Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at an Interfaith Press Conference on National Energy Policy
Contact: Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800
United States Capitol
May 22, 2001
Today we come before you because, as a nation, we stand at a critical moment - for our planet, for our health, for our pursuit of justice. As energy policy is shaped in these very halls, we call upon the President, Congress, and all involved to consider what our faith traditions tell us about the choices we make.
In the Jewish tradition, we are warned not to spoil and destroy God's world, for we do not own the Earth, but are its stewards; and, if we spoil it, there will be none after us to repair it. We are told, in Genesis, that we were placed in the Garden of Eden to till and to tend it. We are called upon to preserve this creation entrusted to us for future generations. And we are commanded to pursue justice.
As we look with these eyes toward the President's energy plan, we commend the President for those parts of his plan that offer new programs and investment in conservation, new technologies, and energy assistance to low-income Americans. However, we note that this plan would expand our reliance on oil, coal, and nuclear energy, which destroy land, pollute the air, and harm or threaten public health. This plan would open some of our nation's most pristine wilderness areas to harmful development by energy companies. It would fail to develop the clean, safe, efficient and sustainable energy systems that are now within our grasp.
The President's plan also fails to recognize the need to reduce dramatically our reliance on the fossil fuels that are causing global climate change. The existence and dangers of climate change have been well established. We know that burning fossil fuels is causing it. And we know that the United States is disproportionately responsible. No single decision made by a nation will have a greater effect on the global climate than the direction of U.S. energy policy. Until these vital structural issues are addressed, the President's plan will not reflect the Biblical standards of justice and sustainability.
The faith community is prepared to work with the Administration to find more just and sustainable solutions to our energy challenges. This Administration has been interested in dialogue with faith groups on a wide variety of issues; we are eager for such dialogue on how this nation can preserve God's creation. This issue - one of the most intuitively religious public policy challenges confronting us today - is an issue on which churches, synagogues, and religious leaders around the country have become increasingly engaged.
The remarkable statement released this week, signed by hundreds of national religious leaders, reflects that engagement. It should be noted that this statement was written and signed before the announcement this week of the President's energy package. It was not intended to be a judgement on those proposals. Indeed, some may be supportive of these proposals; many will not be. But this statement provides a moral blueprint for addressing these issues. The nation and our pubic discourse would be well served if every Senator and Congressperson read this statement carefully before casting their votes.
If we are to fashion a moral, righteous, and just energy policy - if we are to make the moral choice here - we must pursue an energy policy that builds for the future and cares for the Earth. We have an extraordinary opportunity to create a better future. A future where producing and using energy does not put the planet at peril. Where power plants don't harm public health. Where we tap the energy of the sun the wind, and the Earth without forever destroying pristine places. Where America leads the world in energy innovation. We know this future could be ours. It is within our grasp. We need to invest intensively in the promising technologies that can help us make this a reality.
Let us take this opportunity to be a light unto the world. And lead the way to bright, clean, sustainable future.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.