Have yourself a merry COVID-safe Christmas: 5 tips for staying healthy this festive season



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Philip Russo, Monash University and Brett Mitchell, University of Newcastle

We’re now in a very good place in Australia in our fight against COVID-19. When we wrote this, we had very few active cases and no community transmission. Plus, it’s summer, and a vaccine doesn’t appear to be too far away.

After the year we’ve come through, many of us probably want to celebrate big this festive season.

Of course, it’s important to adhere to the limits on the number of people who can gather in your state or territory. But eased restrictions around the country do now allow for larger gatherings with our family and friends.

As we get into the festive spirit, it’s important we also think about how we can conduct this year’s celebrations in a COVID-safe way.

The basics

Before we get to some tips, let’s recap a couple of the key things we know about how COVID-19 can spread.

First, we know close contact is a major risk factor for the spread of COVID-19. This is because droplet spread plays a key role in transmission.

So for example, when an infected person coughs or sneezes, infectious droplets can land on you or in the environment. Then if you touch your face, or nearby contaminated surfaces, you could introduce the virus into your body by touching your mouth or rubbing your eyes.

In a confined space with poor ventilation, there’s also increasing evidence COVID is spread via airborne transmission, which is when droplets smaller in size (aerosols) hang around for longer in the air.

A group of people enjoy a festive evening meal outdoors.
COVID risk is lower when we’re outside.
Shutterstock

5 tips to reduce the risk

  1. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt this year, it’s that it’s not heroic to soldier on if you’re sick. If you are feeling unwell, stay at home. This applies to you and your guests. If you are hosting and you’re unwell, look for another venue, or cancel

  2. Plan for an outdoor gathering — the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors. We should make the most of Christmas falling in summer in Australia

  3. If you’re hosting a gathering indoors, dine in your biggest room, or spread everybody out across a few rooms. Open your windows and doors to let in the fresh air and, importantly, increase ventilation

  4. Avoid crowded seating at the table. Set up a few extra trestles or camp tables to space people out

  5. Encourage your guests to perform frequent hand hygiene. Stock up on hand sanitisers and soaps and have them readily available in all rooms and outside, especially if people are helping themselves to food.




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This video shows just how easily COVID-19 could spread when people sing together


And a few other things …

Singing

If you’re feeling particularly merry, you may be tempted to turn up the music and belt out a few carols. But keep in mind singing and shouting can expel more infectious droplets than normal speech.

So if you’re going to perform a hearty rendition of Deck the Halls, perhaps this is something to do outside, not in a crowded room or near food.

Hugs and kissess

No one wants to be a grinch at Christmas, but keeping close contact to a minimum — including in the form of hugs and kisses — will help reduce the risk. Under the mistletoe or otherwise.




Read more:
No, a hug isn’t COVID-safe. But if you have to do it, here’s what to keep in mind


Food and drinks

Ideally, reduce the sharing of food, including things like buffets. You could ask guests to bring their own food, but this is not necessarily practical, or as festive. Given the low prevalence of COVID-19 in Australia, it’s probably reasonable to cater for your guests, as long as you’re careful.

When you’re preparing food, whether for your own gathering or to take to someone’s place, remember to keep up regular hand hygiene. And avoid preparing food if you’re feeling unwell.

A woman uses hand sanitiser.
Hand hygiene is particularly important when you’re preparing food.
Shutterstock

With celebratory cocktails, champagne, beer, wine and soft drinks likely to feature on the day, this will mean plenty of glasses lying around. It’s important for people not to share drinks. Using tags on glasses can help people remember which is theirs.

Backyard cricket

Time for a game of backyard cricket after lunch? The wheelie bin is OK to use as stumps, and over the fence is still six and out. But avoid saliva on the cricket ball.

A bit of balance

We’ve endured a year of rules and recommendations to protect ourselves and others. Nothing has been normal this year and our Christmas and New Year celebrations may also need a bit more thought. We might need to come up with some sensible and practical compromises in how we celebrate.

Christmas gatherings do present a significant risk — close, prolonged contact with people, often in confined spaces. Time and time again during 2020 we’ve seen these factors contributing to COVID-19 transmission.

We definitely deserve to have some fun over the festive season, and with COVID so well under control in Australia, we’re in a good place to celebrate. But it’s still important we stay vigilant during this period, so we start 2021 on the right foot.




Read more:
How to reduce COVID-19 risk at the beach or the pool


The Conversation


Philip Russo, Associate Professor, Director Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, Monash University and Brett Mitchell, Professor of Nursing, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The borrowed customs and traditions of Christmas celebrations


Ruslan Kalnitsky/Shutterstock

Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Auckland University of Technology

Not long to go now before many of us get to spread some good tidings and joy as we celebrate Christmas.

The main ways we understand and mark the occasion seem to be rather similar across the world. It’s about time with community, family, food-sharing, gift-giving and overall merry festivities.

But while Christmas is ostensibly a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, many of the rituals and customs come from other traditions, both spiritual and secular.

The first Christmas

The journey of Christmas into the celebration we know and recognise today is not a straight line.

The first Christmas celebrations were recorded in Ancient Rome in the fourth century. Christmas was placed in December, around the time of the northern winter solstice.

It is not difficult to spot the similarities between our now long-standing Christmas traditions and the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was also celebrated in December and co-existed with Christian belief for a period of time.




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Saturnalia placed an emphasis on the sharing of food and drink, and spending time with loved ones as the colder winter period arrived. There is even evidence that the Romans exchanged little gifts of food to mark the occasion.

