Robert Meeropol

Robby, Abel, Michael and trains

my perennial chaos

"Robby & Elli" 1968

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

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Elephant in the Room

March 19, 2017

Tags: Dealing with hopelessness

In my recent blog post Weather Report, I wrote that climate change is upon us. We have to admit it, face it and take it on. One person who commented asked what that meant. Another asked how do we deal with climate scientists who are convinced that catastrophic outcomes, including human extinction, are now inevitable.

I reject the word “inevitable.” We have entered uncharted climate territory. We can’t be certain of the projections made even by the best science-based models because the circumstances are unprecedented. However, so far, their projections have been nearly on target.

Although not certain, we have to start by admitting that the window for preventing globe-spanning, climate change-generated, catastrophe is at best, almost closed. Many scientists already know this, but are too distressed to speak it. It is very hard to admit that our civilization will collapse within the lifetimes of children alive today. It is close to unbearable, so we continue as if it is not about to happen.

This raises extremely difficult questions. How to maintain hope and carry on when faced with the near certainty of disaster? How can we maximize the likelihood of increasing the small chance we have of avoiding the worst case scenario?

We must also face that our current economic system is the driving force behind the growing climate chaos. International neoliberal capitalism and the current set of world leaders will only make matters worse. Their priorities are slamming the window shut. An answer to the second question is to defang them as quickly as possible.

Many in leadership positions of organizations fighting climate change avoid facing it by downplaying how dire it is. After all, energetic mass action presents the only glimmer of hope and leaders fear the truth will cause people to give up. But how can a movement succeed if it sugarcoats the truth? A realistic assessment of the situation gives us a better chance than wishful thinking. That’s why I ended Weather Report by writing, “Humanity, Redwings and fruit blossoms are all worth fighting for no matter the final outcome.” We need to tell it like it is AND STILL refuse to go quietly into the night.

How do we take it on? We must make strategic attacks against the fossil fuel industry, their symbiotic relationship with the military industrial complex, and runaway consumerism. How we act as individuals depends upon our capabilities. Some will put their bodies on the line, others will write and talk. Some will do a lot, others less. But the more people who do something based upon an informed understanding of the situation, the better.

We must do more than attack. We must also promote a way to live in tune with the planet. If our only chance of survival is to engineer a worldwide shift to societies organized around, equalitarianism, cooperation and sustainability, then we must articulate that. The fact that it doesn’t appear politically feasible is irrelevant if natural reality commands that this is our only chance.

It is probably too late, but since we don’t know everything, we might have a little more time, or we’ve missed a factor or an invention will give us breathing space. Slim reeds, but hopeless passivity guarantees disaster. Finally, I admit that even if I thought it was hopeless, I am of, by and for life on earth, and will never give up advocating for its survival.


  1. March 19, 2017 5:08 PM EDT
    It is extremely disturbing though not surprising and completely within its sad nationalistic tradition that the Democratic Party is supporting the escalated military budget with hardly a protest from anyone in the party. This escalation is completely unjustified. The Military budget could be cut in half easily and the wasted resources shifted to people's (and the earth's) needs. I dont hear the outrage.
    - Peter Lowber
  2. March 19, 2017 8:55 PM EDT
    I'm in 100% agreement
    - Robert Meeropol
  3. March 22, 2017 8:24 AM EDT
    We should first and foremost consume as little as possible, only what we need, almost never what we want/desire. If we can promote this very simple step widely and get people to take small steps in their lives to reduce consumption, the ripple effect will be enormous.

    Conversely, if we do not address individual consumption, nothing else will matter, because just as with the War on Drugs, as long as there is demand, humans and their Evil Corporations will find a way to meet that demand.
    - steven feuerstein
  4. March 25, 2017 1:35 AM EDT
    Robert, in line with your thinking you may find this ecosocialist manifesto useful:
    - Anon

Selected Works

"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"
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