July 02, 2005

Jared Diamond and divorce in China

Jianguo Liu and Jared Diamond on divorce in China (paid subscription to Nature required):

Divorces hurt the environment because they double the number of households and reduce the household size, increasing per capita resource consumption and waste. Government-supported mediation, counselling and a mandatory waiting period of one month or more for divorce would help people to think more seriously about divorce.

So, according to Liu and Diamond, Chinese often divorce without thinking seriously about it. In order to preserve marriages and the environment we need Chinese officials whispering offers that troubled couples can't refuse.

They have more recommendations:

China has a lower GDP than Japan and the United States but more serious environmental problems, so it needs proportionally higher environmental investment. Hence China’s budget for environmental protection should rise from its current 1.2% of GDP to rich-nation levels (1.5% in Europe and Japan, and 2% in the United States) or higher. A high investment would make sense on economic grounds alone, by eliminating much of the losses caused by environmental damage. [...] As China moves towards a more market-based economy, more market tools should be applied to environmental issues. Possible examples include: [...] imposing more environmental taxes, such as a higher consumption tax on cars [...]. Investment in education should be increased significantly. Besides ameliorating China’s environmental problems by increasing environmental awareness and decreasing human fertility, educational investments would yield economic benefits by upgrading the skills of China’s work force.

Would you entrust your finances to Liu and Diamond?


  1. You are all going to force me to seriously read some of Mr. Diamond’s work. I have been shaping an opinion based on listening to conversations, reading reviews and posts like this one... And I have to admit that I lean to agree with the critique of his work. I felt that it is a form of interested reductionism, what you expose here may be even worse. One can not subtitle a book: “How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” even if he means otherwise, or so supporters defending him would often have me believe. “He has a valid point,” I hear. But societies do not “choose” to fail or succeed... On the other hand, and with all this influence, I remain so uninterested to open one of his volumes. I may have to try but I have to admit that it is not high in my reading’s list.

  2. I have read "Why Is Sex So Much Fun" and "Guns, Germs and Steel" and enjoyed both of them, especially the latter. I also enjoy reading his articles. In a recent one he argues that we should have remained hunter-gatherers; that switching to agriculture was humanity's greatest mistake.

    His political ideas look immature, to say the least. :)

  3. I agree with Marcelino about his some of his other books. However, "Collapse" was not a very good read.