A table with food, wine and candles.
Some people still celebrate Saturnalia today with food and drink.
Carole Raddato/Flickr, CC BY-SA

As Christianity took greater hold in the Roman world and the old polytheistic religion was left behind, we can see the cultural imprint of Saturnalia traditions in the ways in which our well-known Christmas celebrations established themselves across the board.

A Yule celebration

Turning an eye to the Germanic-Scandinavian context also provides intriguing connections. In the Norse religion, Yule was a winter festival celebrated during the period we now roughly associate with December.

The beginning of Yule was marked by the arrival of the Wild Hunt, a spiritual occurrence when the Norse god Odin would ride across the sky on his eight-legged white horse.

While the hunt was a frightening sight to behold, it also brought excitement for families, and especially children, as Odin was known to leave little gifts at each household as he rode past.

Like the Roman Saturnalia, Yule was a time of drawing in for the winter months, during which copious amounts of food and drink would be consumed.

The Yule festivities included bringing tree branches inside the home and decorating them with food and trinkets, likely opening the way for the Christmas tree as we know it today.

A decorated Christmas tree in a home.
The decorated Christmas tree can trace its roots back to Northern Europe.
Laura LaRose/Flickr, CC BY

The influence of Yule on the festive season of Northern European countries is still evident in linguistic expression too, with “Jul” being the word for Christmas in Danish and Norwegian. The English language also maintains this connection, by referring to the Christmas period as “Yuletide”.

Here comes Santa

Through the idea of gift-giving, we see the obvious connections between Odin and Santa Claus, even though the latter is somewhat of a popular culture invention, as put forward by the famous poem A Visit from St Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas), attributed to American poet Clement Clarke Moore in 1837 (although debate continues over who actually wrote the poem).

The poem was very well-received and its popularity spread immediately, going well beyond the American context and reaching global fame. The poem gave us much of the staple imagery we associate with Santa today, including the first ever mention of his reindeer.

But even the figure of Santa Claus is evidence of the constant mixture and mingling of traditions, customs and representations.

Santa’s evolution carries echoes of not only Odin, but also historical figures such as Saint Nicholas of Myra — a fourth-century bishop known for his charitable work — and the legendary Dutch figure of Sinterklaas that derived from it.

Sinterklaas has a white beard and is dressed in a red jacket, speaking with some children.
The Dutch figure Sinterklaas looks a lot like Santa.
Hans Splinter/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Christmas down under in the summer

The idea of connecting Christmas to winter festivals and drawing in customs makes the most sense in the colder months of the Northern hemisphere.

In the Southern hemisphere, in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, the traditional Christmas celebrations have evolved into their own specific brand, which is much more suited to the warmer summer months.

Christmas is an imported event in these areas and acts as a constant reminder of the spread of European colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Celebrating Christmas still carries the influence of European contexts, being a time for merriment, gift-giving and community spirit.

Even some of the traditional foods of the season here are still indebted to Euro-British traditions, with turkey and ham taking centre stage.

All the same, as Christmas falls in the summer down under, there are also different ways to celebrate it in New Zealand and other regions that clearly have nothing to do with winter festivals.




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Barbecues and beach days are prominent new traditions, as borrowed practices co-exist with novel ways of adapting the event to a different context.

A plate of mini tropical fruit pavlovas with berries
Try a pavlova, something more summery for Christmas in New Zealand.
Marco Verch Professional/Flickr, CC BY

The wintery Christmas puddings are often exchanged for more summery pavlovas, whose fresh fruit toppings and meringue base certainly befit the warmer season to a greater extent.

The transition to outdoor Christmas celebrations in the Southern hemisphere is obviously locked in common sense because of the warmer weather.

Nonetheless, it also shows how both cultural and geographical drivers can influence the evolution of celebrating important festivals. And if you really want to experience a cold Christmas down under, there is always a mid-year Christmas in July to look forward to.The Conversation

Lorna Piatti-Farnell, Professor of Popular Culture, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How to prepare and protect your gut health over Christmas and the silly season



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Claus T. Christophersen, Edith Cowan University

It’s that time of year again, with Christmas parties, end-of-year get-togethers and holiday catch-ups on the horizon for many of us — all COVID-safe, of course. All that party food and takeaway, however, can have consequences for your gut health.

Gut health matters. Your gut is a crucial part your immune system. In fact, 70% of your entire immune system sits around your gut, and an important part of that is what’s known as the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), which houses a host of immune cells in your gut.

Good gut health means looking after your gut microbiome — the bacteria, fungi, viruses and tiny organisms that live inside you and help break down your food — but also the cells and function of your gastrointestinal system.

We know gut health can affect mood, thanks to what’s known as the gut-brain axis. But there’s also a gut-lung axis and a gut-liver axis, meaning what happens in your gut can affect your respiratory system or liver, too.

Here’s what you can do to bolster your gut microbiome in the coming weeks and months.




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Gut health: does exercise change your microbiome?


How do silly season indulgences affect our gut health?

You can change your gut microbiome within a couple of days by changing your diet. And over a longer period of time, such as the Christmas-New Year season, your diet pattern can change significantly, often without you really noticing.

That means we may be changing the organisms that make up our microbiome during this time. Whatever you put in will favour certain bacteria in your microbiome over others.

We know fatty, sugary foods promote bacteria that are not as beneficial for gut health. And if you indulge over days or weeks, you are pushing your microbiome towards an imbalance.

A group of friends clink drinks while wearing Christmas gear.
For many of us, Christmas is a time of indulgence.
Shutterstock

Is there anything I can do to prepare my gut health for the coming onslaught?

