I recently attended a volunteer recruiting meeting organized by the legendary women who founded MOMAS (which now stands for “Moms Advocating Sustainability” but originally stood for “Mothers of Marin Against the Spray,” when they first organized in 2008). I came away from the meeting inspired to become involved, and write this post to encourage each of you to engage with your community on a grass-roots level. You, too, can effect positive change, and MOMAS can help, no matter where you live.
A couple of years ago when I was expecting my first baby and was desperately researching non-toxic baby products, I heard about MOMAS from a friend. I was deeply moved by their story, deeply enough that since then not a day has gone by when I have not spent hours researching and sharing information through this blog to reduce our exposures to toxic chemicals.
These legendary women are four moms who sat around a kitchen table after they heard disturbing news that the State of California was going to spray an untested pesticide from low flying airplanes on nine Bay Area counties to kill the Light Brown Apple Moth. The mothers were unstoppable. They did not take “no” for an answer. They fought. They secured support of scientists, physicians, and many other mothers to call off the pesticide spray plan. Two counties were sprayed but the rest were saved from the dangers of the pesticide, when it turned out that they were able to effectively communicate that the Light Brown Apple Moth posed no threat to agriculture, research that has proven correct over time. And this is how the MOMAS organization was born.
So what are pesticides and why should we avoid them? Pesticides are toxic chemicals, the composition of which are not disclosed to public, designed to be toxic enough to kill living organisms; in other words, they are poisons. In my opinion, it would be silly to think that they are harmless and that we should not bother to care as to whether we are sprayed by them.
There are a few things to consider here. First of all, there is emerging scientific evidence of pesticides’ harmful impacts on the environment and humans (children under the age of 12 are far more vulnerable to pesticides), including infertility, leukemia, brain cancer, and damage to the central nervous system, to name a few (http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides). Second, immediate health impacts from pesticides are much easier to track than long-term health effects. And lastly, there are over 80,000 chemicals on the US market right now and the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 makes it nearly impossible for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to protect us against the dangers of these chemicals.
Luckily, MOMAS took quick and effective action and protected us from these poisonous pesticides. And the funny thing is that five years later, the Light Brown Apple Moth is still out there and there has not been reported crop damage from it.
MOMAS did not pause a moment to rest on its laurels. Since its founding five years ago, the organization has done a tremendous amount of work. Among other things, it led an effort to stop Marin County from spraying pesticides (http://www.momsadvocatingsustainability.org/about-us/victories/) in the county parks and playgrounds and on the bike and multi-use paths – and MOMAS continues to carefully monitor this program. Because of their efforts – and the hard work from the community and their committed County staff and Board of Supervisors – Marin County now has a uniquely progressive and child-focused pesticide policy that is a model for the rest of the U.S.
MOMAS has also developed several educational programs for both parents and caregivers. Among other accomplishments, it has developed an enlightening powerpoint presentation entitled “Detox Your Shopping List: 10 Harmful Products You Should Never Buy” which MOMAS presents at homes, schools and to employee groups. (If you would like to learn more about the presentation, please email MOMAS at [email protected].)
One of the most important aspects of MOMAS is that the organization is focused on developing science-based solutions to perceived problems. To this end, MOMAS created the Modern Moms Health Forums, which is led by two experienced physicians who are willing to look at independent science and health trends, think “outside the box,” and provide information that will help all families improve their health.
One of the gravest problems we currently face as a nation is also one of the most under-reported – the widespread use of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”) to produce the majority of the food we eat as a nation. GMOs are banned in most of the developed nations, but thrives here in the U.S. MOMAS has spearheaded a non-GMO education campaign (http://www.momsadvocatingsustainability.org/campaigns/gmo-education-and-labeling/). They also organize fun and educational house parties, in order to help others become knowledgeable about GMOs and choices that affect their families’ health. MOMAS has two physicians on its Advisory Committee so it can be sure that all information it presents is soundly based in the latest science.
You can get an idea now as to why I was so honored to meet them, Debbie Friedman, Rika Canin Gopinath, and Lisa Krausz (Stacy Weinberg Dieve has relocated to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she will remain a MOMAS co-chair, and help MOMAS effect positive change throughout the Great Lakes region). I was also thrilled to see that MOMAS’ efforts are paying off – a lot of people found time in their crazy busy schedules to attend and find out more about how they can help. There was a great turnout with engaged, bright parents (dads, too!) inspired to educate themselves and learn how to take action to reduce our exposures to every day chemicals in our food, our homes, our schools, and on our playgrounds and playing fields.
MOMAS Needs You
MOMAS has been working very hard to get us to this point and MOMAS is asking for your help now. MOMAS is seeking volunteers to allow the organization to continue to do good work. Volunteers will learn how to make lasting changes in their own homes, gain a support network of like-minded parents, and also will have an outlet to learn how to take action to improve our communities.
We are all busy and volunteering does not have to be an overwhelming task – it can (and should) be a fun and engaging activity. And remember that taking small steps does matter. You can start right now. Like MOMAS on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/momsadvocatingsustainability and spread the word. Be sure to sign up for their Action Alerts on the website at http://www.momsadvocatingsustainability.org.
If you live outside the Bay Area, look around to find out if there are similar problems and organizations in your area. If you are interested in how start an organization like MOMAS in your community, contact MOMAS for free coaching at [email protected].
And lastly remember, small steps do matter – reading a product label, asking manufacturers questions and demanding better products, making your own cleaning products, discussing your environmental concerns with your friends, and sharing information on social media. Together we will create healthy communities for our children!