China Discovers its Inner Tree Hugger

China Discovers its Inner Tree Hugger
Chinese children spend less time playing outdoors than any kids on earth – and everyone from their parents to their political leaders is starting to get worried about it.

According to a recent survey of the children of 14 nations by Gymboree, a US company that teaches children how to play, and gets paid for it, Chinese kids under six spend less than an hour outdoors every day, only a quarter of the global average. Spending time in the great outdoors is, apparently, a luxury that most Chinese parents think their children can ill-afford (along with sleeping; China also places third to last in the tiny tot sleep rankings).

But these days, nature is a lot more popular in China than it used to be. Some of the same middle class parents who keep their kids inside studying when they could be outside chasing fireflies have turned out in their tens of thousands to protest when chemical factories threaten the environment in Xiamen, Dalian and, last week, in Ningbo.

Indeed, as China’s political leaders meet in Beijing on Thursday for the most important Communist party congress in recent memory, the political ramifications of this new fondness for nature will be high on their agenda. Many of this year’s biggest street protests have been not-in-my-backyard environmental revolts. Beijing wants to make sure the Nimbies stay on message (and do not stray into broader politics).

So China’s middle class is finally discovering its inner tree-hugger. But it may…
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