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Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Divorce is costing the Earth

From the New Scientist:

COULD a rising tide of divorce be helping to kill the planet? It looks that way from a 12-country analysis of the environmental impact of broken marriage.

When couples split, they and their families move into separate properties, so collectively occupy more space, burn more energy and consume more water than they did as a family unit. "Divorced households are smaller than married households but consume more land, water and energy per person than married households," says Jianguo Liu of Michigan State University, East Lansing.

In the US, for example, 2.37 trillion litres of water, 38 million rooms and 734 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity would have been saved in 2005 alone if no one had got divorced. Divorced households spent 46 per cent more on electricity and 56 per cent more water per person than if they'd stayed married. Following a split, US households consumed 42 to 61 per cent more resources per person than while married.

The problem is likely to get worse, Liu warns. Between 1970 and 2000, the proportion of US households headed by divorcees soared from 5 to 15 per cent. Divorces are also steadily increasing in China (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0707267104).

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