“We Breathe The Same Air” — EVs As Morality | #CleanTechnicaExclusive

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Rabbi Abraham


Published on November 12th, 2018 |
by Carolyn Fortuna





November 12th, 2018 by Carolyn Fortuna 


A couple of weeks ago, I reported on a group of clergy who met in New Jersey for an interfaith blessing of electric vehicles. During the event, Rabbi Joel N. Abraham of Temple Sholom, Scotch Plains called upon clergy to take up the cause to adopt EVs, arguing that there’s a moral reason for clergy to lead on this issue. Since then, Rabbi Abraham responded to an inquiry I made to learn more about his perspectives about EVs as morality, human responsibility to the earth, and religious guidance.

EVs as Morality

“The more Torah, the more life” – Hillel

Why Clergy Should Advocate with their Congregations to Adopt EVs

We talk a lot here at CleanTechnica about advocacy around climate change. We’ve looked at how advocates can draw upon a change model to help reluctant audiences understand the effects of climate change. We’ve analyzed how making important conscious efforts to gain access to efficacious tools and texts can help us that can sow seeds of permanent sustainable change.

And we look a lot specifically at what it will take to make a full transition to zero emission vehicles. Major automakers are constantly announcing their future plans for electrification, battery partnerships, EV charging infrastructure and partnerships, new EV manufacturing plant locations, and more. We’ve chronicled Hollywood celebrities who promote EVs and called out companies who demonstrate disconnect between their products and climate change. We’ve outlined how leadership today will produce a rapid transition to a net-zero emissions society tomorrow.

With EV exponential growth expected over the next 5 years, we must advocate and lead by example in helping others who are not familiar with the functioning of EVs to fill in their gaps of knowledge, sometimes referred to as the “neighborhood effect.” Rabbi Abraham concurs that we must all play our roles to help each other to understand the power and potential of an EV future.

“For me, this is part of a larger picture. In Judaism, we read the creation story not as a license to do what we will with creation, but as a commandment to care for it; to engage with God in the act of creation by finishing the perfection of our world, which in Judaism, we call “tikkun olam.” EVs are one way to raise up the issue of climate change and fossil fuel emissions.”

Multiple Layers to EVs as Morality

I asked Rabbi Abraham about the oft cited 3 elements to consider when promoting EV adoption: 1) supply chain and production; 2) the workings of the actual EV; 3) impacts on and availability to society’s most vulnerable groups.

At CleanTechnica over the last several months we’ve looked at blockchain technology applications for the grid and controversies over copper supply shortages. We’ve investigated the possibility of cobalt shortages. largely due to Congolese humanitarian issues around child labor, pollution, tunnel collapses, political instability, and punishing work conditions. Cobalt has become the new gold, with thieves breaking into warehouses and sociopolitical sourcing having the potential to taint EV manufacturers’ reputations. Our editor, Zachary Shahan, recently wrote about how automakers are consciously moving to slow the EV revolution, arguing that a transition to electric cars threatens the “financial health” of conventional auto companies. And the impact of climate change on society’s most vulnerable groups cannot be overlooked, with our writers examining effects of climate gentrification on affordable housing, how climate deniers fail to address the obligation to citizens and the rest of the world to limit carbon emissions and promote renewable energy, and how cities can protect low-income citizens from climate change. We’ve interviewed organizations like PUSH Buffalo which are dedicated to sustainable and affordable housing, locally generated renewable energy, environmental remediation, and living-wage, career-creating job opportunities for local residents.

Together, these 3 parts to the larger EV equation would seem to affect an “EVs as morality” position. I asked Rabbi Abraham if he agreed.

“I don’t know that I would divide things up in that manner. Of course, there are moral questions about the sourcing of the rare earth minerals that are part of current battery production for this generation of EV’s. Again, there is a larger picture – there are very few environmental choices that we can make that are all good. Electricity still comes from somewhere – often fossil fuel burning power plants. Many environmental solutions have high start-up costs that make them out of range of those with less resources. For me, this is where government comes in — to help bridge that gap until production is more reasonable. However, not being able to buy an EV does not mean, one cannot benefit from their use — through car share programs, taxi and for hire cars, as well as the benefits we would all accrue from less pollutants in our air.”

The Intersection of Environmental and Economic Justice

EVs as Morality

The environmental justice movement seeks to remedy a legacy of environmental racism and economic disparity by promoting the fair treatment of people of all races, incomes, and cultures. Fair treatment implies that no person or group of people should shoulder a disproportionate share of the negative environmental impacts that come about as a nation legislates and implements it domestic and foreign policy programs. Fair treatment implies that no business, industry, or other entity be allowed to pollute marginalized or economically disadvantaged communities. I asked Rabbi Abraham how the intersection of environmental and economic justice is consistent with his worldview and EVs as morality advocacy.

“We breathe the same air and drink the same water that eventually circles the earth – what more do we need to understand that we have a moral responsibility to expand the idea of ‘What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor?’ (Hillel) In Judaism, we are called to pursue justice,without an adjective – environmental, economic, criminal, racial, whatever. We need to pay more attention to how none of these areas of concentration are separable; they are all linked.”

We at CleanTechnica are quite appreciative for Rabbi Abraham’s time and thoughtfulness in responding to our questions. He shared his perspectives about EVs as morality in the period immediately following  the late October, 2018 mass shooting in which a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. The senseless act resulted in killing 11 congregants, wounding 4 police officers, and injuring 2 others.

We join Rabbi Abraham and others around the world in mourning and remembrance surrounding the deadliest attack on Jews in US history.

EVs as Morality


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Tags: Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Rabbi Abraham, Temple Sholom





About the Author

Carolyn Fortuna Carolyn Fortuna, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. She’s won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavy Foundation. She’s molds scholarship into digital media literacy and learning to spread the word about sustainability issues. Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook and Google+



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“We Breathe The Same Air” — EVs As Morality | #CleanTechnicaExclusive