On Renewing our Call to Environmental Justice

The PCUSA has a deep history of promoting environmental issues and justice. In a time where it feels like the culture around us is hostile or at the least indifferent to the environment, the church needs to speak up and take action. God calls us to care for all of God’s creation.

There are several GA overtures calling on us, the church, to take action to care for God’s creation.

The Session of First Presbyterian Church of Washington sent the following to the Presbytery to consider. The Presbytery agreed and has sent the overture for consideration to this year’s General Assembly.

[08-04] On Renewing our Call to Promote Environmental Justice.

The Overture call the 223rd General Assembly to

  • Renew our denomination’s call to promote environmental Justice and oppose environmental injustice in all its forms
  • Listen to the perspectives and voices of people most impacted by environmental injustice, including environmental racism
  • In accordance with he Gospel, position the church’s approach to environmental problems primarily as response to the voice most directly impacted by environmental injustice and the cry of God’s creation for environmental justice.

Excerpts from the 08-04 On Renewing Our Call to Promote Environmental Justice

History of PCUSA Actions around Environmental Justice

The Presbyterian church has long been a proponent of action to promote social and environmental justice. Presbyterian General Assemblies have been speaking on issues of environmental protection and justice since the late 1960s. Their witness has ranged broadly from drinking water safety and acid rain, to protecting endangered species, to cleaning up dirty power plants, to climate change and U.S. energy policy. The major policy statements on environmental issues were in 1971, 1990, and 2008, and on energy in 1981.

Environmental Justice, injustice and Racism

Environmental justice is a concept first articulated by Dr. Robert Bullard to denote the movement to resolve the problems created by the confluence of environmental destruction, racism, and poverty. The U.S. EPA defines environmental justice as:

… the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. … It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work. (https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice)

Thus, environmental justice calls for (1) equal treatment with respect to exposure to environmental hazards and (2) equal opportunity to be heard with respect to environmental matters.

Current Challenges

We live in a time when the environmental regulations that protect our air and water and that are designed to lessen the rate of climate change are being subjected to an all-out assault on many levels.

The impacts of environmental injustice are being magnified by and focused upon the poor and minorities by the increasingly evident impacts of global warming/climate change that have exacerbated devastating heat waves, flooding, hurricanes, and wildfires. These impacts are only expected to increase as global temperatures continue to climb.

those who bear the brunt of environmental problems often find their voices silenced by those who see the problem of environmental damage only through privileged eyes. We live in a time when money talks and the voices of those without it are not heard.

The church must work to minimize environmental problems and listen to the voices of those most disproportionately impacted.


Additional information about Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice Explained