What is tree blindness and how can you and your children learn to reconnect with nature?
By Verhaen Khanna
Tree blindness is a disease that is spreading in urban areas, affecting people of all ages. It is, however, very rare in rural areas. People suffering from tree blindness cannot see trees in their environment, trees are totally invisible for them. Sometimes, they walk into trees and sometimes they drive into trees. If a tree is cut outside their home they would not even notice it missing.
People in rural areas know exactly where all the trees are, their names and uses. Children in urban areas know brands of cars and clothing but not trees. People in urban areas can see cars buildings and clothing but not trees.
Personally, even I suffered from tree blindness till about five years ago. Once I realised that I was suffering from this terrible disease, I decided to do something about it. I asked experts and people with good experience about the names of trees and how to tell the difference. I even climbed several types of trees and spent a good amount of time under trees to feel their energy and get to know them. Soon, I was aware about many types of trees, their names and uses.
Over the years, I decided to cure more people from tree blindness, so I conducted workshops where children as young as five years old were welcome to join. I taught them how to climb trees and sit comfortably and think about which creature they felt like. This is a vital exercise for them to learn practically about the fun time spent with trees.
Now I have taught several thousands of people of all ages how to climb trees. After just one session, they start looking at other trees and wonder which would be fun to climb or which cannot be climbed. It’s just like opening a Pandora’s box to learn about trees around us that keep us alive and sustain wildlife with food and shelter.
The primary cause for tree blindness in big cities are the distractions around like playstations, TV, malls, and celebrities in magazines endorsing new products instead of encouraging children to understand their environment better. It’s more important for a child to know the benefits of neem than to learn about the best fairness cream that week.
It’s the disconnect with nature that makes the natural environment totally invisible to today’s kids. So, it’s up to parents to help their children spend more time outdoors and enjoy the natural environment.
Children exposed to the outdoors also have a stronger immunity and their health is better in the long run, whereas children who are not exposed to the elements have weaker immunity and fall sick easily and are often under some medication or the other.
Nature is the best medicine.
(The writer is founder of the New Delhi Nature Society (NDNS), which organises regular events for children and families, such as tree climbing, nature walks and camping. Follow on social media @newdelhinaturesociety)