Shir Shalom and the Environment

Fossil Fuel Divestment

by Joe Morris

In my capacity as a recently appointed member of the Board of Directors of New York Interfaith Power & Light (NYIPL), I attended a meeting of the Interfaith Climate Justice Community (ICJC), a volunteer environmental organization affiliated with the Network of Religious Communities (NRC). NYIPL is a statewide organization that represents over 110 communities of faith and thousands of individuals to provide the moral response to climate change in New York State. The NRC is a Western New York interfaith organization (Rabbi Alex was the president recently) that promotes dialog and cooperation among religious communities while working to promote justice and the common good. This year the ICJC is working toward the theme of divestment of fossil fuels by individuals and organizations. The term divestment may bring a sour taste to your mouth because it has been used by some organizations against. This is unfortunate because divestment has been used in the past with success in support of other causes, most notably in opposition to apartheid in South Africa.

The ICJC has put an interesting twist on the term “divestment” by extending it beyond just divesting our organizations and ourselves of fossil fuel investments. This group aims at divesting fossil fuels from our lives. For example, purchasing an electric car instead of a gas-powered vehicle would be a form of fossil fuel divestiture. Purchasing wind or solar-generated electricity for your home, apartment, or business from a renewable energy supplier, or installing solar panels on your roof, would help eliminate fossil fuel from your life. Divestment takes conscious thought, and, more often than not, sacrifice, but the action doesn’t have to be big. Buying an electric car is certainly a major decision and a financial sacrifice, since they typically cost more than their gas- powered cousins, and represents a major decision. However, taking light rail instead of a car, or even turning down your home’s thermostat in the winter are no less meaningful actions you can take, though they represent a sacrifice of comfort and convenience instead of a monetary expense.

A willingness to make a sacrifice, and not just consider energy savings, comes from an appreciation of the moral imperative in the effort to combat climate change. You’re electing to divest from fossil fuel for moral reasons, to make a better world for your descendants and to repay your obligation to a higher power, not just for energy efficiency. Once you understand and accept this, then the sacrifice becomes much less important, if important at all. Greening Shir Shalom, whether it’s by recycling, or by replacing old energy inefficient appliances and facilities, helps the congregation make a statement in support of the moral perspective for battling climate change.

I have a Facebook page, “Saving the Earth – a Scientific and Moral Imperative,” dedicated to supporting the battle against climate change from both the scientific and moral perspectives. Please visit and feel free to add your own posts, so we can make this a vibrant place to express our support. At some point in the near future, I hope to expand this into a Facebook group.

Anyone who is interested in helping can contact me by phone (716) 544-4576 or email