Put down that screen and reconnect with the world around you

THIS week, as we switched prime ministers, I went and had my eyes tested.

As I chose whether this one or that one was the more blurry or sharp, I asked the optometrist if she’d noticed if devices like iPads were having an effect on children’s eyes.

Oh yes, she said. They were developing myopia because they were spending so much time looking at their screens at close range and so little time looking into the distance.

We discussed the daily struggle of many parents to limit screen time. We agreed that very little in the real world is a match for the screen-based colour and movement designed to capture young hearts and minds.

The optometrist said there was a now a slogan for kids, urging them to adopt Green Time Not Screen Time.

Back at home, I Googled it, because of course I couldn’t just leave that conversation in the air, I had to look it up on a screen.

There’s a NSW Office of Sport program called Green Time Not Screen Time, in which children are carted off to the bush – beautiful places like Broken Bay, Jindabyne and Lake Burrendong - and presumably asked to put their devices down for the duration: “They’ll be too busy exploring their outdoor classroom to miss their electronic devices.” Well, good luck with that.

While too much screen time can be unhealthy for all of us, it can also destroy our sense of connection with nature. We can operate in a bubble, forgetting that the natural world and the natural systems of the planet are what we rely on for everything we are and have (including our screens!).

For adults choosing to follow the news, our screens this week were full of the ructions in and the reassembling of the Coalition government. The policy problem that drove the final showdown - the emissions reduction component of the National Energy Guarantee - faded into the background behind all the noise and gnashing of teeth.

So it’s worth reminding ourselves about what just happened. We’ve all but ditched our (already somewhat threadbare) commitment to the Paris climate accords. This means that coal will continue to be king. Action on climate change will be indefinitely delayed.

It could be time to leave the screen at home and go for a stroll through nature. Look at birds, animals, trees and insects. It is these, along with our human bodies long evolved out of the stuff of nature, that will bear the brunt of our inertia.

Tracy Sorensen is president of Bathurst Community Climate Action Network. Visit www.bccan.org.au.