New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Heart of Revival

July 17, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Jay Walljasper

The Rise and Fall and Rise of Great Public Spaces

by Jay Walljasper

It’s a dark and wintry night in Copenhagen, and the streets are bustling. The temperature stands above freezing, but winds blow hard enough to knock down a good share of the bicycles parked all around. Scandinavians are notorious for their stolid reserve, but it’s all smiles and animated conversation here as people of many ages and affiliations stroll through the city center on a Thursday evening.

A knot of teenage boys, each outfitted with a slice of pizza, swagger down the main pedestrian street. Older women discreetly inspect shop windows for the coming spring fashions. An accomplished balalaika player draws a small crowd in a square as he jams with a very amateur guitarist. Earnest young people collect money for UNICEF relief efforts. Two African men pass by, pushing a piano. Candlelit restaurants and cafes beckon everyone inside. (more…)

Bicycle Brilliance

June 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Jay Walljasper

Greening Our Streets and Bringing Bicycling into the 21st Century

by Jay Walljasper

You can glimpse the future right now in forward-looking American cities — a few blocks here, a mile there where people riding bicycles are protected from rushing cars and trucks.

Chicago’s Kinzie Street, just north of downtown, offers a good picture of this transportation transformation.  New bike lanes are marked with bright green paint and separated from motor traffic by a series of plastic posts.  This means bicyclists glide through the busy area in the safety of their own space on the road.  Pedestrians are thankful that bikes no longer seek refuge on the sidewalks, and many drivers appreciate the clear, orderly delineation about where bikes and cars belong.

“Most of all this is a safety project,” notes Chicago’s Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein. “We saw bikes go up from a 22 percent share of traffic to 52 percent of traffic on the street with only a negligible change in motorists’ time, but a drop in their speeds. That makes everyone safer.”

Klein heralds this new style of bike lane as one way to improve urban mobility in an era of budget shortfalls. “They’re dirt cheap to build compared to road projects.” (more…)

Less Waste/Waist

April 16, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Jay Walljasper, Politics

Everyone Benefits When More People Bike and Walk

by Jay Walljasper

For the past year powerful voices around Washington have singled out programs to improve biking and walking as flagrant examples of wasteful government spending.

Since last summer, proposals have flown around the Capitol to strip away all designated transportation funds for biking and walking — even though biking and walking account for 12 percent of all trips across America but receive only 1.6 percent of federal funding.

But last week the U.S. House of Representatives — the hotbed of opposition to bike and walking as well as transit programs — voted to extend the current surface transportation bill for another three months, saving the funding of bike and ped programs. The Senate followed two hours later. (This marks the ninth extension of the existing transportation bill since 2009 and another victory for the growing movement to ensure federal support for biking and walking projects.) (more…)

Running on Empty

November 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Tina Lynn Evans

As Oil Declines, Can We Fill Our Lives with Creative Energy Instead?

by Tina Lynn Evans

The modern industrial lifestyle is predicated on oil. This notion is widely accepted in American society. Less so is the idea that oil supplies are depleting to the point that rising prices will affect — and in fact currently are affecting — the economy in significant ways. Perhaps even less accepted is the notion that, in a world with less oil, we can’t simply sit back and wait for the next technological breakthrough to solve our energy problems for us — we have to change the way we live.

We won’t be hitting empty overnight, but inevitably and soon, global demand for oil and natural gas will outstrip global extraction and supply. This situation may not sound so dire — until one considers the long-term implications. (more…)

How to Spark a Commons Revolution

May 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Family, Jay Walljasper

What You Can Do to Make a Better World

by Jay Walljasper

E.F. Schumacher (author of Small is Beautiful) gave us some good advice about how to restore the commons when he said, “Perhaps we cannot raise the wind. But each of us can put up the sail, so that when the wind comes we can catch it.” Even in these tough times, the breeze of change is beginning to blow.

The following is a handy list of ways you can raise the sail in your own community and life, reprinted from the new book published by On the Commons, All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons. These simple suggestions are offered to encourage you to find more of your own ideas, and to implement them in your lives and communities.

Personal Life

1. Challenge the prevailing myth that all problems have private, individualized solutions.

2. Notice how many of life’s pleasures exist outside the marketplace— gardening, fishing, conversing, playing music, playing ball, making love, enjoying nature and more. (more…)

I Have Just Two Words for You…

February 04, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Jay Walljasper, Politics

“The Commons” — Lifeblood of Our Communities

by Jay Walljasper

Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you know the line from The Graduate when Benjamin, the befuddled recent college grad, is accosted by one of his dad’s friends with this unsolicited career advice: “I want to say one word to you … Plastics!”

Well, I’m feeling the same way about two words: “The Commons!”

The commons means “all that we share and the ways we share it” — an immense bounty of wealth that belongs to each of us. This covers air and water, national parks and city streets, scientific knowledge and the latest dance steps.

And I believe the spirit and practice of the commons is crucial to making our cities and towns better places for everyone to live. All the places where people connect in our neighborhoods — sidewalks, parks, coffeeshops, community gardens, libraries, bike trails, transit, even the streets — are commons. And so are all the ways we connect — activist groups, online networks, informal gatherings, recreational activities. (more…)