Yes! If your gut is healthy to begin with, it will take more to knock it out of whack. Prepare yourself now by making choices that feed the beneficial organisms in your gut microbiome and enhance gut health.

That means:

  • eating prebiotic foods such as jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions and a variety of grains and inulin-enhanced yoghurts (inulin is a prebiotic carbohydrate shown to have broad benefits to gut health)

  • eating resistant starches, which are starches that pass undigested through the small intestine and feed the bacteria in the large intestine. That includes grainy wholemeal bread, legumes such as beans and lentils, firm bananas, starchy vegetables like potatoes and some pasta and rice. The trick to increasing resistant starches in potato, pasta and rice is to cook them but eat them cold. So consider serving a cold potato or pasta salad over Christmas

  • choosing fresh, unprocessed fruits and vegetables

  • steering clear of added sugar where possible. Excessive amounts of added sugar (or fruit sugar from high consumption of fruit) flows quickly to the large intestine, where it gets gobbled up by bacteria. That can cause higher gas production, diarrhoea and potentially upset the balance of the microbiome

  • remembering that if you increase the amount of fibre in your diet (or via a supplement), you’ll need to drink more water — or you can get constipated.

For inspiration on how to increase resistant starch in your diet for improved gut health, you might consider checking out a cookbook I coauthored (all proceeds fund research and I have no personal interest).

Good gut health is hard won and easily lost.
Shutterstock

What can I do to limit the damage?

If Christmas and New Year means a higher intake of red meat or processed meat for you, remember some studies have shown that diets higher red meat can introduce DNA damage in the colon, which makes you more susceptible to colorectal cancer.

The good news is other research suggests if you include a certain amount of resistant starch in a higher red meat diet, you can reduce or even eliminate that damage. So consider a helping of cold potato salad along with a steak or sausage from the barbie.

Don’t forget to exercise over your Christmas break. Even going for a brisk walk can get things moving and keep your bowel movements regular, which helps improve your gut health.

Have a look at the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and remember what foods are in the “sometimes” category. Try to keep track of whether you really are only having these foods “sometimes” or if you have slipped into a habit of having them much more frequently.

The best and easiest way to check your gut health is to use the Bristol stool chart. If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good.

An image of the Bristol stool chart
If you’re hitting around a 4, you should be good.
Shutterstock

Remember, there are no quick fixes. Your gut health is like a garden or an ecosystem. If you want the good plants to grow, you need to tend to them — otherwise, the weeds can take over.

I know you’re probably sick of hearing the basics — eat fruits and vegetables, exercise and don’t make the treats too frequent — but the fact is good gut health is hard won and easily lost. It’s worth putting in the effort.

A preventative mindset helps. If you do the right thing most of the time and indulge just now and then, your gut health will be OK in the end.The Conversation

Claus T. Christophersen, Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

In 1919, Anzac Day was commemorated despite the Spanish flu pandemic. In 2020, we will remember them again



AAP/Paul Miller

Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Anzac Day 2020 will be a far cry from the Australian War Memorial’s dawn service of recent years. While dignified and solemn, the dawn service has also been spectacle. Sophisticated technology is used to project images from the memorial’s photographic collection onto the building. From an hour before the service, members of the armed forces read from the diaries and letters of men and women who have served in war over more than a century.

The choreography of the whole event is unmistakable as national performance. Even the birdlife at the foot of Mount Ainslie seems to recognise it has a role to play with its singing and screeching and laughing – instantly recognisable as an Australian soundscape – alongside the speechmakers, catafalque party and bugling of the Last Post.




Read more:
How Australia’s response to the Spanish flu of 1919 sounds warnings on dealing with coronavirus


This year, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be different. The dawn service will be held without members of the public, but will be televised on the ABC and streamed online. There will be no local marches.

The Returned and Services League (RSL) has encouraged people to film themselves reciting the ode in their homes and post it online. The RSL is partnering with News Corp in Light Up The Dawn, asking Australians to step into their driveways to observe a minute’s silence, possibly carrying a candle or using mobile phones for illumination. They have even created a virtual candle you can download to your phone.

We can be sure the novelty of the 2020 Anzac Day commemoration will attract plenty of media attention. The Australian media have a ready-made, multipurpose rhetoric that is easily adapted to whatever novelty – minor or otherwise – each year’s Anzac season brings with it. This year will be no exception.

We can expect to read and hear of Australians in these troubled times expressing mateship, of children in pyjamas and dressing gowns showing the young are connecting more and more with Anzac each year, that coronavirus has not dampened the Anzac spirit of the nation – and so on. We will learn of the doughty Australian suburbanites who weren’t going to let a mere global pandemic get in the way of their appreciation of those who defend their freedoms. Our health workers will be seen as displaying the self-sacrifice and heroism of Anzac, born all those years ago on the shores of Gallipoli.

Anzac 2020 will be less novel than it is presented. In the enforced private nature of Anzac commemoration in 2020, we are being returned to some of the earliest themes in Anzac commemoration.

While the day has had its elements of public ritual since 1916, much early Anzac Day commemoration was private rather than public, sometimes conducted at the gravesides of Australian soldiers buried in cemeteries in Britain and Australia. Women were prominent in these efforts, honouring the memories of men they might or might not have known by placing flowers on their tombs.

There was no big Anzac Day march in Sydney in 1919. At the time, Spanish flu was ravaging the world.
Parramatta Heritage Centre

There are other echoes of the past. Anzac Day in 1919 was also disrupted by a major crisis in public health. In New South Wales, where the rate of infection from Spanish influenza was high and the number of deaths – approaching 1,000 by Anzac Day – was alarming, the government had banned public meetings.

