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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holistic Moms Applaud Open Conversation about Childbirth


The Holistic Moms Network (HMN), a national non-profit organization, applauds Self Magazine and writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner for asking the question “Who Controls Childbirth?” in the July 2010 issue. The personal, thoughtful piece explains one woman’s exploration into her traumatic first birth and her desire to reexamine her experience as she prepares for another child. Her personal journey highlights the growing holistic birth movement spearheaded by such advocates as midwife Ina May Gaskin and talk show host Ricki Lake.

It is the opinion of the Holistic Moms Network that the movement toward reclaiming birth is not about judging birthing women and evaluating their decisions but about exposing the culture of birth that has been created here in the United States – one that is based in fear and uncertainty and that does not afford women the basic right to choose when, where, and how to birth their children. The continuously rising C-section rates in the United States reveal an opportunity to question the institutions involved in the birthing process, not to question or criticize the mothers. Women are not provided with viable options for natural childbirth and choices that fall outside of the increasingly medical model of childbirth in this country are not supported by the existing healthcare system. Instead, women’s voices are disrespected and many women, such as Ms. Brodesser-Akner, experience traumatic birth at the hands of professionals who disregard their emotional and psychological desires about their birth experiences.

“At the Holistic Moms Network,” explains Nancy Massotto, Ph.D., “we encourage women to become informed about the risks and benefits of all healthcare procedures, including those prevalent in childbirth practices. But without a fundamental shift in how we think about birth and how the institutions designed to support women through this natural process practice, women will have a hard time reclaiming the birth experience.”

The World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agree that, for the safety of both mothers and babies, a country’s C-section rate should not exceed 10-15%. The American medical institutions are not heeding these recommendations, with recent rates rising to more than 31% in 2007. A 2002 study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that medical intervention has become commonplace in childbirth in developed countries “without evidence of effectiveness”, not as a result of medical necessity but rather due to the attitude, support, and practice of healthcare institutions.

Celebrity spokesperson for the organization, Mayim Bialik, who was interviewed for the article agrees: “I am honored to be a part of the ongoing discussion about natural and holistic options for childbirth, and I hope to see the day very soon when the U.S. achieves the low infant and maternal mortality rates recommended by the W.H.O. and UNICEF that many other Western countries have accomplished. I applaud communities that support a variety of opinions, especially when those opinions converge to promote healthy babies, healthy moms, and a healthy understanding of the value of natural childbirth.”

“We hope this article opens up the door for a wider conversation about respecting the desires of mothers while supporting them with the best care available,” says Dr. Massotto. “As an organization, we recognize that support is invaluable for parents at every stage, and birth is no exception.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Turn Your Vacation Green!


Vacation season is in full swing! People are loading up their cars, heading for the airport, and seeking out some down time, often at the beach, the lake, or in other natural environments to restore balance and our energy. But what impact does your travel have on the planet? Do you think green when you go on vacation? Maybe you should!

What exactly is green or sustainable travel? According to TravelGreen.org, sustainable travel "...focuses on reducing the environmental impact of travel and preserving cultural heritage. It generates income and employment for travel destinations while protecting local ecosystems and preserving local culture. Sustainable travel encompasses a holistic approach to the business of travel that creates value for the traveler, economic opportunity for local communities and business opportunities for the industry."

Travel leaves an undeniable impact on the environment. Carbon emissions from airplanes are released high in the atmosphere, creating an even greater effect on climate change than emissions from cars and buses. In addition, air travelers produce an estimated 7.5 million pounds of trash every day from improperly discarding paper, plastic and food waste both while waiting in the terminal and on board, according to the New York Times. You can help reduce impact by opting for a direct flight and choosing flights that carry more passengers. Check out other travel options - train and bus transport also reduces impact. You might also look into staying closer to home and discovering some of the great spots in your own neck of the woods! When flying is a must, you can help reduce your impact by purchasing carbon offsets from organizations such as TerraPass which then, in turn, invests in carbon reducing projects. And, you can be conscious of your waste and your personal impact along the way.

What else can you do when traveling? Consider renting a hybrid car, as they "produce up to 90% fewer pollutants than their gas-guzzling equivalents, which makes for a healthier ozone layer," according to Travelocity.com. Or book a reservation in a green hotel with a commitment to operating sustainably. Or stock up on eco-conscious travel gear in advance that will reduce your waste and your impact, such as reusable water bottles and food wraps. Once you've arrived, take advantage of the opportunity to hike, bike, or use public transportation to see the sites and to cut down on your impact. Seek out area restaurants serving fresh, local food, support local farmers and businesses along the way, and green up your vacation. Being conscious is the first step and making it green will make it more memorable for you and for your family!

