Category: Pondering Peace

Electrifying Creation Care

Some time ago I heard the Secretary of the United States Department of Energy Jennifer Granholm speak on an Interfaith Power and Light webinar.  She began by saying, “Scripture teaches us to take care of the garden of the world and to love thy neighbor as thyself.”  She emphasized the importance of congregations in being a part of addressing the challenges of climate change.  “Guided by faith and buoyed by reverence for God’s creation and driven to improve the lot of others, congregations of every kind in every part of America are living out those words.  They are helping to usher in our clean energy future and tackling the greatest challenges of our time.”  She gave examples of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish congregations investing in clean energy so as to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and serve their communities.  She also lifted up the federal government’s efforts to support these efforts with funding opportunities and direct payments for investments in clean energy.  She continued, “It is clear to me that faith organizations are uniquely positioned to get the word out about the stakes of this moment and the tools we have at our disposal to meet it.”

It was nice to hear this public affirmation of the important role congregations and people of faith can have in addressing the climate crisis.  I agree with this assessment.  I have been encouraging faith communities and their members to do their part in reducing greenhouse gases.  But I realize that addressing climate change fully is complex, and it involves many good climate solutions.  It is easy to feel a little unsure as to what we can do that will have an impact and where to start.

Since the burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of climate change, we can summarize a significant part of what we need to do with these phrases that give us the big action picture:

  • Transition to clean energy.
  • Electrify everything.
  • Reduce energy use.
  • Regenerate nature.

A report by Evergreen Collaborative and Natural Resources Defense Council entitled “Powering Towards 100% Clean Power” states, “Clean electricity combined with electrification could ultimately cut 70-80% of current U.S. GHG pollution.”

According to Joel Rosenberg of Rewiring America, around 40% of U.S. carbon emissions come from our homes and the vehicles we drive. Therefore, we as individuals and families need to be engaged in electrifying everything, as well as helping our churches and congregations do so.  He writes, “Simply switching everything in our lives to be powered by electricity from renewable energy will go a long way toward getting our emissions down and reducing the impact of climate change” (Electrify Everything in Your Home, Rewiring America, 2021, 2).  In addition, often it will be more affordable, comfortable, and healthy.

But what does it mean to electrify everything?  It means that we switch from using fossil fuels to power our homes, churches, and lives, to using electricity instead.  That means we switch out all the appliances, systems, and machines we use that are powered by gas, coal or oil to ones that are powered by electricity.  And then a further step is to move toward making that electricity source as clean as possible.

More specifically, it means we replace our heating system that uses gas or another form of fossil fuel with a heat pump system that provides both heat and air conditioning.  We exchange our gas hot water heater for an electric heat pump water heater.  We switch out our gas stove for an electric or induction stovetop.  We buy and drive an electric vehicle rather than one with a gas combustion engine. And then going further, if our roof is suitable and our locality allows it, we put solar panels on our roof or get another form of clean energy.

We need not get overwhelmed when we look at this big picture of what needs to be done, because this is a process we can engage in over a number of years.  What is important, as individuals and families and as churches, is that we understand what needs to be done and then make a plan to do it.  One by one we can switch over our machines and appliances to electricity, sometimes choosing to wait until they need to be replaced anyway.  If we have a plan and are prepared, when an appliance suddenly breaks down, we will know what to do to move toward an electric one, rather than in the rush of an emergency, simply replace it with the same old fossil fuel one and be stuck with it for years to come.

So, I’m encouraging us all to make an electrification plan.  Each household or congregation may go about this differently, but the common goal is to electrify everything with a clean energy source. Updating our personal and church infrastructure will result in lower energy use and lower carbon emissions, and will probably have a bigger impact than most other ways we may try to lower emissions.  Recognizing this, the federal government has designated a lot of money toward helping us do this through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Once we begin doing this, we can share our knowledge and excitement about electrifying with others – family, friends, church members, neighbors, and other community members. I know how excited I felt when we had finally electrified everything in our home so that we were totally off gas and how eager I was to share this good news with others! As more and more people and congregations do this, there will be an ever greater effect. This can truly be electrifying – thrilling and exciting – creation care that can make a difference.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm ended her brief talk with these words.

“My hope, my prayer for all of you is this – that you keep the faith that our future might still be bright, and that you turn that faith into action, that you put feet to your prayers, that you harness every bit of will that you have and every resource we provide to be able to shape this clean energy future, and that you treat that action as a moral mandate, not just for your own posterity, but for your neighbors, for perfect strangers, and for all of humanity.”

This is my hope and prayer as well.

Rev. Ruth Rosell, Ph.D.
Director of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence
Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology Emerita
Central Seminary, Shawnee, KS

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.