New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

Apocalypse Not Now

February 01, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Politics, Randall Amster

In Search of a New Beginning … Before the End

by Randall Amster

Undertaking even a cursory review of the news queue evidences the apocalyptic overtones in our collective midst. In the most recent additions to the canon, 2010 ended with semi-sardonic coverage of the so-called “Snowpocalypse” and its aftermath, and 2011 began with perplexed musings over the “Aflockalypse” in which birds and fish seem to be dying in odd ways due to mystifying causes. Not long before, we had the perceptive invocation of the “Shopocalypse” by Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, and next year’s 2012 allusions promise to spawn a new generation of nomenclatural evolutions.

While we may be tempted to dismiss the suffix “-ocalypse” being deployed much like “-gate” as an all-purpose distortion device, on another level we can also perceive that its very utilization as both a linguistic tool and interpretation of concrete outcomes is telling about the times in which we live. We’re actually in good company on this, at least historically speaking, as the sense of looming apocalypse has been woven into the fabric of Western civilization since its earliest days of recorded reckoning. And there certainly has been no shortage of cataclysmic harbingers in the modern era, from the inception of cinema itself to the invocation of the “mushroom cloud” as part of political theater. This is, in short, our cultural talisman, and its influence upon us is palpable. (more…)

Dreams of the Local Commissariat

January 28, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Walmart, Food Deserts, and Genuine Sovereignty

by Devon G. Peña

Let us begin with a “defining moment,”  courtesy of the Oxford World Dictionary:

Commissariat (kɒmɪˈsɛːrɪət)

Definition: chiefly Military department for the supply of food and equipment.

Origin: late 16th century (as a Scots legal term denoting the jurisdiction of a commissary, often spelled commissariot): from French commissariat, reinforced by medieval Latin commissariatus, both from medieval Latin commissarius ‘person in charge’, from Latin committere ‘entrust’

How does this relate to the news cycle? Well, on January 20, Walmart announced plans to reformulate the ingredients of their in-house or private brand processed foods. An estimated 60 percent of the company’s annual grocery revenues are currently tied to the sale of processed food items. It is therefore expected that this formula change will place pressure on other private suppliers to follow suit. (more…)

Profile of a Social Ecologist

January 15, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Ecology, Economy, Guest Author

Food Justice as a Pathway to Sustainability and Community

by ISE (Institute for Social Ecology)

Please introduce yourself (what kind of work you do, where you live, etc.).

My name is Erin Lingo. I live in Prescott, Arizona, and am the coordinator of the Prescott College CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and the Prescott Farmers Market. My passion is food and all things related: nutrition, cooking, food justice, sustainable agriculture, farmworker rights, and local food systems. I am a graduate student in the Prescott College/ISE program with an emphasis in Community Food Systems.

How did you become introduced to the ideas of social ecology? How do yo define social ecology when asked about it?

I became interested in Social Ecology because I wanted to continue my education with a study that addresses the relationship between society and nature, particularly how it relates to food. I already lived in Prescott and worked for Prescott College, so the PC/ISE program resonated with me. (more…)

Environmental Justice and the Derivatives Depression

January 07, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Economy

Undoing Neoliberalism through Solidarity Economics

by Devon G. Peña

Preparing for the start of a new semester at the University of Washington, I am pondering what to emphasize to students during the first day of classes. I am teaching two seminars, one focused on the study of food sovereignty movements, and the other a ‘theory’ course on the contributions of anthropology to the comparative study of social movements in the Mesoamerican Diaspora.

I already see numerous connections between the two themes: food sovereignty and theories of social movements. The first problem that occurs to me may not be at all obvious, namely the dilemma posed by the advent of what Christian Marazzi and others have called cognitive capitalism. This is the idea of a cyberspace-based realm of ‘high finance’ that profits from the construction of complicated credit default obligations, collateralized debt obligations, and other financial instruments that basically allow for the extraction of surplus value out of speculative thin air through the commodification of ‘risk.’ This development, Marazzi argues, has altered everything — including the prospects and methods needed for the multitude to escape hunger, malnutrition, and structural violence. (more…)

2010 Recap: Food, Agriculture, and Justice

January 02, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Devon G. Pena, Ecology, Politics

The Year That Was — and What Wasn’t

by Devon G. Peña

Progressive media outlets have been busy providing an end of the year retrospective on the most notable events and issues that carried the headlines in 2010. Many news services and blogs in the food- and agriculture-related areas ranked the Food Safety Modernization Act and the Child Nutrition Act at the top of their lists.

Playing up the ‘democratizing’ influence of the Web, many of the alternative source and agglomeration sites ranked the top news items based on their popularity among readers. AlterNet, for instance, gave its highest ranking for 2010 to the impact of the BP gusher on the safety of seafood coming from the Gulf of Mexico. As members of a nation largely defined (and constrained) as consumers, people reading progressive sources have in some cases reflexively expressed the greatest concern for a story on the safety of the seafood they’ve been consuming.

What is left out of this accounting is another side of the story: the growing hunger and impoverishment of seafood industry and other workers displaced by what was arguably the most significant and unjust environmental catastrophe of the year. (more…)