Dec 062007

Michigan State University recently put out a press release about Dr. Jianguo Liu’s work connecting divorce rates with environmental degradation. Title: “A really inconvenient truth: Divorce is not green.”

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Liu some time back when he gave a talk about the habitat requirements of pandas in China. It was a good talk, and ranged over more ground than what’s mentioned in this press release.

But I do remember him mentioning the connection between divorce rates and habitat loss. More divorces mean fewer people per dwelling, which means more dwellings and less habitat for pandas.

I thought to myself at the time that it was just like in C.S. Lewis’s book, “The Great Divorce”. Lewis drew a picture of hell (not at all to be taken literally) as a place much like earth, except a little drearier, and where the houses are of poorer quality. This “hell” was a place that was constantly expanding, because when people didn’t get along, instead of reconciling they just moved a little farther apart from each other.

And Dr. Liu has shown that it’s actually true in another sense. When people don’t get along, they get divorced and live apart from each other, which raises hell with the environment.

The title of the book has to do with a divorce between heaven and hell, not with marital relations per se, but it’s interesting how it all fits together anyway.

I got to thinking of the book several days ago when I heard about the new movie, “The Wristcutters.” When I heard it described by someone who had seen it, I mentioned that it sounded like it could have been inspired in part by C.S. Lewis’s image of hell. A little googling told me I wasn’t the first person to make that connection.

And now, there is another connection for his book. The MSU press release contains links to places where it says one can download the article, but I’ve had absolutely no luck finding it in either of those places. So I fired off an e-mail to Dr. Liu asking about it, and also mentioning The Great Divorce. Maybe he will be amused. I had meant to tell him about it back when I heard his talk, and then completely forgot about it until now.