The government called off the march until May 22. When that happened, it was a fiasco. Rain prompted organisers to decide against marching all the way to Sydney’s Domain, and soldiers and sailors who had come from Central Railway Station instead slipped straight into the service in the Town Hall. Unfortunately, no one remembered to tell the thousands of people lining the streets to watch.

On Anzac Day itself, there had still been activity – more than we’ll see this year. The Centre for Soldiers’ Wives and Mothers appealed to the parents of the city’s children – home for their Easter break – to take their Shakespeare down from the shelf and read their children Henry V’s speech to his troops before Agincourt.

Gallipoli might have made the nation, but Australians still looked for inspiration to a much longer British history stretching back through Mafeking, Rorke’s Drift, Balaclava, Waterloo and Trafalgar – and even further to that “band of brothers” who made short work of the French on St Crispin’s Day, 1415.

The Centre of Soldiers’ Wives and Mothers held a service in the Domain. “Womenfolk, many of them in mourning, preponderated”, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, and most were wearing masks. The location of this service was pointed: it was at Woolloomooloo Bay, where so many soldiers had embarked for the war.

Outside Sydney, there was also some disruption. “The Approach of Anzac Day this year was overlooked locally,” explained a local newspaper at Dorrigo in northern New South Wales. “Owing to the presence of the influenza epidemic, the thoughts of the people seem to have been turned away from other things.” But there were Anzac Day activities; a surprising number, actually.

Anzac Day was commemorated at Lismore, notwithstanding that the town had seen several serious cases of influenza and, in the week before Anzac Day, the deaths of two men. At Grafton, thousands enjoyed a soldiers’ carnival. And in the other states, there were few signs of difficulty:

Adelaide was gay with flags from end to end, and the trains and tramcars brought thousands of people into the central city to view the procession of soldiers.

In Brisbane, despite heavy rain, the route of a march of soldiers and returned men “was lined with thousands of people”.


Australia Post

A subdued Anzac Day in Perth was attributed not to the influenza but to the authorities’ hope that the proclamation of peace in Europe would be timed so that the two “celebrations” might merge.

In 1919, as soldiers returned to Australia on ships and often went into quarantine, the nature of Anzac Day commemoration remained fluid. It was still not a public holiday, and the Anzac Day march had not yet become an essential or permanent fixture of the city commemorations. Melbourne had no march on April 25 1919, but then it didn’t have a march on most other Anzac Days in these early years, either.




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Some will be disappointed there will be no marches and other public gatherings this year. But Anzac Day 2020 is less likely to be recalled as an absence than as yet another way in which Australians adapted their national life to the challenges of the greatest public health crisis for a century.The Conversation

Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Turning to Easter eggs to get through these dark times? Here’s the bitter truth about chocolate



Pxfuel

Stephanie Perkiss, University of Wollongong; Cristiana Bernardi, The Open University, and John Dumay, Macquarie University

The coronavirus might make Easter celebrations a little subdued this year, but that doesn’t mean going without chocolate eggs. In fact, South Australia’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier reportedly said people should partake in the Easter treats “to cheer ourselves up … I’ve certainly got a good supply of chocolate eggs already”.

But before you fill your shopping trolley (online or virtual) with chocolate, we urge you to think twice about whether it’s ethically produced.




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Most chocolate consumed globally, including in Australia, comes from the Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa – which together account for about 60% of global cocoa supply.

Cocoa farming is a major driver of deforestation in the region. Despite growing global demand for chocolate, farmers live in poverty, and child labour continues to plague the industry.

More work is needed by big chocolate companies to ensure cocoa is produced sustainably and fairly.
CHRISTOF KRACKHARDT

Spotlight on Nestlé

The US Department of Labor has estimated that 2 million children carry out hazardous work on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

Our research has examined Nestlé, which claims its chocolate produced for specific markets is sustainably sourced and produced. A number of its chocolate products are certified through the UTZ and Fairtrade schemes.

Nestlé has adopted the Fair Labor Association (FLA) code of conduct that forbids child or forced child labour, and requires certain health and safety standards, reasonable hours of work and fair pay. Nestlé’s Cocoa Plan also outlines the company’s commitment to sustainability in its Ivory Coast cocoa supply chain.




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Ghana’s cocoa farmers are trapped by the chocolate industry


But a 2016 FLA report said 80% of Nestlé’s cocoa procurement took place outside this plan. Of this part of the supply chain, just 30% was monitored by certification systems.

For the 70% of Nestlé cocoa farms outside certification programs, there was no evidence of training on labour standards or monitoring of working conditions. Assessors also found issues such as child labour, and health and safety issues.

More recently, Nestlé has stated its cocoa plan now covers 44% of its global cocoa supply, and the company is committed to sourcing 100% of cocoa under the plan by 2025.

On the issue of child labour, Nestlé last year reported it was “not proud” to have found more than 18,000 children doing hazardous work since a monitoring and remediation system began in 2012.

However the company would continue trying to eradicate the practice, including “helping children to stop doing unacceptable activities and, where needed, helping them to access quality education.”

Cocoa producers in West Africa are often poorly paid and subject to dangerous working conditions.
Wikimedia

Sweet sorrow: an industry problem

Other big chocolate players, such as Mars, Cadbury (owned by Mondelēz International), Hershey and Ferrero are also exposed to problems facing cocoa farming.

Many are taking action. Mars recently supported Ghana and the Ivory Coast in setting a floor price for cocoa, to increase the money paid to farmers.

