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Divorce Isn't Eco-Friendly
Date:12/3/2007

As more couples split, there are more households and more drain on resources, study suggests

MONDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Love not only makes the world go round, it may make it greener, too.

Rising divorce rates mean that fewer people are living in each household, causing them to take up more space and consume more energy and water, a new study suggests.

"People talk about divorce hurting the children. Divorce also has an impact on the environment," said Jianguo "Jack" Liu, senior author of the study and the Rachel Carson chair in sustainability at Michigan State University. "Nobody knew about it."

Liu started doing research in panda reserves in China years ago. "In the reserves, there are not only pandas but also more than 4,000 people," he said. "Surprisingly, the number of households increased much faster than the number of people in the last three decades, so we were wondering if that was true at the global level."

Pandas are naturally solitary creatures, living separately from each other. Humans, on the other hand, tend to be more social. But when the social bond falls apart and people start living more like pandas, the drain on the environment is greater, Liu said.

"If you increase the number of households, you need more land to build houses, you need to have energy to cook food and to heat in the winter time," Liu explained. "If you need more land, then you cut down the forest and cut down trees for fuel, you destroy more habitat for the pandas. There's a direct connection."

In China and elsewhere, one important reason for this increase in the number of households is divorce -- although other reasons include fewer generations living under the same roof and people staying single longer. In the United States, the households headed by a divorced person increased from 5 percent in 1970 to 15 percent in 2000, while the proportion of married households decreased from 69 per
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