Divorce and the Environment

Is divorce bad for children? The data strongly suggests that it is. There is no shortage of studies that show a correlation between divorce and what social scientists call "adverse outcomes," such as drug use, teen pregnancy, depression, and other bad things.

Yet, even with the data, many scientists and academics decline to tell people that they should stay married for the sake of children.

If Americans will not stay together for their children's sake, would they do it to save the planet?

That is the question being asked in the wake of a recent Michigan State study. Researchers there found that divorce "exacts a serious toll on the environment." How? It boosts "the energy and water consumption of those who used to live together."

Why this should be the case is not hard to understand: Divorce turns what used to be one household into two. The efficient use of resources, including money, that comes naturally to families living under the same roof no longer applies. In its place are two of just about everything. The researchers calculated that, as the result of divorce, an additional 38 million rooms had to be heated and lighted.

The impact of this divorce-induced consumption is not trivial, they say. The researchers calculated that if divorced couples had stayed married, the "United States would have saved 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 BILLION gallons of water"-and that's in 2005 alone.

That is approximately as much electricity as American households use in three weeks and nearly as much water as all of American industry uses in an entire year.

Clearly, the study's authors were right when they said that after blaming "industries for environmental problems," it is time to look at the impact of households. But if you are expecting environmental groups to emphasize or even mention getting and staying married as a way to "save the planet," well, you are mistaken.

The head of the Earth Policy Institute told the Washington Post that "shifting to more energy-efficient appliances is the answer, not trying to prevent divorce or trying to make divorce more difficult." In other words, get divorced if you like-just make sure your new home has an energy-efficient dishwasher and compact fluorescent light bulbs.

No surprise here. Environmentalism, as Los Angeles Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez puts it, increasingly resembles a "religious awakening." But, like most modern religions, its aim is to make the adherent feel righteous, not to be righteous.

Thus, given the choice between personal fulfillment and "saving the planet," the choice is easy: The environment joins the kids on the list of those things whose well-being is sacrificed on the altar of our autonomy. Just as our children have to settle for "quality time," "Mother Earth" will have to be content with energy-efficient appliances and a check to an environmental group. Any real sacrifice is for other people to make.

Of course, that does not change the impact that our choices have on both people and now, it seems, the planet. We can violate the moral order for only so long before the stones themselves begin to cry out.

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  • Guest

    Majority of Americans polled think that their neighbors should be taking the bus to work.

    Living with an environmentalist is mental cruelty and legal grounds for divorce.

  • Guest

    Thanks, Goral: another item to add to the list in "no-fault" divorces!

    And, to Mark Earley, if you can't hear the rocks crying out, you're not listening hard enough!

  • Guest

    So the corrolary here would be that large families are the most energy efficient per person.  And so too I imagine convents and monestaries.  Lots of people sharing single dwellings, lots of people per vehicle.

    If we were serious about environmental impact, perhaps we might suggest a law that restricts people to no more than an average of say 500 sq ft per person for home space.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    NO, GaryT – NO more government nanny-ism – it is partly why we’re where we are, with ‘no-fault’ (and actualy ‘both-fault’) divorce, etc. Not merely in direct taxes and variously principled jurisdictions does government interference financially and socially degrade us.

    I have suggested before to older persons in my parents’ generation:
    + combine three or four comradely souls,
    + sell all but one home, and
    + live together for security, shared economies and overcoming ‘empty-nest’ loneliness.
    + All would be more likely to attend to health, e.g., get exercise, if it was a shared effort.
    + Plus if one or another travels or has to go to the hospital, the residence is still occupied.
    + Additionally, house pets, plants, grandchildren, books – PRAYERS – get shared, too.

    I am about to start pitching the same plea and plan with Boomers. It makes so much sense, it is incredible and even absurd that it is not a common thing already being done.

    Hmmm – my list does not seem ‘all there is’ to such a plan. Any further ideas?

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In our delighted glory in our Infant King,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Dear P.S.: in our age bracket, there's also the benefit of having someone around if you're ill or injured, and someone to share the chores. 

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    Cooky,

    Regarding having companions to get help, I also thought of all using a single and finest primary care physician. The Doc would feel that ‘full court’ press of a group of patients always comparing notes about his words and works.

    I also have to wonder what a network of such conventual houses might mean for all kinds of God’s work. I mean, what if each house kept a spare bed open for a battered mother and her babies, securely veiled in protective anonymity; or a young, vulnerable, frightened runaway ‘child’; or somehow-threatened pregnant girl?

    A hundred years from now, such networks might just be the next Vatican-recognized prelature, a la Opus Dei.

    Remember, I love you, too .

    In our delighted glory in our Infant King,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

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