Will Pope’s US Visit Reap Carbon Divestment Rewards?

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US fossil fuel divestment campaigners are hopeful that Pope Francis’ impending visit to the US will add momentum to the country’s fossil fuel divestment campaign.

According to non-profit divestment campaign group 350.org, Pope Francis’ visit to the US this week could “add momentum to the rapidly growing effort, especially at faith institutions and Catholic universities” to divest from fossil fuel investments.

“Pope Francis’ positions on climate change are perfectly aligned with the logic of divestment, that if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage,” said May Boeve, Executive Director of 350.org. “Since the release of the encyclical, we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of faith communities who are joining the effort. The Pope’s visit is going to electrify the movement, not just for Catholics, but for all of us who see climate action as a moral imperative.”

Pope Francis’ released his climate encyclical in May, in a move that was widely praised — but also similarly condemned by those who thought the Pope was venturing into areas not within his purview. However, for those of us who do consider ourselves religious — be it Catholic, Christian, or anything else — there is much that holds true with a religious leader of the Popes’ magnitude speaking into such an issue. “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement,” the Pope wrote. “Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in ‘lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies’,” he added, referencing an Encyclical Letter written by John Paul II in 1991.

The Pope’s message has most certainly not fallen on deaf ears, as many religious institutions the world over — before and following the Pope’s climate encyclical — have jumped on the divestment bandwagon, believing in the need for those of a religious bent to be better stewards of our planet.

“Divestment is spreading fast in faith communities worldwide and the moral verdict is in – profiting from the fossil fuel industry is wrong,” said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of GreenFaith. “We hope and pray that the Vatican will join this global movement and highlight the need for clean energy – especially for the world’s poor.”

350.org included in its press release a list of faith divestment commitments to date, included below:

Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn, Australia

Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Australia

Anglican Diocese of Perth, Australia

Anglican National Super, Australia

Brighthelm Church, Brighton, UK

Church of Sweden

Colorado Ratnashri Sangha, USA

Earthsong, Australia

Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, USA

Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, MA, USA

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Oregon, OR, USA

First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Cambridge, MA, USA

First Presbyterian of Palo Alto, CA, USA

First Religious Society of Newburyport, MA, USA

First Unitarian Church of Pittsfield, ME, USA

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, UT, USA

First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, ON, Canada

First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, WI, USA

Franciscan Sisters of Mary, MO, USA

Friends Fiduciary Corporation, USA

Jamaica Plain Unitarian Universalist, NY, USA

Maine Council of Churches, ME, USA

Melbourne Unitarian Church, Australia

Portsmouth South Church Unitarian Universalist, NH, USA

Presentation Sisters, Queensland, Australia

Quakers in Britain, UK

Quakers Religious Society of Friends, Australia

Quaker Community Friends, OH, USA

Society for Community Work, CA, USA

The United Methodist Church, USA

Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, VA, USA

Trinity St. Paul’s United Church, Toronto, ON, Canada

Union Theological Seminary, NY, USA

Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence, MA, USA

Unitarian Universalist Area Church at First Parish in Sherborn, MA, USA

Unitarian Universalist Association, USA

Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, MA, USA

United Reformed Church Synod of Scotland, UK

Uniting Church in Australia

Uniting Church of ACT & NSW, Australia

United Church of Christ, MA, USA

United Church of Christ, MN, USA

Universalist Congregation of South County, RI, USA

UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR, USA

World Council of Churches

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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.

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