Urban Refugees Leave Pollution, City Life Behind

As the China expat twittersphere convulsed in response to Tudou co-founder Marc van der Chijs’ explanation of ‘Why I’m leaving China, Marketplace’s Rob Schmitz described middle-class Chinese similarly fleeing the smog-cloaked major cities, seeking cleaner air and a quieter life in the west of the country.

“I felt lost in the big city because I didn’t know what was the purpose of life and I felt confused and I felt depression sometimes,” Jia says. “It felt so boring. The job was boring. Life was boring. Everything was boring.”

[…] These days, geese and ducks splashing in a frigid mountain lake wake Jia up each morning. She has breakfast, then she hikes for half an hour along a Himalayan mountain trail to work. She passes by crimson-robed monks chanting morning prayers at the local Buddhist monastery before arriving to the boutique hotel she manages here in a Tibetan part of Western China.

[…] Zhang and his wife lived in when their daughter was born. He says the horrendous water and air there was the final straw.

“We were really worried about the pollution’s impact on our baby,” says Zhang, “Right before we left, we took our daughter to the doctor for tests. Because of all the pollution, she had five times the permissible amount of lead in her blood. We were terrified.”

A report by Christina Larson at Bloomberg Businessweek (via CDT) describes significant health risks to children in urban and otherwise industrialized areas, focusing on increased rates of birth defects.

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