Robert Meeropol





Robby, Abel, Michael and trains








my perennial chaos

"Robby & Elli" 1968


http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator



Robby speaking at the re-launch of the Mary Pitawanakwat Fund in Toronto

Robby and Cory work on the blog.

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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

We Need Contraction

July 29, 2015

Tags: Green new deal, population control

The oil and gas industry claims that the 11% drop in reported US Carbon emissions between 2007 and 2013 was due primarily to the growth in fracking (“When Human Consumption Slows, Planet Earth Can Heal,” 7/22/15, Common Dreams.) However a recent study in Nature Communications determined that 83% of the 2007-2013 reduction was the result of decreased consumption and production during the great recession, while only the remaining 17% was due to changes in fuel type. That makes sense; less economic activity lowers carbon emissions.

This simple truth has far-reaching implications. Our current economic system, based on growth, can’t adjust to this fact. But that doesn’t change the fact: the way to save the biosphere is to shrink our economy.

Progressive environmental activists know we must reduce our carbon footprint, but for strategic reasons, we advocate a mélange of solutions. We fight to ban fracking, stop the XL pipeline and divest from fossil fuel companies. This makes sense: if applied globally these actions, in combination with conservation, would significantly decrease economic activity, and thus lower carbon emissions. We also promote increased efficiency in heating and cooling appliances, air and automobile travel, better public transportation, recycling, and alternative solar generation. These actions, while reducing the carbon footprint of the products we buy and trips we take, may not lower total emissions if they result in our buying and traveling more, or using more cheaply generated solar power.

Significant segments of our movement celebrate a “green new deal,” that will create an economic boom and new jobs while greening our economy. This is dangerous self-deception. Everyone needs living-wage jobs, but if the additional millions of job-holders produce more products and consume as the typical living-wage worker and their families do today, we’ll collectively emit even more carbon and make the problem worse.

Therefore we must couple the new green jobs with significantly reduced hours and substantially increased wages/salaries for all workers, including professionals. These workers and their families must spend their increased funds and free time in a manner that does not produce more greenhouse gases. This complex of interactions won’t work without careful planning and re-education. We’ll make no progress if we create more consumers taking part in the throw-away society.

Progressive environmental activists are also reluctant to talk about population. We believe in sharing the world’s resources more equitably, but don’t calculate what that means as the global population approaches 8 billion. The issue of population control has racist roots and a history of unequal practice. In addition, five hundred million relatively affluent North American and Western European whites produce 80% of the world’s green house gas emissions, while billions of people of color in the third world have tiny carbon footprints. While masses of people living in poverty are not responsible for global warming, increasing their level of consumption to that enjoyed in the “developed world” will have a profoundly negative impact on the world’s carbon footprint.

Any comprehensive climate change program must deal with this triple challenge:

1. to decrease economic activity to limit carbon emissions.
2. to achieve a livable standard of living for everyone by increasing wages to compensate
for decreasing work hours.
3. to fairly re-distribute the dwindling resources of our planet to include the third world.

This monumental challenge can only be met by global agreement to replace competition with cooperation, replace profit with sharing, and to engage in physical, social, artistic and intellectual pursuits instead of rampant consumption.

Know Your Frienemies

July 1, 2015

Tags: Green capitalists, Climate Shock

I recently read Climate Shock: The Economic Consequences of a Hotter Planet by Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman. Although I disagree with the author’s conclusions, people who are strategizing about how to organize a mass movement to counter global warming and its resulting climate change will benefit from reading it.

Readers will understand my quarrel once they read the authors’ response to Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: “Far from posing a fundamental problem to capitalism, it’s capitalism with all its innovative and entrepreneurial powers that is our hope of steering clear of the looming climate shock.”

You read that right. Capitalism is the only solution to approaching climate crises. According to the authors the solution to global warming is to tax carbon emissions to cover their environmental costs. Their biggest fear, aside from the consequences of not imposing such a tax, is that if we continue with business as usual, as things heat up some nation will resort to dangerous geo-engineering, such as seeding the atmosphere with sulfur dioxide particles, which is fraught with peril.

So why read this book?

First, they are smart and well-connected. Wagner is the lead economist at the Environmental Defense Fund, and Weitzman is a Harvard economics professor. Their writing is engaging and clear. They make a good case for why global warming induced climate change is real and risks rendering our planet incompatible with civilization. Organizers will find these arguments helpful.

Second, these men will be the green experts the mainstream media finds most palatable and quotable. As the climate change policy battle intensifies, people like Wagner and Weitzman will be given air time on PBS, NPR and the major news networks (other than Fox). They will be featured in influential liberal journals. For example, The New York Review of Books just reviewed this book favorably. The reviewer was someone whose work the authors praise and thank in their acknowledgements. (Which may be an ethically questionable choice, perhaps reflecting the old boy network.) These authors and their colleagues are capable of mounting a robust public relations effort to promote their positions. Last week, a professor at Duke University’s Sanford school of Public Policy, who co-founded the Partnership for Responsible Growth, published a guest column in my local paper entitled “Capitalism can stop climate change” (Daily Hampshire Gazette, 6/24), which advocated the same concept to “[h]arness the power of the market and create a global, uniform price on carbon.”

Finally, the climate change movement must beware of friends like these. These authors take climate change seriously and as we build a broad-based campaign they might be included as allies. They are not climate change deniers, but they deny the necessity of changing our system and its underlying grow or die imperative.

They are frienemies; in the guise of saving us they will make things worse.

Selected Works

Memoir
"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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