Scientific research is showing an alarming increase in the problem of myopia, or short-sightedness, in people across the globe. In the US and Europe 50% of all young adults are now classified short-sighted, while in China just 10% of teenagers today can see clearly for any distance, a rise from 10-20% in the 50s and 60s. It is predicted that by 2020 at this rate one third of the world's population will be short-sighted.
The defect starts mostly in the growing eyes of young and teenage children, and although it can be helped, there is no absolute cure. At least half of those affected can also expect to suffer from detached retinas, cataracts, glaucoma, acute vision loss, or total blindness.
Myopia was long-believed to be genetic, until its global spread turned the finger-pointing to longer study hours, computers, video games and mobile phones. However, prolonged research by the Australian National University shows that while technology assists the condition, it is not in itself the cause. The main catalyst is reduced exposure to light.
So, with an increasing disconnect from the natural world, without light to stimulate a release of natural chemicals for healthy growth, humans are losing their ability to see.
In Australia, with recreation still largely outside and most kids outdoors for at least 3 hours a day, only 30% have myopia. In most other countries under one hour of natural light is normal for most children.
Simply moving some school classes outside is proving to slow the rate of childhood myopia. But sun-blocked offices; windowless plazas; artificially lit classrooms; enormous yardless homes and thousands of hours in sunless city cars, and yes, that looking downwards instead of up, continue to contribute to the epidemic
Daylight is freely delivered by nature, ensuring healthy growth of all animal and plant-life on Earth. It makes no sense at all for humans to continue to block it out. Reconnecting our kids with nature has to be an obvious choice for parents, and governments, to make, over allowing them to lose their ability to see.
- Patricia Edwards
This post was originally published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in The Daily Examiner on 14 September, 2015