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…)

More than a Trend

March 31, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Urban Agriculture in Mexico City: Healthy and Necessary

by Devon G. Peña

The Colhua Mexica (Aztec) twin island cities of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco were filled with urban farms, home kitchen gardens, fish-stocked ponds, and aviaries. Two large lakes south of the cities were filled with highly productive floating gardens known aschinampas. These ancient Mesoamerican city-states were basically food self-sufficient. The conquest destroyed most of these cultural ecological landscapes and built Mexico City with the rubble of demolished temples, schools, colleges, homes, and other buildings. Mexico City has never been able to reproduce this ideal condition of food self-sufficiency and instead basically sucks the energy out of the Mexican countryside and — ever since NAFTA — from fresh produce and processed food imported or manufactured with ingredients from the U.S. and other countries. (more…)

Tragic History

March 24, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Walt Anderson

A Naturalist’s Reflections on the Yarnell Fire

by Walt Anderson

Nine months after the tragic Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013, the event continues to touch many of us with a rawness only slightly softened by time.  My memories remain vivid.  With thunderstorm activity developing in the Prescott area that afternoon, Cactus cross, a burn survivorI grabbed my camera and headed out to the Doce Fire area south of Granite Mountain.  Fierce little rain squalls gave me subjects to explore visually.  The powdered ash deposits post-fire are very vulnerable to erosion, a step in the ecologic process I wanted to capture.

Then as a squall shifted south, I could see in the distance a column of smoke that caused my hair to rise — it appeared to me that the small town of Yarnell was on fire.  Without hesitation, I leaped into the car and shot toward Skull Valley, having to slow down once in the midst of an intense downpour.  The closer I got to Peeple’s Valley, the more my concern intensified, and I made a decision that gave me a perfect vantage point on a ridge north of the fire.  If I had continued any farther down the highway, I would have been stopped by emergency vehicles and stuck in a line of other cars prohibited from moving farther. (more…)

Walk Softly

February 22, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Toward a Profound Reverence for Planetary Balance…

by Robert C. Koehler

“When you go to dig your fields, or make a pot from clay, you are disturbing the balance of things. When you walk, you are moving the air, breathing it in and out. Therefore you must make payments.”

Oh, unraveling planet, exploited, polluted, overrun with berserk human technology. How does one face it with anything other than rage and despair, which quickly harden into cynicism? And cynicism is just another word for helplessness.

So I listen to the Arhuaco people of northern Colombia, quoted above at the Survival International website, and imagine — or try to imagine — a reverence for planetary balance so profound I am aware that when I walk I disturb it, so I must walk with gratitude and a sense of indebtedness. Walk softly, walk softly . . .

Instead, I live in this world: (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…)

Water World

December 18, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Are We Approaching a Global ‘Cadillac Desert’?

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Water for the Greeks was the immortal natural world. The supreme Greek god, Zeus, sent rains; Poseidon, brother of Zeus, was the god of the oceans and seas; Metis, daughter of the Ocean River god and first wife of Zeus, was goddess of intelligence and mother of Athena, goddess of the arts of civilization.

Homer said the god of metallurgy, Hephaistos, sculpted the great Ocean River surrounding the Earth on the outermost rim of Achilleus’ shield. Achilleus, son of a water nymph, was the Greeks’ greatest hero during the Trojan War.

And the first Greek natural philosopher, Thales, proposed in the seventh century BCE that water was the stuff of life and the cosmos. (more…)


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