Monday, May 19, 2014

An Update from the PEC Advocacy Committee

How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104:24-25

One People and One Earth
Jo Randolph

During our advocacy meetings this year we have intentionally established the opportunity to learn about our connections and interconnectedness to one another.  We are one people and one earth!  One recent presentation was by the Rev. Curtis Karns of the Yukon Presbytery.  Rev. Karns gave us his background, passion and involvement in care for God’s environment.  He lives with his wife in a bio-shelter home where they teach about and live the life they espouse. Rev. Karns started a Presbyterians for Earth Care group (YPEC) in the Yukon Presbytery after realizing, as they were locally experiencing the results of climate changing, the faith perspective was missing. Although no one congregation took up the faith connection to climate change, he identified many individuals within the presbytery representing several different churches, who did have the desire to bring theology into the discussions. They have acted to bring Earth Care concepts into the Yukon Presbytery working documents.

Karns focused on two local concerns in his presentation – the effect of toxins on the Village of Savoonga and the effects of climate changes on polar ice and its consequences.

The Village of Savoonga, located on the northern cost of St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea and where 95% of the population is indigenous, has been challenged since World War II.  Because of its position in the Bering Sea, Savoonga was the site for war games and military maneuvers as well as a toxin dump for PCBs. Although it was part of a completed superfund cleanup, the sea mammals in the area have over 10 times the normal amount of PCBs in their bodies. The people of Savoonga rely heavily on sea mammals for food and the result is the toxics are transferring to humans through their diet.

These peoples are also being affected by the winds blowing east from China and Southeast Asia.  These winds are very acidic winds that blow in affecting the caribou on the lands resulting in unhealthy and reduce food sources for the villages.

YPEC is working with the Alaskan Community Action of Toxins (ACAT) to address these concerns to the state, national and international governmental entities. Rev. Karns also recommended Dan O’Neil’s The Firecracker Boy’s to learn about the radioactive testing done off the coast of Alaska.

Climate change has dramatically impacted these villages. The increased temperatures are rising at such an extent that it is now affecting the permafrost of the area. This results in the lack of build-up of the polar ice sheets that have historically provided a barrier to storm surges and protection for the local villages. Not anymore. Now the polar ice builds up late and indigenous villages are being damaged and destroyed. Peoples are losing their lively hoods and their homes.

The latest study reports the U.S. climate has changed everywhere in the United States – we are connected with these Alaskan populations and are called to sustainably nurture and care for God’s creation.  Check out the newestclimate assessment report and see how climate change is affecting your location.

Creator God, open our eyes as we study together our interconnectedness.  Help us recognize that all our actions affect all your creations. Guide us as we discern the care that is pleasing to thee in relation to all  you have entrusted to us. May we honor your creation with all our words and deeds.

Jo Randolph co-moderates the advocacy committee for PEC with Holly Hallman.  She is a LEED Associate Professor teaching at the local community college, holds a Certificate in Environmental Ministry and Leadership from McCormick Theological Seminary, heads the Earth Care Team at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church and is an active member of Heartland Presbytery Earthkeepers. In her spare time she enjoys her gardens, her grandchildren and experiencing God’s awesome creation. 

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