Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Today in the Mission Yearbook

Minute for Mission: Earth Day


Earth keeping: Protecting foodways from plastic pollution

April 22, 2024

Leigh Takak, Chris Noongwook, Vi Waghiyi, Mellisa Johnson, Field Institute 2022 (provided)

When thinking of the Arctic, many cling to an image of pristine white tundra. This is far from reality. Research is confirming that the Arctic contains some of the most highly contaminated animals and people in the world due to the persistent industrial chemicals and pesticides that are transported on atmospheric and oceanic currents from lower latitudes. Much of this pollution comes from both plastic production and plastic contamination. 

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), an Anchorage-based nonprofit, is seeing growing awareness of the Arctic as a place of vulnerability and an increasing interest in concerted action. They have been a grant partner of the Presbyterian Hunger Program since 2018. The PC(USA) and other groups are dedicated to learning or relearning how to listen to Indigenous wisdom as they support climate change work that protects the health and well-being of our earth, its wildlife and peoples. 

The ACAT research team has been conducting community-based participatory environmental health research on Sivuqaq (the traditional name for St. Lawrence Island) for more than 22 years. Initially, ACAT’s research collaboration began at the request of respected Savoonga elder and community health aide Annie Alowa. Annie, who died from breast cancer herself in 1999, witnessed health disparities among her people such as cancers, thyroid disease, miscarriages, birth defects and reproductive disorders, particularly among the people who lived and worked at Northeast Cape on Sivuqaq, home to approximately 1,700 Yupik residents. One of the crucial pieces of work that ACAT is doing is making connections between these health issues and the fossil-fuel driven production of plastics in the region. 

The people of Sivuqaq rely on a traditional diet of greens, berries, fish, reindeer and marine mammals for their physical, cultural and spiritual sustenance. 

Sadly, the study of these foods shows how contaminants from plastic production carried to the far north by atmospheric and ocean currents persist for years and sometimes decades, burdening the region’s Indigenous people.

The community-based research on Sivuqaq is guided by elders and other community leaders, and now includes eight universities working together with the tribes and Alaska Community Action on Toxics, who train local people as community health researchers for the biomonitoring work. The research informs government decisions and aims to improve accountability of the fossil fuel industry.  ACAT educates parents, teachers and health-care providers about ways they can reduce exposures to harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their homes and environment. And the results of their research also inform environmental health policies at the state, national and international levels. Alaska Community Action on Toxics organizes with community leaders to present information to policymakers in Juneau, Alaska; Washington, D.C.; and in Geneva, Switzerland, at the United Nations. ACAT has also been active in the negotiation and implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs treaty), a global legally binding treaty to eliminate the world’s most dangerous chemicals.[i]

For ideas to engage in climate education and action go to, or to see Earth Day Sunday resources including Real Faith in a Synthetic World Plastic Jesus, visit

Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care Concerns, Presbyterian Hunger Program

[i] Since 1996, in memory of the massacre of 19 Brazilian landless peasants who were brutally assassinated, the Via Campesina, an international peasants movement, has declared April 17 to be the International Day of Farmer and Peasant Struggles, a day for recognizing the struggles of smallholder food producers globally and organizing actions in support of food sovereignty and food justice.

Today’s Focus: Earth Day

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Kevin Garvey, Funds Development Specialist, Presbyterian Foundation 
Margaret Gay, Associate, International Property, World Mission, Presbyterian Mission Agency  

Let us pray

Creator, we pray today for farmers like Ibrahim who are farming because they love the land and want to nourish their families and communities. We pray for a world in which farmers like Ibrahim can ensure their children and families a peaceful and dignified future. We pray for a ceasefire in Gaza and lasting peace in the region. And we pray for small farmers all over the world who are also faced with violence and the destruction of their dreams of the future, that they may also experience God’s saving grace.