The Green New Deal (GND) is a bold and compelling proposal to transform the US energy system in a fundamentally new direction, fueled by values of love, justice, and compassion. The initiative is a comprehensive answer to the deadly Achilles’ heels of modern economies: dependence on dirty energy, low-paying jobs, environmental degradation, and growing inequity. For people of faith, the GND is a tangible expression of key values that animate their visions of a better world.
"People of Faith for a Green New Deal" Launch Webinar
As people of faith, we support a Green New Deal because it offers a vision, urgency and ambition that matches the climate change crisis we face today.
GreenFaith supports the GND because it is bold and comprehensive. Consider that today:
We face a climate emergency that impacts every region of the country. Recent events like Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, and the Paradise and Los Angeles wildfires are vivid expressions of this emergency. These events caused avoidable death or displacement for thousands of people. These kinds of events will become more and more common until we take dramatic action.
Because climate change hurts vulnerable communities worst, it exacerbates the extreme income inequality that grows more widespread every year and that is counter to the values of faith communities. The richest 5 percent of Americans now hold two-thirds of the nation’s wealth. The average white family holds 41 times more wealth than the average African-American family, and 22 times more than the average Latino family. We need policies that will invest in under-resourced communities through job training, green infrastructure, and protection from climate impacts.
The GND aligns strongly with a fundamental truth: building sustainable societies requires comprehensive overhauls, not mere tweaks, of modern economies. Sweeping changes are inevitable when energy systems, the foundation of modern economies, are switched from fossil fuels to renewables, when publics and policymakers commit to living in harmony with Earth’s systems, and when we elevate equity as a policy priority. The GND embodies such comprehensive change, and aligns with the deepest values of religious and spiritual traditions.
The GND has five overarching goals. It seeks to stabilize the climate by achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions; upgrade infrastructure and industrial plants to make them clean and cutting-edge; promote environmental health by cleaning up the air and water; invest in high-paying jobs that help create a broadly prosperous society; and promote justice and equity by prioritizing the interests of marginal and vulnerable groups.
This GND vision is currently expressed in simple resolutions introduced in identical form in the US House (H.Res.109) and the US Senate (S.Res.59). It lays out the framework for an economy overhauled for sustainability and calls for a 10-year society-wide mobilization effort to achieve it. To operationalize the vision will require a series of bills addressing various areas of the economy.
Concretely, the GND vision would bring major changes to key sectors of the economy: It would
- Replace or upgrade buildings on a massive scale to maximize energy and water efficiency, and to make buildings durable. Millions of good jobs would be created. The plan would also provide new sources of capital for green building projects at the local level.
- Set a national goal of a 100% renewable energy supply through a massive expansion of renewables capacity, especially solar and wind power, and through adoption of distributed energy solutions and smart grids.
- Work with farmers and ranchers to remove the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the agriculture sector.
- Invest in manufacturing industries to reduce or eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
- In transportation, give priority to zero-emission vehicles, public transit, and accessible and safe walking and biking infrastructure
- Safeguard the environment by ensuring that hazardous waste areas are cleaned up and that public lands, waters and oceans are protected.
Through these sectoral advances the plan would help people to build more dignified lives. It would guarantee work for all, at a “family-sustaining wage” and with family leave, medical leave, and retirement provided for all. It would provide health care, affordable and safe housing, clean water, clean food, and access to nature for all Americans. It lifts up historically mistreated groups, for example indigenous people, who would gain consultation and decision-making power over policies that affect them or their territories. In sum, the plan creates a healthier society, economy, and environment that reflects a basic fairness and compassion.
Some observers object that the cost of such a national overhaul is prohibitive; frightened estimates often run into the trillions of dollars. These estimates are misleading. Executed intelligently, a GND is affordable for the United Sates, for several reasons:
- Much of GND spending consists of investments (spending that spawns a series of benefits over time) rather than costs (simple expenditures). A trillion dollars’ worth of smart investment generates returns that build prosperity and opportunity for years. It is not an economic drain.
- Many GND investments target work that must be done anyway. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 infrastructure report card gave a D+ to the country’s infrastructure because of the poor condition of our bridges, roads, and pipelines. Given the need, and because most infrastructure is in place for decades, rebuilding the country’s physical assets now in a sustainable and climate-friendly way is smart economics.
- The cost of a GND must be compared to the cost of business as usual. Numerous authoritative studies have shown that inaction on climate change is far more expensive than action. Indeed, Citigroup estimates that climate change could reduce gross world product by tens of trillions of dollars by 2050. Wise economic stewardship suggests a need for strong action, soon.
- Finally, trillions have been spent in the past two decades on wars, tax cuts for the country’s wealthiest households, and other immoral activities. Isn’t it time that US resources be directed to activities that rebuild our cities, safeguard the environment, and create broad prosperity for all people?
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Sacred and Inspirational Texts and a Green New Deal
The following are a selection of sacred texts and quotations from several of the world’s religions, by no means exhaustive, that speak to the value of the natural world and the moral duty we share to create a compassionate and just society. These two commitments - to respect nature and to build a loving, fair response to climate change, are the values that underline the Green New Deal.
What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you;
the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of every human being.
Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority.
We love because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
(1 John 4:19-21)
And it is He who has appointed you vicegerent over the earth, and has exalted some of you over others in rank that He may try you through what He has given you.
(The Holy Qur’an, Surah Al-An’am 6:165)
Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by of what the hands of people have earned, so He may let them taste part of consequence of what they have done that perhaps they will return righteousness.
(The Holy Qur’an, Surah Ar-Rum 30:41)
Truly, God will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.
