In an article for Slate, writer Barron YoungSmith paints a portrait of environmental ruin caused by the most unlikely of culprits: long distance relationships. “The planet is about to suffer for your love,” YoungSmith writes, proposing we adopt a movement to “date local.” Inspired by the movement to eat locally-grown foods, he suggests that we give up on long distance relationships entirely and become “locasexuals.” But is the planet really being destroyed by our carbon-dioxide tainted long distance love? Let’s take a look at some of the claims made by the author: “Since greenhouse gases emitted from high-altitude airplanes are thought to have several times the impact of ground transport, a carbon offset company would pin their romantic travels with the equivalent of 35 metric tons of CO2 each year. If that responsibility were divided evenly between the two, our sustainability consultant’s lifestyle would be about 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.)” While the numbers here seem scary, the measurements used to determine carbon offsets in air travel vary widely depending on the size of a plane and number of passengers on it. In many cases airlines even disagree on the amount of carbon needed to offset their shared routes, making the author’s argument about air travel shaky at best. Even if carbon-based claims of long distance relationships destroying the environment aren’t true, the author still argues that LDRs are ruining our society, our health, and pretty much everything else under the sun. According to him:
- Long distance relationships make people “antisocial”
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distance lovers erode civic commitment and social support networks” by “spending all of their free time out of town or staring at a webcam”
- “Out-of-town daters have less sex than local couples”
- “Long stretches of abstinence between visits could lead to negative health outcomes”
- Long distance couples are “vulnerable to economic shock and wearing away future standard of living b/c they spend money on travel that they might otherwise save
“Every one of these demons could be banished by simply dating local,” writes YoungSmith. Or not. At present, there are almost 312 million people living in the United States, 14 million of whom are one part of long distance relationship. Thus, in the grand scheme of things, approximately 4.5 percent of Americans are part of a long distance couple, a percentage hardly large enough to, say, destroy the environment or ruin the fabric of contemporary society. Many short-distance couples can confirm, close proximity to one’s partner is no guarantee of happiness or relationship success — or, regular sex, for that matter. By suggesting that long distance couples “spend all of their free time out of town or staring at a webcam,” the author discredits the many independent individuals who do not rely entirely on their relationships for emotional fulfillment. When combined with the unreliability of carbon offset measurements and the fact that living a healthy lifestyle also provides many of the same health benefits as being in a relationship with another person, the portrait painted by YoungSmith begins to fade. So, long distance lovebirds, if you get a nagging feeling about the impact your love has on the planet, you can always find a way to positively impact the environment with your partner. In the meantime, if you find yourself worried about staying in touch with your dearest between visits, well— we’ve got an app for that.