Statement of Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at the Driven by Values - A Clean Car Campaign Press Conference
November 20, 2002
Contact: Alexis Rice or Sarah Lipton-Lubet 202-387-2800
We have come to the historic home and headquarters of the American automobile --- in the words of our Open Letter --- to "call for a new conversation about cars and their impact upon God's creation and God's children on Earth."
We're here because of our faith. We're also here to listen for we are by no means experts on all issues of automobile emissions technology. But today's conversations are far from merely technical. Indeed, these conversations are about America's moral priorities--and on that issue America's religious communities have a great deal to offer. And the members of the congregations we have the honor to represent tell us that concern for the environment is a profoundly religious and moral issue and, for them, is one of the more important challenges the world faces today. They tell us how seriously they take God's call to us to be stewards of creation ... to keep, in the words of Genesis, "the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations."
Judged by the vehicles we make and drive, we're not doing well by this covenant. Virtually all the cars the American auto industry is manufacturing are poisoning the air, warming the planet, punishing the poor, weakening America's security by dependency on foreign oil, jeopardizing the future of our children…. just plain violating our covenant with our Creator.
All of us who drive these cars are implicated as well. But the choices we are being given are largely coming from Detroit. Some are good-and improving-but a lot of them are lousy. SUVs particularly are blowing second-hand smoke into the lungs of God's creation and contribute disproportionately to our nation's environmental and health problems.
Indeed, transportation is the largest single source of global warming emissions in our country and the second largest in air pollution. Global warming has already caused changes in precipitation patterns, warming in oceans, and Arctic ice thinning. The scientific consensus is that, if not reversed, these global changes will endanger coastal areas, disrupt agriculture, increase drought and desertification, and lead to spreading diseases. Air pollution causes headaches, chest aches, upper respiratory illness, increased asthma attacks, and reduced pulmonary function - especially in our nation's young, old, and those beset by poverty. A recent UCLA study has linked air pollution to birth defects in American children.
We are here today because these problems cannot be addressed without the auto industry.
We are here today because raising fuel efficiency and building cleaner cars can save lives, benefit consumers, improve America's health, strengthen our economy, help ensure our national security and protect future generations.
We are here today because we know that there are many executives, engineers and workers in the auto industry who recognize these problems and share our goals and we have come to support them.
We are here today because the problem is not the technological capacity to achieve these goals, it is the moral commitment to reach them. It's not about know-how, it's about caring more.
We are here today to say to those in the automobile industry that from what we see, on the roads and in your commercials, we don't think you're taking fuel economy anywhere near seriously enough. We in the religious community are not opposed to technology; rather, we embrace it. But we want technology that works for people, not against them. And the technology exists to build cars that reflect our values - that protect our children, our environment, our freedom, and our future. But you have to use it.
And if you in the American auto industry manufacture - and market - more clean cars, we in the American religious community will not only tell our people about it, but will have prepared them to embrace such a change. In this way, together, the religious community and the automobile industry can forge a powerful partnership to protect that which God has entrusted to us.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .
Thanks. We're looking forward to a good day.