(The Holy Qur’an, Surah Ar-Ra‘d 13:11)
May peace radiate in the whole sky and in
the vast ethereal space,
May peace reign all over this earth, in water,
in all herbs, and the forests,
May peace flow over the whole universe,
May peace be in the Supreme Being,
May peace exist in all creation, and peace alone,
May peace flow into us.
Aum - peace, peace and peace!
(Yajur Veda Samhita 36:17)
The Earth is my mother and I am her child!
(Atharva Veda 12.1.12)
So long as the earth is able to maintain mountains, forests and trees
Until then the human race and its progeny will be able to survive
(Durga Saptashati 54)
Ether, air, fire, water, earth, planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body. Remembering this a devotee respects all species.
(Srimad Bhagavatam 11.2.41)
Climate change creates pain, suffering, and violence. Unless we change how we use energy, how we use the land, how we grow our crops, how we treat other animals, and how we use natural resources, we will only further this pain, suffering, and violence. … In doing all of this, we help maintain the ecological and cosmic order, an order that allows life and existence to flourish.
(2015 Hindu Declaration on Climate Change)
May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, the great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,those living near and far away, those born to-be-born--
May all beings be at ease! Let none deceive another, 0r despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world.
To fulfill our wider moral responsibility, we must join with others, stand up to the vested interests that oppose change, and demand that our economic, social, and political institutions be fundamentally altered so they protect the climate and offer nurturance and support for all of humanity in a just and equitable manner.
(The Earth As Witness: International Dharma Teachers’ Statement on Climate Change)
Together, humanity must act on the root causes of this environmental crisis, which is driven by our use of fossil fuels, unsustainable consumption patterns, lack of awareness, and lack of concern about the consequences of our actions. ... As Buddhist leaders, we are united by our concern to phase out fossil fuels, to reduce our consumption patterns, and the ethical imperative to act against both the causes and the impacts of climate change, especially on the world’s poorest.
(2015 Buddhist Climate Change Statement to World Leaders)
Only when we truly love the Earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness. That’s the kind of awareness, the kind of awakening that we need. The future of the planet depends on whether we’re able to cultivate this insight or not.
(Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh)
We can call, in unison, for a policy of global generosity in place of rash militarism, for programs that protect the poor and vulnerable, for the advancement of social and racial justice, and for the rapid transition to a clean-energy economy.
(Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
We covenant to affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
(Unitarian Universalist 7th Principle)
Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction. …
Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things. …
Environmental Justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards. …
Environmental Justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care. ...
(Principles of Environmental Justice)
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we scientists don’t know how to do that.
People of Faith for a Green New Deal Discussion Guide for Facilitators
The purpose of this discussion guide is to enable you to
provide an opportunity for people of diverse faiths and spiritualities to identify the values which they think should guide our collective response to climate change
introduce the moral values which GreenFaith views as fundamental in this regard
create space for people to imagine the magnitude of the climate crisis
Introduce the guiding principles and the basic components of a Green New Deal
*Invite participants to discuss their response and to indicate their interest in further involvement on this issue.
This guide is designed to support a group discussion of 5-20 people for a period of 45-60 minutes.
Spoken Teaching Points for the Green New Deal
The following represent possible talking points for your D’var Torah, Sermon, Dharma Talk, Khutbah, or other spoken teaching in your spiritual or faith community.
The climate crisis represents a grave threat to humanity, the global environment, the most vulnerable among us, and future generations. Our religious and spiritual traditions call us to care for each other and for the Earth. However, the scientific consensus is powerful and direct: without incredibly ambitious and rapid action, we face brutal environmental disruption that will cost millions of lives, displace hundreds of millions from their homes, impoverish countless communities, and badly degrade ecosystems that support life. The most vulnerable among us will suffer worst, despite having contributed least to the problem.
To stabilize the climate at a level that is still dangerous but short of catastrophic levels, greenhouse gas emissions need to fall to a net zero level by 2050. This is an unprecedented challenge for humans.
Since the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in 2016, the world has actually lost ground in responding to climate change.
Globally, and in the US, carbon emissions have risen.
The fossil fuel industry has spent more than $1 billion since 2016 directly and through its trade associations lobbying against climate change legislation.
The financial sector has increased its financing for new fossil fuel infrastructure to the tune of $1.9 trillion since the Paris Agreement was signed.
This reality is alarming. Combined with a federal administration that is actively hostile to climate action, the prospects are dire.
People of faith and spirit must decide what kind of response to climate change they will support. GreenFaith supports a response based on compassion, love and justice and believes that four conditions must guide our approach to climate change. Our response must
Be urgent and ambitious, meeting the scale of the problem at the fastest possible rate. A mobilization of society similar to past wartime mobilizations is needed.
Be holistic. It must transform our energy, transportation, food and water systems, our buildings and infrastructure, and economic systems. All must change if we are to meet the challenge.
Engage those hurt most by and vulnerable to the climate crisis and invest heavily in their communities and solutions. It must provide protection from extreme heat, severe weather, high flooding waters, and deadly air pollution. It must support local solutions and local leadership, and the countless local solutions that are already underway.
Invest in the training of workers, job placement, and a commitment to good paying jobs. It must fund re-training and income maintenance for displaced workers, so that those who have built the foundation for today’s economy aren’t hurt by the transition to a new economy.
The Green New Deal embodies a rapid, urgent response. It calls for a massive transition to renewable energy and green economy over the coming decade.
It is holistic. It recognizes that we need a new generation of energy, transportation systems, farming, buildings, and more.
It can be fair and just, by investing in frontline communities and in communities of color.
It can support workers, through legislation that ensures that the millions of jobs required to make the transition successful will pay family-sustaining wages and benefits and offer workers the opportunity to join a union.
The Green New Deal represents a bold vision that can meet the climate crisis. It can save lives, protect health, create jobs, and transform society. It is based on values at the heart of the world’s religions - compassion, love, and justice.