August 2013

Sunscreens. I’ve been dubious of their efficacy for years. But it wasn’t until reading an article in NEXUS by Dr. Elizabeth Plourde that I felt I had evidence to support my doubts.

The headlines in all forms of media tell us to use sunscreens before going outdoors. We are told to slather sunscreen on our children to protect them from skin cancers and prevent photo-ageing of the skin.

From the 1960s to the present time, there has been a steady increase in the incidence of melanoma in all parts of the world, despite a corresponding increase in the use of sunscreens. Evidence is so overwhelming that researchers in a 2008 article in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology,stated: “. . .It is probably safe to suggest that predominantly UVB absorbing sunscreens do not prevent melanoma development in humans.”

Sunscreens block the ability of our skin to perform its essential duty of manufacturing vitamin D in response to solar radiation exposure. Vitamin D is a crucial part of our overall health, particularly for bone development. Vitamin D deficiency is now a worldwide phenomenon.

Many studies have been published indicating that sunscreen chemicals are very potent hormones, acting like oestrogens, anti-oestrogens, testosterones or anti-testosterones, disrupting the natural hormonal balance in the body, possibly having long-term effects in humans and wildlife, particularly in the sexual development of the foetus. Many of the sunscreen chemicals belong to a class of chemicals called phenols, which are known to be capable of passing through the placenta and entering the foetus.

It has become fashionable for sunscreen manufacturers to claim their products to be “natural” or “safe”. Even if they’re labelled as being safe for coral reefs, these products often contain chemicals which have been proven to kill coral.

Sunscreen use has been so well promoted in America that sunscreen chemical benzophenone-3 is now found in the blood of 97% of Americans, including 90% of those who have never used sunscreens.

There have been many studies published over the years which prove that antioxidants are very effective in naturally protecting the skin from solar radiation. Eating foods rich in antioxidants will give you far greater protection from the sun than will sunscreens. Stopping sunscreen use will produce great benefits for coral, plankton, fish and our children, including those yet to be born.

We need the sun. Choosing to be exposed to it in the cooler times of the day allows its health-promoting rays to enter our skin and eyes, making us feel good and even keeping certain cancers at bay. Sunscreens have helped pour huge profits into the coffers of the companies making them, while an increasing number of independent studies question sunscreen benefits. Think before you apply them. At the very least, use organic sunscreens.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See


x-dr-albert-schweitzerAlbert Schweitzer once said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found to serve.”

I recently attended the Trust Power community awards ceremony held at Castle Duo in Kaikohe, an annual award night celebrating the unsung heroes and heroines of the Far North. I suspect each and every person in this recently closed picture theatre was aware of this great truth. That the secret to happiness lies in selfless service to others. Taking this verity a step further is the recognition that we are all connected. So, in helping others we are actually helping ourselves. But that’s not the motivating impulse to serve, is it? It simply feels good, it feels right, to serve.

Peace Pilgrim walked back and forth across North America nearly seven times over the last 28 years of her life. For her 28 year retirement project she was intentionally a penniless wanderer for peace. She once said, “Blessed are those who give without expecting even thanks in return, for they shall be abundantly rewarded.”peace pilgrim

It was for me a genuine treat and a great privilege to be in the company of these quiet humble servants of the Far North. Over fifty groups were nominated for awards. Not everyone received one, but everyone there was a winner. Everyone there had discovered that helping others in our community is genuinely satisfying. Nights like this clearly demonstrate that despite what we hear of the Far North—of poverty, of crime, of unemployment—we are truly blessed with a wealth of human kindness and generosity of spirit (and time) freely offered by individuals and groups living in our area.

Peter Furze is a founding member of Nga Mahi mo te Tangata Trust, responsible for the incredibly inspiring Surf’s Up, Look Up and other positive initiatives. This worthy group received an award and Peter spoke on behalf of the group. He enthusiastically encouraged everyone attending to take the opportunity to network with others there. I concur with this viewpoint. So many groups stand alone like silos. Each group, working quietly and persistently on their particular project positively impacts the lives of people of the North. But imagine if we all work together and pool our collective resources and inspiration. Individually we make a difference. Together we can change the world. And where better to start than right here at home in the Far North. There is work to be done and there are people doing it. I have no doubt there is a shining future for our children, for our youth, for our elderly, for everyone living in this beautiful corner of the world. Kudos to Trust Power and to the Far North District Council for organizing these annual tributes to the power and influence of the volunteer, the priceless gems of our community.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See

Unity 3

As a teenager I lived in a city of 100,000 people in Southern Ontario a little east of Toronto. It was a General Motors town, a working-class place peopled by immigrants from around the world, many still carrying the accents of their homelands. Each summer we celebrated this ethnic diversity in a weeklong event spread throughout halls and arenas around the city. Most evenings during that week I would join my mates to sample the food, music and traditional dance of a different group. It was at the Polish Hall that I sampled my first perogies. I loved them. At the Ukrainian Hall I watched two good friends don traditional garb and sing in the language of their ancestors. I danced to the tantalizing timbre of Jamaican steel drums on another evening. Fiesta Week, as the annual event was called, was a highlight of the summer for me and many others. It was an opportunity to acknowledge the rich tapestry of people that made up our community, each group lending a colourful thread to a carpet of rich and interesting patterns. I believe it helped us understand one another and led to an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance. Racial prejudice was almost non-existent.
unity 2

Maybe this mid-winter season is an opportunity to honour and celebrate our unique tribal roots (and even Europeans have tribal roots if we cast back far enough) while celebrating our unity as a human family. We’re not that different. As my friend Gay is apt to say: ‘We all have belly buttons.’ We are all breathing the same recycled air breathed by the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and a gentle saint in Galilee two thousand years ago. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous speech in Washington D.C.: ‘I have a dream where my four small children are judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.’

I have a dream in which we all walk together into a magnificent future that is a manifestation of our collective dreams for peace. And really, which human being doesn’t, deep down, want peace?

The next time you feel tension in a relationship, you can reflect on the fact that it is our differences that make this world such a fascinating place. It is our differences that encourage us to open our hearts a little bit more every day. It is our differences that allow us the freedom to forgive.
unity-and-diversity-570x375The first song I wrote was as simple as this:
‘There is unity in our diversity.
Sharing our voices we live in harmony.
We are one.’

I believe that peace in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, in our country and in the world is not only possible, it is inevitable. What do you think?

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See