’t real.” I was without discretion. Because this horror story is frightfully entertaining. Plus, it is plump with metaphors. If you’ve seen The Walking Dead, now in its 4th season, you know this — all those existential questions of morality. (more…)

Food Mosaics

October 07, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos, Politics

UN Appeals for Urgent Agricultural Reform

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

I remember going to one of the preparatory meetings on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development at the State Department. It was late 1978 and I represented Congressman Clarence Long (D-Md.).

There must have been at least forty federal bureaucrats around a huge wooden table in a large conference room. I asked them how many peasants they or the United Nations had invited to address the 1979 Agrarian Reform and Rural Development Conference in Rome. After all, who knows more about the pain of the peasants than peasants themselves?

The icy silence that followed my question was a reminder that this conference had nothing to do with food and agriculture or agrarian reform. It was rather a forum for the amusement of men and women from the North and the South who guarded the world’s food and agriculture. (more…)

A Sustainable Future

August 30, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Peter G. Cohen

Visions of a Post-Carbon World

by Peter G. Cohen

Surely one of the reasons that it is so difficult to achieve meaningful environmental legislation is that we don’t have a vision of a sustainable future. That’s understandable. For the last 250 years we’ve used coal and oil for energy rather than human and animal labor with great success. We’ve become dependent on carbon fuels. Coal and oil companies have spent millions to make sure that it stays that way. 

Coal has become the main source of electricity, which is so wonderfully clean and convenient that people can’t wait to get the latest electrical gadgets. Oil developed with the gasoline engine in cars, ships and planes. Now it is also essential for plastics and hundreds of chemicals. Gas was at first a lighting fuel and now can be used to heat homes and dinners, to power cars, electrical generators and factories.

These fossil fuels have been an enormous benefactor of mankind. We resist learning that by burning them we are destroying the climate that makes life possible. Furthermore, the big enemy, atmospheric CO2, is invisible. We can see smoke and soot, but not carbon dioxide or methane. They are invisible assailants. We must trust our scientists to read the signs of degrading earth and changing weather.  Everything that science has predicted about climate change is coming true, only at a faster rate than anticipated. (more…)

Looking … Seeing

August 27, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Missy Beattie

Reflections on the Health of Our World

by Missy Beattie

I saw the dime when I was running. I continued on and then circled back, picking up the coin to throw to the gods for an unselfish wish. I thought about the mythology, a ritual I usually associate with finding a penny.

Later, mid-afternoon, as I walked to the grocery, a disheveled man approached. “Can you spare a dime? I need something to eat,” he said. I started to tell him I’d tossed one on his behalf just hours before — that if my wish came true, he wouldn’t be hungry. No one would.

I thought it was clever — to ask only for a dime. He smelled like stale beer. But so what? Around 4:00, I’d have a drink. Maybe two. And possibly smell like stale Prosecco later.

Tucked between finding that dime and encountering the hungry man, a floor expert was in my apartment. Because… (more…)


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