Being green can be such a drag. For the sake of our planet, all sorts of fun things can become an ethical no-no—that delicious, juicy steak, the fun-to-drive-but-fuel-inefficient car, the imported champagne. That's why I read with interest Barron YoungSmith's article on Slate arguing the case against long-distance relationships. Making greenies feel guilty about the occasional burger, well, that's nothing life-changing. But now we're laying the guilt on thick about love? The Grinch was green, too.
YoungSmith's argument is practical. Cross-country flights for bicoastal relationships and long car trips to meet a boyfriend or girlfriend contribute to climate change. In his example of an imaginary couple split between San Francisco and Washington, D.C., he states that the couple's impact is "six times worse for the environment than that of the average gas-guzzling American—and up to 10 times worse than that of the average San Franciscan. (Indeed, for her, breaking up would be about 10 times better for the environment than going vegetarian.)" Daters should aim to be "locasexual," the second new green word I've heard coined this week.
To YoungSmith's credit, he says that his goal is not to break up every long-distance relationship across the country—just to make people think more about the choices they make when choosing a partner and the impact of those decisions on both the planet and their wallet. Dating locally, he says, is better for communities (because we're meeting our neighbors, and spending more time enjoying our cities, rather than pining away on a webcam or waiting for a delayed flight) and also for our health (because people who date locally have more sex, which has health benefits). We'll save money on flights that we can spend on other green causes or invest for the future.
At the same time, this concept is what discourages people from being greener. What other joys will the environmentally friendly try to dissuade average Americans from? It's certainly not green to have children or pets. It's not green to travel the world and learn about foreign cultures. It's not green to have an afternoon at a museum or a symphony. But eliminating these things from our lives would not be living at all. If the green movement wasn't so full of Debbie Downers, wouldn't more people jump on board?