New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Sustaining Life

November 14, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos

New Book Explores ‘How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity’

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Sometime in the 1990s I heard the Harvard professor of medicine, Eric Chivian, make a presentation on Capitol Hill about the anthropogenic origins of global warming. He is an academic who speaks to the world. He co-founded International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which, in 1985, won the Nobel Peace Prize. He is also the founder and director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

I recently rediscovered Chivian because of his work on biological diversity, which he edited with his colleague, Aaron Bernstein. The book, Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, published in 2008 by Oxford University Press, is extremely important and timely. The Library Journal named it the “Best Biology Book of 2008.” It is now in its fourth printing and is used at scores of high schools, colleges and graduate schools all over the world. Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Arabic editions are scheduled to appear in a year or two.

Sustaining Life deserves the attention it is getting. (more…)

Changing Landscapes

November 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Ecology, Pat LaMarche, Politics

Candidate Will Keep Running Until He Wins or Dies Trying

by Pat LaMarche

West Virginia Mountain Party’s Jesse Johnson says he’ll keep running for Governor of the Mountain State until he wins or until he dies trying. He just hopes there are still some mountains left by the time he gets his chance to govern. Johnson, 53, who declared his most recent of three campaigns for governor in August, was born in Charleston when Appalachia had roughly five hundred more mountains than it does today.

Since the late 1950s, coal mining has changed immensely. Rather than men crawling through tunnels and harvesting veins of the fossil fuel, vast amounts of ordinance is used to blow the mountains to smithereens along with every living thing that’s on them at the time of the explosion. (more…)

On Acequias

November 02, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Devon G. Pena, Ecology

Water, Place, Resilience, and Democracy

by Devon G. Peña (Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association; San Luis, Colorado)

{Note: This post is a synthesis of select excerpts from work appearing in a chapter prepared for a forthcoming edited anthology, Voces de Agua: Culture, Place, and Nature in the Acequia Communities of the Upper Rio Grande Bioregion, 1598-2008. This article presents a summary of some of the principal research findings of the path-breaking NEH Upper Rio Grande Hispano Farms study, the core of which was conducted in the field between 1995 and 1999. This massive research project, with more than $190,000 funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation, produced the first comprehensive interdisciplinary and farmer-led study of acequia farms of the Río Arriba since the historic Tewa Basin Study of the 1930s; that sadly, is a testament to the neglect of acequia agroecosystems and communities by governmental and academic institutions. The twenty-four research scholars and farmers who collaborated in this major study developed some enduring innovations for integrated social and natural scientific research on Indo-Hispano agroecosystems that have left an enduring mark on the field. The NEH study played a significant role in the revival of acequia studies in the United States at a time when no one was really paying much attention to the study of Chicana/o farmers.} (more…)

On Food and Drink

October 18, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

California Now Has Water as a Human Right — Or Does It?

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

The headlines read: law passed in California to make water a human right. AB685 does indeed have that language but California is far from that as a reality. The question really is whether this is a real breakthrough or whether it presents the potential of a creating a new maze of litigation in the future. From looking at the language of the bill, it would be a profound mistake to consider this a victory for poor people or an acknowledgement of their basic survival needs. It needs to be said that there are so many questions raised by such a law that are not addressed in the law that it will assuredly result in profound impacts on farmers and farm workers throughout the state of California.

Water as a Human Right has to be defined in the context of both drinking water and food production. (more…)

A Great Aridness

June 07, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos

Thirsting for Water and Justice in the American Southwest

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

I have traveled extensively in America’s Southwest. I have visited cities like Austin and El Paso, Texas; Denver and Boulder, Colorado; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona. I have walked in the great deserts of Sonora in Arizona, Mojave in California and Chihuahua in Mexico. In fact, I live in Southern California, not very far from Los Angeles, a monster city built in the desert.

When I went to the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, I thought I was on another planet. Massive boulders, one over the other like pancakes, of great diversity in size, shape and form, and spread all over the desert landscape, give the impression that this is a place the gods created only recently, or that it was made in the beginnings of time but forgotten for countless millennia. The cacti stand next to these giant stones like witnesses of an extraordinary story never told. Bushes and exquisite flowers add luster to this gem of the natural world.

The Southwest is a beautiful country of blue skies, little water and plenty of land, most of which is semi-arid, arid or desert. (more…)

Sustainable Water Use?

June 01, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Ecology, Martin Zehr, Politics

Water Budgets Meet Financial Budgets in California ‘Water Wars’

by Martin Zehr, aka Mato Ska

There is an increasing body of evidence that any resolution to the peripheral canal and Delta infrastructure is meeting a financial wall around which there is no room to maneuver. What is happening in California is no different in many ways from what is happening elsewhere. Water wars are driven by allocations, financial and hydrological. Coastal urban allocations in California are disproportional in their priority because of the use of geo-political entities. As the Central Valley becomes more urbanized there is an increase in their political representation. But as long as diversions are the solution of choice in California, regional planning will never be utilized to integrate urban users with agricultural and rural users in the decision-making process.

There is a real base of support here in California among ag and rural users for regional planning. At this stage, this is primarily to get the State Legislature out of the process. Politically, there remains the Arnold attitude towards water that “We can have it all.” This is simply because of the political control of the State Legislatures by urban users. (more…)

Nabi Saleh’s Tears

January 31, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Christine Baniewicz, Culture, Politics

Reflections on a (Literal) Toxic Mix…

by Christine Baniewicz

I lean against the walls of a small bathroom in Nabi Saleh.

Someone knocks on the door.

“Just a minute.” I sniff and spit into the toilet. Alright, enough. I emerge.

I arrived in Nabi Saleh an hour ago with my colleague, Sarah, and a few students from Jenin. The journey took two hours.

“I hope they don’t spray the water,” I said.

Talib turns to face me. Morning sun bounces off his aviators as behind him, steam rises from a paper cup of coffee.

“The shit water, khara.”

“Ah, yes,” says Talib. “The shit.” (more…)