In 2012, Ferrero promised to remove slavery from its cocoa supply by 2020.

Others have made moves towards better certification, including Hershey, which says it pays certification premiums to farmer groups who meet labour standards.

But despite years of pledges, progress across the sector is slow. The Washington Post last year reported major chocolate companies had missed deadlines to remove child labour from their cocoa supply chains in 2005, 2008 and 2010. It said brands such as Hershey, Mars and Nestlé could still not guarantee their chocolates were produced without child labour.

Child labour issues continue to plague the chocolate industry.
Public Domain Pictures

Bad for the planet

Cocoa farming is a major driver of deforestation as farmers cut down trees to clear farmland. For example in 2017, the Guardian reported cocoa traders selling to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other big brands had sourced beans grown illegally inside protected rainforest areas in the Ivory Coast.

Rising demand for chocolate – particularly in India and China – also encourages farmers to increase cocoa yield by using fertilisers and pesticides.

A 2018 study found the chocolate industry in the UK produces the equivalent of more than 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. It took into account chocolate’s ingredients, manufacturing, packaging and waste.

And research last year by the CSIRO showed it takes 21 litres of water to produce a small chocolate bar.




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In response to the problem, Mars and Nestlé have pledged to make their cocoa supply chain sustainable by 2025. Ferrero has committed to source 100% sustainable cocoa beans by 2020, and Mondelēz intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2025, based on 2018 levels.

But pledges do not necessarily transform into action. At a United Nations climate change conference in November 2017, big chocolate producers and the governments of Ghana and the Ivory Coast committed to stopping deforestation for cocoa production. A year later, satellite mapping reportedly revealed thousands more hectares of rainforest in West Africa had been razed.


Wikimedia

What’s a chocolate lover to do?

Given the above, you might be tempted to stop buying chocolate brands that source cocoa from West Africa. But this would cut off the incomes of poor cocoa farmers.

Instead, choose chocolate independently certified by the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ or Fairtrade. This increases the chance that the cocoa was produced with minimal environmental damage, and workers are treated well.

If you can, check if the company has direct connections with producers, which means farmers are more likely to be fairly paid.

If all this sounds too hard to work out yourself, websites such as The Good Shopping guide, Ethical Consumer or Shop ethical! can help you find Easter eggs that are both ethically made, and delicious.




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It takes 21 litres of water to produce a small chocolate bar. How water-wise is your diet?


The Conversation


Stephanie Perkiss, Senior Lecturer, University of Wollongong; Cristiana Bernardi, Lecturer in Accounting, The Open University, and John Dumay, Associate Professor – Department of Accounting and Corporate Governance, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

7 science-based strategies to boost your willpower and succeed with your New Year’s resolutions



Behavioral science has ideas about how to keep on track beyond January.
duchic/Shutterstock.com

Jelena Kecmanovic, Georgetown University

It’s that time of year when people make their New Year’s resolutions – indeed, 93% of people set them, according to the American Psychological Association. The most common resolutions are related to losing weight, eating healthier, exercising regularly and saving money.

However, research shows that 45% of people fail to keep their resolutions by February, and only 19% keep them for two years. Lack of willpower or self-control is the top cited reason for not following through.

How can you increase your willpower and fulfill your New Year’s promise to yourself? These seven strategies are based on behavioral science and my clinical work with hundreds of people trying to achieve their long-term goals.

1. Clarify and honor your values

Ask yourself why this goal matters to you. Do you want to lose weight because you value getting in shape to return to a favorite pastime of hiking, or because of societal expectations and pressures? People who are guided by their authentic values are better at achieving their goals. They also don’t run out of willpower, because they perceive it as a limitless resource. Figure out what makes you tick, and choose goals consistent with those values.

2. Frame goals and your life in positive terms

Focus on what you want to accomplish, not what you don’t. Instead of planning not to drink alcohol on workdays during the new year, commit to drinking your favorite sparkling water with Sunday to Thursday evening meals. Struggling to suppress thoughts takes a lot of energy, and they have a way of returning to your mind with a vengeance.

It also helps to reflect on the aspects of yourself and your life that you are already happy with. Although you might fear that this will spur complacency and inaction, studies show that gratitude and other positive emotions lead to better self-control in the long run.

3. Change your environment to make it easier

Research suggests that people with high willpower are exceptionally good at arranging their environment to avoid temptations. So, banish all credit cards from your wallet if your goal is to save money. And don’t keep a bowl of M&M’s at your work desk if you intend to eat healthy.

Surround yourself with people who share your goals.
Luis Quintero/unsplash, CC BY

If your coworkers regularly bring sweets to work, ask them to help you with your goals (they might get inspired to join in!) and bring cookies only for special occasions. Supportive friends and family can dramatically increase your chances of achieving your resolutions. Joining a group whose members practice behaviors you’d like to adopt is another great way to bolster your willpower, because having role models improves self-control.

4. Be prepared with ‘if-then’ strategies

Even the best resolution falls apart when your busy schedule and exhaustion take over. Formulate a series of plans for what to do when obstacles present themselves. These “if-then” plans are shown to improve self-control and goal attainment.

Each time you wake up in the middle of the night craving candies or chips, you can plan instead to read a guilty-pleasure magazine, or log into your online community of healthy eaters for inspiration, or eat an apple slowly and mindfully, savoring each bit. When you’re tired and about to skip that gym class you signed up for, call your supportive sister who is on standby. Anticipate as many situations as possible and make specific plans, vividly imagining the situations and what you will do in the moment.

