Originally known as “Presbyterians for Restoring Creation” (PRC), Presbyterians for Earth Care (PEC) is a Christian environmentalist nonprofit group that operates alongside the Presbyterian Church USA, which views environmentalism as a biblical mandate as expressed in Romans 8:19-23: “We are called to repentance for our irresponsibility in tilling the earth without sustaining the earth, for our destruction of the beauties and bounties of God’s creation.” PEC’s mission is to help church members “connec[t] with God and others through biblical and theological reflection”; “equi[p] members with new and effective tools and resources” to promote environmental well-being; and “inspir[e] members through conferences on timely eco-justice issues and Creation-honoring worship.”
PEC’s earliest roots can be traced to PCUSA’s 202nd General Assembly meeting of 1990, which adopted an initiative called “Restoring Creation for Ecology and Justice” to address such purportedly ominous trends as population growth, natural-resource depletion, the widening “rich-poor” gap, and increased greenhouse-gas emissions resulting from human industrial activity.
In 1995, PEC (which at the time was known as PRC) was officially established as an independent, national, grassroots organization to help people of faith work towards “environmental wholeness with social justice.” Rev. William Gibson, a member of the National Council of Churches‘ Eco-Justice Working Group, was a key co-founder of the organization, which now presents an annual award in his honor.
In 2008, PEC/PRC served as an energy-policy advisor to PCUSA and helped the Church pass a resolution titled “The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming.”
PEC took its new name in 2009 and is now closely affiliated with PCUSA’s Environmental Ministries office, which—as evidenced by its promotion of “carbon offsets” as mechanisms for minimizing “harmful greenhouse gas emissions” that lead to “deepening ecological crises”—is an openly politicized branch of the Church.
PEC’s autonomous political work focuses on petition drives, campaign endorsements, letter writing, organizing, and the drafting of overtures for PCUSA’s General Assembly. Citing environmental concerns about “global warming,” PEC has repeatedly fought to block/outlaw projects aimed at expanding U.S. supplies of fossil fuels: e.g., oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, hydraulic fracking for gas and oil, mountaintop-removal coal mining, and the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Along with the National Council of Churches and other Christian groups, PEC has helped lead a major campaign against bottled water—even against its availability in Third World countries such as Ghana. By PEC’s reckoning, bottled water not only represents an environmental issue—the discarded bottles add greatly to the sum total of garbage produced by human activity—but also poses major ethical problems because it encourages the privatization of what the organization views as a “human right.” Moreover, PEC charges that “communities around the world are finding multinational bottled water companies controlling their local water sources and not living up to promises.”
Proceeding from the premise that carbon dioxide “is a greenhouse gas and contributes significantly to global warming,” PEC has led a “Carbon Neutral Lives” campaign urging church members to limit their individual carbon emissions by reducing their energy usage, eating foods that are in-season and grown locally, driving less, choosing fuel-efficient vehicles and energy-efficient appliances, replacing traditional lights with compact fluorescent bulbs, and weatherstripping the doors and windows of their homes. Further, PEC encourages people to purchase “carbon offsets” from carbon credit companies such as the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Native Energy, and Terra Pass.
On a macro level, PEC supports the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol, a 1997 international agreement that set binding greenhouse-gas-reduction targets for 37 industrialized countries. The organization has likewise endorsed the Earth Charter, an international initiative that blames capitalism and income inequality for many of the world’s environmental, social, and economic problems.