Divorce is not just a family matter. It exacts a serious toll on the environment by boosting the energy and water consumption of those who used to live together, according to a study by two Michigan State University researchers.Is this like a surprise to anyone? Is there anyone so shallow and foolish that saving Mother Earth is the argument for staying married?
The analysis found that cohabiting couples and families around the globe use resources more efficiently than households that have split up. The researchers calculated that in 2005, divorced American households used between 42 and 61 percent more resources per person than before they separated, spending 46 percent more per person on electricity and 56 percent more on water.
Their paper, published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also found that if the divorced couples had stayed together in 2005, the United States would have saved 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water in that year alone.
Married households use energy and water more efficiently than divorced ones because they share these resources -- including lighting and heating -- among more people, said Jianguo Liu, one of the paper's co-authors. Moreover, the divorced households they surveyed between 1998 and 2002 used up more space, occupying between 33 and 95 percent more rooms per person than in married households.
"Hopefully this will inform people about the environmental impact of divorce," Liu said in an interview yesterday. "For a long time we've blamed industries for environmental problems. One thing we've ignored is the household."
Over at Volokh Conspiracy, one commenter cheekily observed that this is doubtless an argument for gay marriage. Another observed that it was an argument for polygamy. I think it's an argument for communal living. Underground. In caves. Wearing skins.