5. Use a gradual approach

When you embark on a new goal, start small and build on early successes. Use one less spoonful of sugar in your coffee. Eventually, you might be able to forgo any sweeteners at all. If resisting that muffin initially proves to be too hard, try waiting 10 minutes. By the end of it, your urge will likely subside.

You might be surprised to realize that change in one domain of life – like abstaining from sweet processed foods – tends to spread to other areas. You might find you are able to bike longer distances, or moderate your caffeine intake more easily.

If it feels like the payoffs are in the distant future, you can plan a small gift for yourself along the way.
shurkin_son/Shutterstock.com

6. Imagine rewards and then enjoy them

Picture the feeling of endorphins circulating through your body after a run, or the sun on your skin as you approach a mountain summit. Pay attention to all your senses: smell, sight, hearing, touch and taste. Visualizing rewards improves your chances of engaging in the activity that results in them.

If it’s hard to imagine or experience these rewards in the beginning, decide on small, meaningful gifts you can give yourself until the positive effects of the new behaviors kick in. For example, imagine yourself taking a half-day off work each month after you pay down your credit card debt: visualize exactly what you would do and how you would feel. And then do it.

7. Be kind to yourself, even during setbacks

Most people believe the way to increase willpower is to “whip oneself into shape,” because being kind to oneself is indulgent and lacks self discipline. But the exact opposite is true – people who harshly blame themselves for even small willpower failures tend to do worse in accomplishing their goals in the long run.

Try self-compassion instead. Cut yourself some slack and remember that being human means being imperfect. When you fall for that doughnut, don’t despair, and don’t throw in the towel. Treat yourself with care and understanding and then recommit to your goal the following day.

Remember, you aren’t likely to achieve your New Year’s resolutions by being self-critical and hard on yourself. Instead, boost your willpower through a series of small and strategic steps that will help you succeed.

[Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

Jelena Kecmanovic, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why are so few people born on Christmas Day, New Year’s and other holidays?



Holiday birthdays are lonely.
Bryan Keogh/The Conversation via Shutterstock.com

Jay L. Zagorsky, Boston University

Christmas and New Year’s are days of celebration in many parts of the world when people gather with family and friends. One thing many typically don’t celebrate on those days is a birthday.

That’s because Dec. 25 is the least popular day in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to give birth. In England, Wales and Ireland, it’s the second-least popular, behind Dec. 26, when Brits celebrate Boxing Day.

So why do people have fewer babies on holidays like Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s – the second-least popular birthday in the U.S.?

I am personally interested in the question because my wife was a New Year’s Day baby. And as an economist, I find these data puzzles fascinating.

Least and most popular birthdays

All of the least-favored days in the U.S. are tied to holidays, whether it’s Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July or Thanksgiving.

Depending on the year and place, between 30% and 40% fewer babies are born on Dec. 25 than on the peak day of the year.

One reason why these days have so few births is almost no cesarean births are scheduled by doctors to happen on public holidays or weekends. About one in three American babies are born this way.

And even in the case of vaginal births, doctors can induce labor, which helps control when babies are born. Inductions also typically don’t happen when doctors want to be out of the office celebrating the holidays with family and friends.

One reason why births on Christmas and New Year’s plummet is that for many people time management and scheduling is paramount.

Interestingly, in England, Wales and New Zealand, relatively few babies are born on April 1. While that date is not a national holiday, mothers might avoid giving birth on April Fools’ Day for fear of their children being taunted or bullied.

As for the most popular birthdays, they tend to happen in the fall. In fact, the top 10 days to have a baby in the U.S. are all in September, while in England, Wales, Ireland and New Zealand they’re in that month or October.

Fall birthdays make sense since many babies are conceived during the colder winter months. Conception is tied to shorter days and lower outside temperatures.

Unrecorded births

Unfortunately, similar data for non-English-speaking countries are not widely available.

Research into when people were born is relatively new because for centuries no one needed or completed a birth certificate. In the U.S., birth certificates have been widely used only since the end of World War II.

While some countries require all births to be registered, one out of every four children born in the world today does not officially exist, since there is no record of his or her birth.

The United Nations has some world data, which show popular birth months tend to shift by latitude. Countries at high latitudes, like Norway or Russia, have peak birth days in July or August. Countries closer to the equator, like El Salvador, have peak birth days later in the year, like October.

As for my wife, she was born a few hours after her parents welcomed in another year. Her birth was a surprise to all the guests they invited over to celebrate the New Year. We joke that being born then is the best day, because there is always a party with fireworks for her birthday. It is also a great day because there are never any competing birthday parties.

So if you are born on a holiday like Christmas, New Year’s or even April Fools’ Day, take some comfort in knowing the relative rarity of your birth makes you even more special than you already are.

[ Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter. ]The Conversation

Jay L. Zagorsky, Senior Lecturer, Questrom School of Business, Boston University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New research reveals our complex attitudes to Australia Day



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It may be that the fortnight or so surrounding Australia Day is evolving into an annual season in which some of the deepest paradoxes of Australian identity play out in public.
AAP/Glenn Campbell

Darren Pennay, Australian National University and Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

In the cultural warfare over whether January 26 should be retained as Australia Day, survey results are deployed like guided missiles. But what do Australians really think about the continuing debate?

A recent study undertaken by the Institute of Public Affairs found that three-quarters of Australians agreed that Australia Day should be celebrated on January 26.

In a survey taken late last year, before the annual Australia Day debate commenced, the Social Research Centre asked members of its Life in Australia research panel a similar question:

To what extent do you agree or disagree that 26 January is the best day for our national day of celebration?