Looking for more ideas? Join us for this week's Twitter Party at #holisticmoms at 10 pm on Tuesday the 20th with Travelocity's Travel for Good and share your ideas, ask questions, and live greener!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Karma


One of the simple surprises of everyday parenting is the opportunity to teach amazing lessons at the most unexpected moments. A seemingly random act or situation can prove to be great fodder to expressing important values about life, health, and kindness to your children. And kids take up these lessons quickly and earnestly - they seem to "get it" on an intuitive level and replicate them in short order.

The other evening provided just such a perfect opportunity. After a trip to the chiropractor, we stopped for a quick dinner out before heading home. Halfway through our meal, the waitress wandered over to inform us that someone had just paid our bill, anonymously. We were pleasantly surprised and delighted, of course (and thankful to whoever was responsible!). My 9 year old was enchanted by the kindness and the mystery. In turn, we promptly paid our young waitress a hefty tip and embarked on a long discussion of paying it forward and karma on the ride home.

Returning a kind favor made perfect sense to my son, without question. He recalled the time he gave up his ice cream money at school to another student who had forgotten hers and immediately linked the concepts. He smiled at the recollection. Children are empowered by giving and treating others with kindness, as Anna Unkovich, Education Director of the Pay It Forward Foundation notes. Giving can raise a child's self-esteem as well as her self-awareness. Volunteering, or giving of one's time, is beneficial for children and adults by enhancing self-identity and giving a sense of meaningful action, according to Cornell University researchers.

Teaching children kindness is an important aspect of parenting. Researchers at UC Davis have argued that altruistic behavior is more learned and culturally derived than genetically programmed. Humane educator and author Zoe Weil says:

"As parents, I believe we have a responsibility to raise conscious and conscientious children who have the knowledge, will and capacity to address grave problems such as climate change, escalating worldwide slavery, alarming rates of species extinction, terrorism, an energy crisis, and more. If we fail to embrace this responsibility, I believe we fail our children because they will inherit a world worse off than that of our own generation."

We can teach our children about kindness, about giving, and about good karma by modeling it - by being living examples of how to live gently, sustainably, and consciously in this world and by building a supportive community that exemplifies these values. Zoe Weil's MOGO Questionnaire (Most Good) is a great tool for identifying the values and perspectives you wish to model for your children and to teach. Passing on kindness is contagious and even young children can understand it. Grasp those everyday opportunities and know that you can help lay a very powerful foundation for your children.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

When Skepticism Pays Off

It's easy to get swept up in the tidal wave of "green" and "natural" products. It seems everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and claiming that they have developed an eco-conscience these days, but a healthy dash of skepticism is definitely in order.

As demand for more natural, earth-friendly products has increased, so has the number of companies claiming to fulfill this demand - and exponentially so. But consumers take heed - greenwashing is here! What is greenwashing? According to Greenpeace, greenwash is "used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service." In other words, companies are manufacturing products and labeling them as green or natural without any real basis to do so or claiming that they are taking steps to "green" their company or factories to gain credibility in the growing natural market. Why? In some cases, according to stopgreenwash.org, companies have been forced to clean up their industries by law or a court decision but spin their actions as a good deed on their part to be more environmentally conscious. Painting themselves "green" may also attract investors and staff to their industry or products, as well as consumers. But behind the smoke and mirrors, no real change is happening (except, perhaps, in the company's profits). BP, for example, now entangled in the worst oil spill in our history, launched a $200 million greenwashing campaign, complete with a earth-friendly sun logo and partnership with the National Wildlife Federation to portray themselves as supporters of the environment, despite their primary industry - oil drilling and refinery.

And these companies are succeeding. According to an article in the New Scientist earlier this year, consumer perception of how "green" a company is based upon their ads or media campaigns is very different from the reality. So how is a consumer to navigate through greenwashing? It's not always easy. Start with trying to uncover the truth behind the claims or ads. You might follow your gut instinct, as the Greenwashing Index recommends, or take a peek at some of their greenwashing ads, showcasing some dubious claims. You can also do some online research by visiting company websites to determine what organizations and associations they support or belong to, or what partnerships they may have to reveal their core intentions and mission. You might also look for authentic green certifications such as LEED for green building or read up on some blogs such as the Greenwash Brigade to determine the validity of corporate claims. Get to know your producers - whether local farmers, businesses, or manufacturers. Sometimes, a personal touch makes a huge difference in knowing the truth behind the marketing!