New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

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…)

Circulate and Grow

March 01, 2014 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Pancho McFarland

From the War on Poverty to the Revolution in the Garden

by Pancho McFarland

I teach a “Class and Stratification” course for the Sociology Program at Chicago State University.  In the course we focus on inequality, the global capitalist economic system, critiques of it and examinations of alternative economic systems.  We examine the problems of inequality caused by the capitalist economy and then focus on our city, Chicago, as a means to understand our places in the economy as working class people of color.  To learn about ourselves in Chicago I use a text written by the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce.  The book, Urban Renewal or Urban Removal? is volume one of a planned eight.  Authors of the text include activists, teachers, parents, long-time residents and professors.  It is a grassroots bunch of dedicated organic intellectuals.  (more…)

Bija Swaraj

October 08, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Pancho McFarland

Seed-Saving as Self-Determination and Resistance

by Pancho McFarland

Gardeners at the Roseland Community Peace Garden have committed to the principles of bija swaraj, which is the principle of seed self-rule or seed democracy. They are also committed to bija satyagraha or non-cooperation with the powerful corporate seed machines and unjust laws and legal structures that benefit transnational corporations at the expense of the planet.  This summer at the Outdoor CommUnity Classroom at the Peace Garden, gardeners discussed international movements for food sovereignty and food autonomy, especially as detailed by Vandana Shiva in her numerous works and how this related to the their situations in the U.S. inner city. (more…)

Importance of the Commons

July 17, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper

In Praise of Vacant Lots and Community Development

by Jay Walljasper

It’s easy to talk about the importance of the commons in grand terms — vast stretches of breathtaking  wilderness, publicly funded advances in science and technology, essential cultural and civic institutions,  the air and water which we all depend on for survival. But let’s not forget the lowly commons all around that enrich our lives. Things like sidewalks, playgrounds, community gardens, murals, neighborhood hangouts, and vacant lots. Especially vacant lots.

Modern society’s obsession with efficiency, productivity, and purposefulness sometimes blinds us to the epic possibilities of empty spaces that aren’t serving any profitable economic function. The word “vacant” itself implies that these places are devoid of value. But think back to all the imaginative uses you could discover for vacant land as a kid. You probably realized someone else owned it, but it was still yours to run around, play ball, plant a garden, host tea parties, pitch a tent or just get away from the watchful eye of adults. Thankfully, commoners in many places are working to make sure that vacant lots will be there for future generations of kids. (more…)


June 05, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Family, Pancho McFarland

Sustainability and Community Autonomy in Urban Gardens

by Pancho McFarland

In the September 2012 issue of Z Magazine, Robert Hunziker reports that a climate change-induced food crisis in the Middle East was the central cause of the Arab Spring of 2011.  In Syria, the drought of 2006-2011 left 75% of farmers from the northeast and south with total crop failure. He writes that: “According to the UN, 800,000 Syrians had their livelihoods totally wiped out.  One researcher notes that ‘the single factor that triggers riots around the world is food.’”  In 2007, 48 countries experienced food riots.

Meanwhile, in the US, the 12-month period between July 2011 and June 2012 was the warmest on record.  The Midwestern drought has destroyed the corn, soy and wheat markets causing prices in the US and around the globe to rise rapidly.  Hunziker concludes the article with this thought: “As certain as riots are expected in many underdeveloped countries in the world, a North American Spring is not out of the question.” (more…)

Lethal Artificial Surfaces

February 07, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jan Lundberg

Countering a Pervasive, Abominable Disgrace

by Jan Lundberg

The artificial environment hasn’t yet been questioned by environmentalists. They accept it pretty much as is — they and it are wedded to the notions of progress, science, and “Better living through chemistry” (Dupont’s old slogan appropriated by acid-head Imagehippies). When a grassroots wing of the environmental movement went after road building and pavement (tarmac) two decades ago, it was quite fringy for mainstream enviros. Then when we went after plastics a decade ago, this too was considered “out there,” and kept low on the list of concerns for the average campaigner.

Fortunately, both plastics and endless road building — and even depaving — are by now familiar issues that are at least visible. However, they address the uncomfortable and almost taboo problem of lifestyle. Cars, the petroleum infrastructure (e.g., plastics and lubricants in vast quantities) and economic growth have not been fully challenged by environmentalists. Western Civilization is based on never-ending expansion — at best a questionable idea — yet, some of our finest minds such as NASA’s James Hansen uphold the legacy of civilization as the main reason to stop sea-level rise. (more…)

Another Urban Myth?

July 26, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper

Renaissance in Detroit Challenges ‘Food Desert’ Perception

by Jay Walljasper

In many people’s minds, Detroit stands apart from other major American cities as an unredeemable disaster.

It’s a lost cause, they say, and we’d do better investing scarce resources toward revitalizing other cities with better prospects for the future.

So what makes Detroit different in the public imagination than other cities grappling with population loss, budget deficits, unemployment, crime, racial divisions and political corruption?

In large part, it’s disinformation. For example, the widespread belief that the city is a food desert with no supermarkets or any sources of fresh produce is, like many myths about Detroit that have grown up over the past 30 years, simply not true. (more…)