And from the 2,167 responses, it received similar results: 70% of respondents agreed (37% strongly agreed/33% agreed).

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/OTTIL/2/

But this is where the story becomes interesting.

Support for 26 January increases with age. It is 73% for Generation X (39-53 years) and 80% among Baby Boomers (54-72 years). Among the Silent Generation (73 years or older), support for January 26 is nearly unanimous (90%). But it is notably lower among the younger generations at 47% and 58% for Generation Z (aged 23 years or younger) and Millennials (24-38 years).

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/DA5To/2/

These results may explain why the ABC shifted its Triple J Hottest 100 away from 26 January after taking a poll in which 60% of the 65,000 who voted supported the move.




Read more:
Henry Reynolds: Triple J did the right thing, we need a new Australia Day


Support was also lower among those with a university degree (55%) compared to those without (75%). In terms of geography, support for January 26 was highest in Western Australia (83%) and lowest in Victoria (65%), and higher in the regions (78%) than the capital cities (66%). These results seem consistent with what we know about the patterns of progressive and conservative political values in Australia.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/lTWaL/2/

There are stark differences according to party affiliation. Support is highest among Coalition (85%) and One Nation (94%) supporters compared with 62% of Labor supporters and just 38% among Greens. On these results, perhaps the federal Labor Party’s present support for Australia Day might eventually come under pressure from within.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/5BwAJ/3/

Those who disagreed that January 26 was the best day for our national celebration were asked:

On which day do you think Australia should have its national day?

Ten options were offered or an alternative could be nominated.

Reconciliation Day on May 27 – the anniversary of the 1967 referendum – was the most popular alternative at 24%. It was followed by January 1, Federation Day (18%). Somewhat bizarrely, 15% of those opposed to January 26 being the date nominated May 8, because it sounds like “mate”. At present, no date clearly stands out as a popular alternative to January 26 as Australia Day.

To gain a better insight into what January 26 actually means to Australians, we then asked a series of questions to explore which aspects of Australia’s culture and heritage were most strongly associated with Australia Day.




Read more:
Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds


Just over two-thirds (68%) of respondents agreed that January 26 celebrated our British culture and heritage. 63% believed the current timing was a celebration of our democracy and system of government. And 58% believed it celebrated the contribution of all immigrants to Australia.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/WcYid/1/

The view that Australia Day recognised the contribution of all immigrants to Australia received stronger endorsement from those born overseas (65%) than the Australian born (55%). This suggests that the long-standing official Australia Day emphasis on unity in diversity has to some extent spoken to their sense of belonging. There is no other date in the Australian calendar that could be considered to represent the contribution of migrant communities.

The association of Australia Day and British culture and heritage was highest in New South Wales (73%). This possibly reflects the particular significance of January 26 for the history of that state, but it is still below the levels observed in the Australian Capital Territory – 81% – and the Northern Territory – 77%. The association with British culture and heritage is highest amongst Coalition and One Nation supporters, at 73% and 71% respectively. For the Silent Generation, the celebration of Australia Day on 26 January is particularly evocative of British culture and heritage: more than four out of five agreed.

Official proponents of Australia Day have fudged the association of January 26 and Britishness as far back as the 1988 Bicentenary. They have more often emphasised diversity and belonging. Yet, fewer respondents accepted that the day was a celebration of migrant contributions relative to its association with British heritage.

In a similar vein, only a minority – although a large one (40%) – believed January 26 celebrated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. This proposition is rejected most strongly by Labor and Greens supporters, those living in the capitals and the young.

Yet perhaps the most striking of all our findings is that 45% of respondents agreed the day was offensive to Indigenous Australians. This figure is higher than that found in an Australia Institute poll of January 2018, which put the figure at 37%.

The survey also found that women (49%) are more likely than men (42%) to see things this way, possibly reflecting the modern pattern for women to have more progressive political views. Those with a university degree (59%), Victorians (51%) and capital city residents (48%) were also more likely to hold this opinion. And the party divide on this issue is clear. Labor and Greens (50% and 75%) supporters are much more likely to agree than Coalition and One Nation voters (32% and 12%).

Nearly three in ten (29%) of respondents who agree with having Australia Day on January 26 also recognise the date is offensive to Indigenous people. It seems that many of us are sensitive to their objections, but not concerned enough to want to change the date. Australians incorporate in their historical consciousness a range of perspectives on the Australian past, and their significance for present-day commemoration, even when they are apparently in conflict with one another.




Read more:
First reconciliation, then a republic – starting with changing the date of Australia Day


So what factors are at play here? One school of thought is that many Australians are mindful of the day’s negative connotations, but place a high value on it because it is an important marker in the calendar. The attachment to this last summer public holiday before the school year starts possibly outweighs concern about offence. Previous research has shown that when people were asked to associate three words with Australia Day, the favourites were “barbecue”, “celebration” and “holiday”.

Still, the mix of attitudes we have uncovered seems likely to ensure the day remains contentious. Any expectation that January 26 might perform a similar kind of civic function to July 4 (Independence Day) in the United States or July 14 (Bastille Day) in France is fanciful.

It may be that the fortnight or so surrounding Australia Day is evolving into an annual season in which some of the deepest paradoxes of Australian identity play out in public.The Conversation

Darren Pennay, Campus Visitor, ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University and Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cave rescue heroes share Australian of the Year



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Two heroes of the Thai cave rescue, Craig Challen and Richard Harris, are joint Australian of the Year for 2019.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The two Australian divers who gripped the public imagination for their part in the dramatic rescue of a Thai boys soccer team have shared the Australian of the Year award.

