New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Signs of the Times

February 01, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Economy, Family, Politics, Randall Amster

Reflections on a Society in Turmoil

by Randall Amster

Today we are confronted with a convergence of crises that is unparalleled in recent memory. Overtly discriminatory policies, the elevation of oppressive ideologies, ignorance and disregard as political virtues — these are among the hallmarks of this moment. As outrageous as this is, it is also important to remember that none of this exists in a vacuum, and that to some extent these patterns have been with us in various forms for a long time. In considering the cultural context for navigating contemporary challenges, I am drawn to recollections from not long ago…

Exiting a natural foods store in the southwest a few years ago, I noticed a person flying a sign on the side of the road. It was apparently a young woman, complete with piercings and other hallmarks of the disheveled look that is sometimes known as “crusty” or “gutter punk” in many cities. What stood out for me, indelibly in this case (in addition to the feelings I experience any time I see someone asking for help in such a manner) was the language on her sign, composed of three words in all: Broke. Hungry. Ugly. (more…)

Suspending Disbelief

November 06, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, David Swanson

‘God Made Me an Atheist…’

by David Swanson

Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists is a curious and ultimately very valuable book.

It’s curious because it doesn’t make much of a case — or at least not the sort of case I would have liked — for why we should create atheists.

It’s valuable because, if you believe we’d be better off with more atheists, this is a remarkable tool for accomplishing that goal.

I don’t view sloppy thinking as a great evil in itself.  It doesn’t offend me the way hunger and lack of medicine and Hellfire missiles offend me.  So, I look for the argument — which I think can be made — that sloppy thinking has serious results, or that belief in a god leads to a lack of responsibility, or that belief in eternal life diminishes efforts to improve real lives.  This book does not focus on those arguments.

Boghossian points to abstinence-only sex-ed, bans on same-sex marriage, teaching Creationism, corporal punishment in schools, and other offenses in the United States, as well as pointing to various more-severe abuses by the Taliban, as the undesirable results of theism.  But, with the possible exception of Creationism, these things could continue without theism or be ended while maintaining theism. (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…)


October 28, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Victor Postnikov

Toward Harmonious and Stable Co-Existence

by V.I. Postnikov

Loitering the central streets of my native town, Kiev, where I had lived for 63 years, I involuntarily examine the passers-by.  Gosh, how changed the appearance of citizens! I notice some subspecies that I never met before — such as a subspecies of managers — short-Imagehaired young people in white shirts, a subspecies of guards — stern-looking lads with bull’s napes,  a subspecies of builders — lads from other towns. The old age people are rarely seen on the streets.  I peer at the faces, hoping to recognize familiar ones. But no, no way, they are all long gone.  The species, the environment have changed irrevocably. Sad, but true.

In ecology, there is the concept of “succession,”  an important term which explains serial mutability of a species and its habitat. William R. Catton, Jr., in his classic book Overshoot, shows how this principle works in the human environment [1].  To understand the succession in human society, it is useful to first consider nature’s succession. (more…)

Stewards and Balancers

October 01, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Guest Author

Respecting Nature’s Limits Is the Solution

by Aaron Guthrie Lehmer-Chang

Last month, The New York Times published a fantastical piece on human exceptionalism entitled “Overpopulation Is Not the Problem,” in which author Erle C. Ellis claimed that human societies have no limits to their growth. That’s right — limits are merely an illusion. Expansion über alles! That’s our species’ birthright, and rightful destiny.

“There really is no such thing as a human carrying capacity,” writes Ellis, castigating those of us concerned with ecological limits as believers that humans are little different than “bacteria in a petri dish.” Perhaps even more outlandishly, Ellis goes on to state that “[t]he idea that humans must live within the natural environmental limits of our planet denies the realities of our entire history, and most likely the future.” Who’s history exactly?

As an associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Ellis should know better. Unless he steered clear of the stacks of thoughtful volumes available to him on the rise and fall of past civilizations, he would surely have encountered chronicle after chronicle of societies that faced progressively daunting ecological challenges, and which plummeted in population as a result. (more…)

R.O.I. from Another P.O.V.

August 05, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Economy, Jennifer Browdy

Measuring Wealth and Well-Being from the Perspective of Mother Earth

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Peter Buffett, one of billionaire Warren Buffett’s sons, published a brave, thoughtful op-ed piece in the New York Times the other day.  In it, Buffett takes to task what he calls “the Charitable-Industrial Complex,” the philanthropic crowd who piously seek to save the world, as long as the R.O.I. is sufficiently rosy and the status quo is not upset.

Buffett knows he sounds like a class traitor here as he proffers this description of “Philanthropic Colonialism” (his term):

“As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to ‘give back’. It’s what I would call ‘conscience laundering’ — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity. But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.” (more…)

The Impossible Community

June 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Guest Author, John Clark, Politics

An Interview with John Clark on Communitarian Anarchism

by Alyce Santoro

To social ecologists, environmental issues are, at their core, socio-economic issues. The same sense of separateness that justifies our exploitation and domination of one another makes possible similar acts of violence against nature. As long as we remain oblivious to underlying flaws in our collective logic (i.e., that it is reasonable to endlessly consume non-renewable resources on a finite planet; that peaceful, just societies can emerge out of competitive, hierarchical frameworks) any responses we could devise will be insufficient to significantly alter our current course. A social ecological approach to “saving the environment” would require balancing relationships between humans and other humans, and between humans and all other phenomena. It sounds like a tall order…and it is. In light of the obvious destructive effects of systems within which we are obliged to strive for quantity of goods for one over quality of life for all, we are now faced with two choices: pull off the impossible, or perish. (more…)