New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


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…)

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…)

On Food and Drink

October 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

California Now Has Water as a Human Right — Or Does It?

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

The headlines read: law passed in California to make water a human right. AB685 does indeed have that language but California is far from that as a reality. The question really is whether this is a real breakthrough or whether it presents the potential of a creating a new maze of litigation in the future. From looking at the language of the bill, it would be a profound mistake to consider this a victory for poor people or an acknowledgement of their basic survival needs. It needs to be said that there are so many questions raised by such a law that are not addressed in the law that it will assuredly result in profound impacts on farmers and farm workers throughout the state of California.

Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production. (more…)

Return of the Malthusians

October 03, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Population Bombs, Consumptive Violence, and Environmental Justice 

by Devon G. Peña

I have long detested the work of Paul and Anne Ehrlich. I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin when I was first introduced to the Ehrlichs’ infamous book, The Population Bomb, which was first published in 1968 and reprinted countless times before being “updated” and reissued in 2009 as The Population Bomb Revisited. It always struck me that the topic became a mini-industry and the authors made a pretty profit from pandering to the crowd that invests so much in the sentiment: “Oh my! There are way too many little brown people on the planet. What are we to do?”

The Bomb was required reading in a demography and population class I took as a sophomore in 1974. There are passages in this book that made me cringe then and continue to remind me that much of what is written by the privileged Stanford scientists displays a complete lack of understanding of colonial history, capitalism, patriarchal domination, and the political ecology of environmental degradation. It seems to me that the Ehrlichs do not much like humanity, or at least not brown people. In one of the more oft-cited passages they display a discernible contempt for humanity that is probably derived from an inability to situate events in historical and political context and to respect or at least perceive cultural differences for what they are, i.e., examples of human variability to adaptation: (more…)