Dr Richard Harris, an anaesthetist from Adelaide and Dr Craig Challen, a retired vet from Perth, long-time diving companions, worked as part of the international team that, against the odds, brought the 12 boys and their coach to safety.

The members of the Wild Boars team entered the caves on June 23 last year, only to be trapped by floodwater. In the staged rescue, the last boys and the coach reached safety on July 10.

The two Australians were preparing to go on a cave-diving holiday when their help was sought.

“Richard’s medical experience was key in the plan to get the children out of the caves,” the Australia Day Council said.

“After swimming through the narrow cave system to assess the health of those trapped and giving the medical all-clear for each evacuee, he administered an anaesthetic to each to enable their rescue.

“Richard was key to the mission’s success, remaining in the cave system until the last evacuee was safe.

“Craig’s technical expertise was critical to the rescue. He played a leading role, working 10 to 12 hours each day in extremely dangerous conditions to swim the children one-by-one through the dark and narrow flooded caves”.

Chair of the council, Danielle Roche, said that the two men “placed the safety of others above their own and inspired hope when hope seemed lost. Their selflessness, courage and willingness to help others in a time of need typifies the Australian spirit.”

In other awards announced at a ceremony in Canberra on Friday evening:

  • The senior Australian of the Year is Dr Suzanne Packer, 76, from
    Canberra, a retired paediatrician. Among her many activities promoting
    children’s health, safety and rights, she has been involved in child
    abuse prevention and an advocate for the importance of the creation of
    child-friendly spaces in hospitals.

  • The Young Australian of the Year is Danzal Baker, 22, an Indigenous
    rapper, musician and dancer from the Northern Territory.

“Working across rap, dance, acting and visual art, Danzal Baker is an
inspiration to indigenous youth,” the council said. “A multi-talented,
multi-lingual indigenous artist, Danzal, otherwise known as Baker Boy,
is the first Indigenous artist to achieve mainstream success rapping
in the Yolngu Matha language”.

  • The Local Hero award was presented to Kate and Tick Everett from
    Katherine in the Northern Territory.

After the death of their teenage daughter Amy “Dolly” Everett a year
ago, following extensive bullying, they founded Dolly’s Dream, to
raise awareness about the devastating impact bullying can have on
children and their families,

The council said the Everetts’ “non-stop advocacy” had resulted in
governments acting to prevent childhood bullying.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We’re awarding the Order of Australia to the wrong people


Nicholas Gruen, University of Technology Sydney

It’s almost Australia Day and hundreds of us are in line for an award.

Sadly, as unpublished research by my firm Lateral Economics reveals, many will get it for little more than doing their job. And the higher the job’s status, the higher the award.

Governors General, High Court Justices and Vice Chancellors of major universities would hope for the highest Companion of the Order (AC). Professors, public service departmental heads and senior business people should hope for the next one down – an Officer of the Order (AO). School Principals would generally slot in next for Members of the Order (AM).

If you’re lucky, or you’ve done your job extraordinarily well, you’ll be promoted one rank, but that’s pretty much it.

We reward most the already rewarded

Meanwhile, those who succeed in some achievement principally in and for their community usually qualify for the lowest award, if that; the Medal of the Order (OAM). And usually only if they’ve become conspicuous.

The level of gratitude among recipients seems to follow an equal and opposite arc. Those at the bottom seem the most thrilled for being recognised the least.

Distinction in putting others first gets short shrift. As Anne Summers lamented in 2013:

Seven years ago I nominated a woman I admire for an Australian honour. It took two years but it came through and she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for a lifetime of work with victims of domestic violence. I was disappointed she had not been given a higher award – I had hoped for an AM (Member of the Order of Australia) at the very least – but she was thrilled and so was her family.

Money, fame and status are nothing to be sneezed at if they are honestly earned. But they are their own reward. Why should they beget other rewards?

We could be putting awards to use

Here’s an idea. Why don’t we award honours to encourage people to do more than their job? In a world that is lavishing increasing rewards on the “haves”, the worldly rewards for doing your job need little bolstering.

Knowing awards are reserved for people who do more than their jobs might encourage us to choose more selfless and socially committed lives at the outset of our careers.

There’s a hunger among the young to do just that – to combine good, privately rewarding careers with serving their community and tackling social ills.

If honours are “the principal means by which the nation officially recognises the merit of its citizens” as the 2011 Government House review put it, I’d like to use it to encourage those people the most.

Wouldn’t it be more consistent with Australian values?

It’d make them more Australian

Government House provides online biographies of all those awarded honours. Lateral Economics sampled about half of them back to 2013 looking specifically at the gender division of honours and the extent to which those biographies included descriptions of work done without personal gain.

Barely more than a quarter of Order of Australia recipients recorded voluntary work in their biographies.

And those that did were more likely to be near the bottom of the awards ladder.

More than a third of those receiving the very bottom award, the OAM, were engaged in obviously selfless work, compared with a fifth at the top (just two out of ten ACs).

Still we may be making a little progress. Perhaps spurred by sentiments such as those expressed by Anne Summers, last year saw a higher percentage of women than in any previous year. Unusually, six women got the top honour, the AC, compared with four men, and the proportion with voluntary service broke through the 30% barrier for the first time.

I wonder what Australia Day will bring. I’m thinking that, whatever it is, we can do a lot better, for our community, and our country.


Thanks to Shruti Sekhar for research assistance.The Conversation

Nicholas Gruen, Adjunct Professor, Business School, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.