Monday, December 24, 2007

How Many Trees Die Because You're Divorced?

Ah, life is grand. I'm livin' the nuclear family dream. I've got my 2.1 children and 2.1 cars. I've got my average house with its average (slave debtor's) mortgage. I'm working a stable career with a heartless company. I've spent too much for Christmas. And, despite being short, round, forgetful, and hairy like a beast, I haven't been awful enough for my lovely wife to leave me yet. We've been married for over 12 years. Yeah, over 12 years! Can you believe it? And neither of us have been married (or divorced) before.

In this day and age when, in the United States, we have an average divorce rate of about 50%, most ending within the first 15 years, young folks tend to be a bit jaded on the whole marriage thing (statistics information). Many of their parents were Baby Boomers, the "Me Generation", who suffer the highest divorce rate of all demographics. Maybe it's a good thing Americans are marrying later, on average.

Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night, "Journeys end in lovers meeting," but as Pauline Thomason said, "Love is blind – marriage is the eye-opener."

When the honeymoon is over, the love handles start coming on, and the enthusiastic and oh-so-Leave-It-To-Beaver "Honey, I'm home!" hug is replaced with a quiet shutting of the door, a couple aspirins, and a "Hey, what are you getting out of the freezer for supper?" Sadly, some folks open their eyes and discover that the snoring lump sleeping next to them on the Posturepedic isn't quite what they bargained for, or worse. All too often they give them the boot, the Big D, the marital sayonara. DIVORCE.

But wait! If this is you, my fellow blog reader, you may want to add one more thing to the social, emotional, economic, religious, parental, and physical strains that await (or afflict) you, your spouse, and your children around the dark corner along the divorce path. A recent study found that divorce actually hurts our environment:


Research abstract: HERE

That's right. If you are divorced, you are likely contributing to the misuse of our planet's precious few resources, thus forever increasing your already sky-high guilt factor. According to the two authors of the paper, which studied individuals from a number of countries, households of divorced individuals have more rooms per home per individual, thus requiring more heat and light, and thus more resources to power them.

To quote the paper: "In the United States in 2005, divorced households spent 46% and 56% more on electricity and water per person than married households. Divorced households in the U.S. could have saved more than 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone if their resource-use efficiency had been comparable to married households. Furthermore, U.S. households that experienced divorce used 42–61% more resources per person than before their dissolution."

Yikes. So, what does that equal in terms of pollution? How much greenhouse gases were made by all the coal that was burned? How much acid rain? How many dead trees and tumerous fish? Come on, I've got to have a figure for our angst to feed upon!

And that doesn't even take into account the growing numbers of single adults who have yet to marry, or widowed individuals who live longer and don't remarry. Just think what the neoconservatives will say about this one! All those ultrareligious Focus On The Family nutjobs and preaching presidential candidates. The authors also found that when divorced individuals remarry or return to their previous cohabitating married lifestyles, their energy consumption returns to average.

But, unfortunately, we don't all marry wisely, and people change. And there are a lot of really, really bad people out there who hide their true natures. Sometimes divorce is simply unavoidable. So what are all you divorced people to do to reduce your impact on the Earth and save your environment? Wear tie-dye and join a commune? Move back in with Mom? Go crawling back to their deadbeat or philandering spouse? Jump back into the hot, smarmy date circuit in search of a ring again?

No, of course not, dummy. Just live wiser. Living alone without the benefit of someone nagging at you doesn't mean you have to forget to turn off the lights or use less water, and now that you no longer have an extra person to throw away your money for you, do you really need that third bedroom for all those craft projects you never had time for while you were slaving away for that slug you used to be married to, a formal dining room to collect dust bunnies, or a second bathroom frequented only by your cats and the occasional tub spider? No. Live simply. Live in a smaller space. Let your hair hang down and live a little more like a hippie. Dig it?

As for me, I'm going to sit with my 2.1 children and my lovely, long-term wife tomorrow night, drink hot chocolate, and turn off all the houselights except for the Christmas tree. And as I enjoy my Leave It To Beaver life in the flickering woodstove flames of my energy-conscious lifestyle, safe in the self-riteous assumption that my marital bliss will last forever, I'll drink a toast to all you divorced-types and hope you'll be reducing your energy consumption this fine holiday season as you write out your alimony checks by holly-scented candlelight. Cheers.

Image taken from HERE.

No comments: