New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


La Lucha por la Sierra

May 31, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

On the ‘Continuous, Open, and Notorious Use’ of the Commons

by Devon G. Peña

Between 2002 and 2003, in a remarkable and much discussed series of three decisions, the Colorado Supreme Court restored the historic use rights of the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. Taylor land rights case. The legendary case involves plaintiffs’ use rights on 80,000 acres of common lands in the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant (merced). This is an alterNative paradigm unfolding right before our eyes…

The grant encompasses a total of 1 million acres and most of the 1843 merced was enclosed by private owners including the portion at stake in the Rael-Lobato trilogy; on the New Mexico side of the grant, some of the land ended up in the public domain as part of the Kit Carson National Forest (including portions of the Valle Vidal) but local heirs successfully re-acquired title to more than 30,000 acres as part of what is today known as the Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA) lands. (more…)

The Browning of the American Farm

April 27, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Back to the Future of Agriculture in the Year 2000

by Devon G. Peña

(Originally posted in July 2000):  WHILE THE ANGLO FAMILY FARMER continues to disappear at an alarming rate, the number of Latino farmers has rapidly increased — from 17,476 in 1987 to close to 30,000 in 1997, according to agricultural census data. This number is expected to increase to 40,000 by 2007, and doesn’t include the thousands of uncounted Latino farmers who do not fit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conventional definition of commercial farms.

The trend is not limited to the American Southwest, although the states of Texas, California, New Mexico, and Colorado contain more than 80% of Latino-owned and -operated farms. In Washington, which has the sixth-fastest-growing Latino population in the country, the number of Latino farms and orchards increased by a staggering 343% between 1992 and 1997. (more…)

Partly Like It’s 1999

April 22, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Politics, Randall Amster

The More Things Change…

by Randall Amster

I recently found some old writings of mine from the 1990s. When I began to look through them, I had a sudden sense of foreshadowing — or, perhaps more to the point — postshadowing. While my capacity to express certain ideas has (hopefully) evolved in the ensuing years, I was struck by how similar today’s issues remain to those uppermost in my mind in those halcyon days before 9/11, perpetual war, climatic catastrophes, economic meltdown, and the rest of the “new normal” that has taken hold in the past decade.

To illustrate, I’d like to share one of these prior pieces, this one from 1999. I’ve resisted the temptation to clean up the writing or reword things to sound more sophisticated or up-to-date, instead leaving the text as it was produced a dozen years ago. (more…)

Garden Like Life Depends On It

April 05, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Guest Author

The Benefits of Small-scale Food Production

by Ellen LaConte

Spring has sprung — at least south of the northern tier of states where snow still has a ban on it — and the grass has ‘riz. And so has the price of most foods, which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food — all of which are also becoming more expensive — or less food.

In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can’t afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously. (more…)

In Defense of Schoolyard Gardens

February 21, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Guest Author

Youth Gardening as a Pathway to Academic Success

by Tessa James, Kalyn Janae Marab, and Sabine Parrish

Caitlin Flanagan’s 2010 article in The Atlantic, Cultivating Failure, ridicules the idea that schoolyard gardens can help children in any way become better educated.  Her principal argument is that gardens do not teach students the necessary skill sets to pass the standardized examinations required of most students across the nation:

“Here is the essential question we must ask about the school gardens: What evidence do we have that participation in one of these programs — so enthusiastically supported, so uncritically championed — improves a child’s chances of doing well on the state tests that will determine his or her future (especially the all-important high-school exit exam) and passing Algebra I, which is becoming the make-or-break class for California high-school students?”

Contrary to this statement, there is growing evidence that gardening cultivates not just crops but young minds. This includes teaching environmental consciousness — but gardening can also teach practical and applied lessons in science and math and is an engaging and creative way to explore natural and cultural history.  The question should not be, “Will our students pass these tests?” Instead, we might ask: “Why have we developed a system in which standardized tests determine our children’s future?” (more…)

Shoulders to the Wheel

February 11, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Randel Hanson

Laying the Foundations for Sustainable Local Food Systems

by Randel Hanson

How do you create a locally harvested food system for a city of 100,000? This question is being asked presently in a seminar, in Duluth, Minnesota and the broader western Lake Superior region, as well as in many other cities across the United States. It was also an urgent local question a century ago.

Indeed, across the U.S. at the onset of the 20th century, public and private concerns were scrambling to get a handle on the haphazard ‘system’ that transformed nature into edible human culture within the rapidly urbanizing America. This was a chaotic, wasteful, and powerfully transformative period, with rural populations shifting into cities as the primary engine for economic activities turned from agrarianism to industrialization. The rapid growth of industrial cities forced an emerging ‘municipal responsibility’ for the various inputs and outputs of urban life. Public and private city planners in the late 19th century began to reflect upon and intervene into this laissez faire urbanization, including how to procure ample food of adequate quality and cost to citizens. In short, it became quite apparent that leaving the issue of food to the market was wholly inadequate to the demands of society from any number of perspectives. (more…)

Notes on the Solidarity Economy

February 02, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Replacing the Predatory with the Complementary

by Devon G. Peña

By now it is eminently apparent that both Left- and Right-wing politicians alike have it wrong when it comes to re-imagining the future of “making stuff” in the U.S. The question is not just: What do we make?  It is also: How do we make it?

We can begin to answer this by presenting an ideal type in the form of a purely heuristic “imagine that…” type of exercise. The conceptual distinction I wish to make is between a “predatory” economy at one end of the continuum and a “solidarity” economy at the other. I invite readers to engage this exercise of exploring both ends of this continuum, for the sake of analytical discourse and concrete possibilities alike.

Indeed, while the problems before us are manifold, it is equally the case that the answers we seek are closer at hand than it might otherwise appear. (more…)