New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Rewriting the Human Story

September 01, 2015 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Robert C. Koehler

Oh sacred planet…

by Robert C. Koehler

The terror of climate crisis is a long time in the making. As I read about the mass mobilization forming around the upcoming U.N. climate change convention, which is likely to accomplish far too Earth_flaglittle — because what’s needed is change at the roots of civilization — I feel a desperate impatience, a tearing at my soul. What can I do that’s bigger than anger, bigger than a demand for governmental and corporate entities to make changes they are essentially incapable of making?

Maybe I can help rewrite the story of civilization, which means unwriting the present story. From the Dark Mountain Manifesto, for instance, here are two of the “eight principles of uncivilization”:

“We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature.’ These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths…. We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.” (more…)

Living with Reverence

November 01, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Believing in Something More Sacred than Money

by Robert C. Koehler

“To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you’re wrong.”

Move over, We Buy Ugly and Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa. Here was religious faith on a billboard, refuting non-belief in letters three feet high. I was visiting Los Angeles, driving with a friend along La Cienega Boulevard, when this king-size ad for religious certainty smacked us in the eye.

Turns out that Answers in Genesis, an evangelical organization with money to spend, took the God debate to billboards this month in New York and Los Angeles. They were pushing back against a group called the American Atheists, who at Christmas time last year sponsored a billboard featuring images of Jesus and Santa Claus with the words: “Keep the Merry, dump the myth.” (more…)

The War Drones On…

June 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Humanizing Our Engagement with Others

by Randall Amster

Drones are all the rage these days, and not in a good way. The increasing toll taken by these robotic executioners is beginning to register with the public, after many years of automated death from above in our adventurist wars. Still, the use of drones is expanding in many places, and not just in the theaters of combat. Drones are used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Local governments and police forces use drones, even if they’re disclosed publicly as part of safety programs or for purposes other than enforcement. Many are equipped with cameras, widening the surveillance society even if not overtly used as tools of destruction.

The issue of expanding automation in foreign combat and domestic policing alike raises many questions apart from the legality of its use in war. Remote-controlled bombing contributes to a greater sense of “action at a distance” that works to overcome a natural human prohibition against killing our own kind — one that soldiers have to be conditioned to surmount. The steady distancing effect of modern warfare continues to push the envelope of our empathetic capacities while enabling remote outcomes with little risk involved. (more…)

A Green Tree in Your Heart

March 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Robert C. Koehler

Stirring the Future with Creativity and Hope

by Robert C. Koehler

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”

Building community is a sacred process, so I begin here with a Chinese proverb that a healer and social worker turned into a song. The sacred has an intensely personal dimension to it, and the singing bird rips it open for me.

Three weeks ago I wrote a column called “The Barbara Tree,” in which I talked about two things: the orange papier-mâché bird that mysteriously appeared on a branch of the linden tree that had been planted in a nearby park in honor of my late wife; and a blog-in-progress I’m in the process of launching, with some friends, called Chicago Spirit, which seeks to celebrate the world-in-progress that so many people are creating: the world beyond war, eco-exploitation, domination consciousness, spectator culture, and the privatization of the commons.

I invited response, i.e., participation, having no idea what it would look like. This is not a simple world, as cynics would dismiss it. It’s a world of risky reaching out, groping for connection. What I got was music, art, story. What I got was politics, courage, and craftsmanship, sometimes wrapped around anger, more often wrapped around love. And birds and trees kept showing up in fascinating and heart-wrenching ways. (more…)

You Are Where You Live

November 18, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

Is There a Place Called Home for the Children of America?

by Mary Sojourner

“You must leave your home and go forth from your country. The children of Buddha all practice this way.” — The thirty-seven Bodhisattva Practices

My friend and I head for the Olympic Rain Forest. We never arrive. Somewhere around Sequim, he feels the northwest pulling him as far as it will be possible for two humans to go. Beyond that point there are cormorants and orcas. There is a blue-black horizon and light fading down into the sea. There is air vibrant with salt.

We stop along the way to where we can go no further. I walk to the water’s edge and scoop handfuls of liquid mineral. I touch my forehead, my heart and belly with wet fingers. I take away a gray-white pebble flecked with mica.

At the Makah Cultural & Research Center, I learn that the people regard the knowledge in that place as “a canoe” carrying them, and a “war club” shattering assumptions and prejudices. I learn that their real name is kwih-dich-chuh-ahtx which means People who live by the rocks and the seagulls. Makah is a name given to them by another First Nation. It means generous with food. (more…)

Replenishing the Earth

September 27, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Guest Author

Healing Ourselves and the World

by Wangari Maathai

During my more than three decades as an environmentalist and campaigner for democratic rights, people have often asked me whether spirituality, different religious traditions, and the Bible in particular had inspired me, and influenced my activism and the work of the Green Belt Movement (GBM). Did I conceive conservation of the environment and empowerment of ordinary people as a kind of religious vocation? Were there spiritual lessons to be learned and applied to their own environmental efforts, or in their lives as a whole?

When I began this work in 1977, I wasn’t motivated by my faith or by religion in general. Instead, I was thinking literally and practically about solving problems on the ground. (more…)

Saving Sacred Spaces

August 25, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Economy, Randall Amster

Make Some Noise to Ward Off an Avalanche of Avarice

by Randall Amster

You might not be aware of this news from northern Arizona, since the reporting of it in the media has been less than robust, but in recent weeks there have been dozens of arrests at the Snowbowl ski expansion site in the San Francisco Peaks, just outside of Flagstaff. Following years of rancorous public debate and coming on the heels of circuitous court proceedings, the developers of the site have begun excavation in order to expand the slopes and lay a pipeline for the bringing of wastewater to make artificial snow on the mountain.

Can you say, “yuck” (expletive implied)? Shortsighted thinking, combined with unaddressed health risks and insufficient environmental impact assessments, threatens to turn these Sacred Peaks into yet another sacrifice zone for the sake of a buck. This is “dirty money” in every sense of the phrase, from digging into the home of the native kachinas to trampling on the integrity of the earth beneath our feet. (more…)