The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is discussing the possibility of divesting from fossil fuel stocks and instead investing in alternative energy stocks. But when this came up in the House of Bishops, that body voted to exempt the Church Pension Group from this call for divestment. What message does this send to the church and those outside the church? Such a move suggests that we care about the environment, but not if it hits our pocketbook.
There is a simple solution: Instruct the Pension Group to do what we tell the other entities to do, in a way consistent with its fiduciary duties. If the Pension Group can’t do that, then let’s pull the resolution. Passing this resolution while exempting the group responsible for pensions makes us look hypocritical and a bit silly.
Let’s face it: Environmentally friendly alternatives usually cost more than fossil fuels today. They are also less convenient. That’s why most of us don’t live off the grid. Most of us don’t drive electric cars – they are inconvenient and smaller and can be more expensive. Many of us drive cars and SUV’s instead of taking public transportation. Plastic bottles are made from hydrocarbons. So are plastic bags and plastic food packaging, and everything else made from plastic. It is more expensive to build a house that is energy efficient, especially if systems such as geothermal heating and cooling are used. Airplanes run on fossil fuels. We buy apples flown in from New Zealand because we like crisp apples year-round. We like a pleasant room temperature, cool in summer and warm in winter.
If we are serious about this, let’s not just divest from fossil fuel stocks. Let’s also challenge our institutions and all Episcopalians to consume less fossil fuel and fossil fuel products. This includes our parishes, our dioceses, our church wide organizations, and each of us individually. We ought to address this issue at the church-wide level. However, we must also be willing to make personal changes to reduce fossil fuel consumption.