In a recent post, Charles Lambert takes note of the Pope's recent equation of gay sex (and non-procreational sex in general) with the ecological disasters of deforestation. Although this seems like an improbable comparison, I think Charles is right to pay attention--after all, it's an Il Popo that blows no one good.
But Charles bemoans the fact that "What he hasn't provided us with, alas, is a conversion table. For example, just how much damage does one act of consensual anal sex do in carbon footprint terms?" I've been preoocupied for the last few days, but I'm now able to step forward and answer this pressing question--though it requires a few assumptions.
Sex of any sort uses far fewer Calories than one might expect; 200 Calories per hour per person is near the upper limit. Note that this all depends upon how vigorous the activity is. There is no evidence that anal sex on average uses more or less energy than other types (though there's some pretty lazy oral sex out there.)
A Calorie of energy burned in the human body emits about 4.8 liters of carbon dioxide. A liter of carbon dioxide at standard temperature and pressure contains about 1.8 grams. Therefore, humans generate about 0.38 grams of carbon dioxide for every Calorie burned.
This suggests that an hour of reasonably athletic sex produces about (0.38 g/Calorie x 200 Calories =) 76 grams of carbon dioxide.
Is that a lot? Well, returning to the fate of the rainforest, over its lifetime a tree sequesters about 900.000 grams of carbon dioxide. So, at about 76 grams of carbon dioxide per sexual encounter, one tree equals about 11,850 sessions of strenuous sex. (Divide by two if you want to account for both parties.)
If you had an hour of athletic, non-procreative sex every other day (or two hours of lazy sex) for 60 years, you're causing cumulative ecological damage equal to cutting down slightly less than one tree over your entire lifetime. My guess is that most people manage only 10-25% of a tree before they retire from this world.
What Il Popo really ought to be worrying about is cow burps*. On average, every cow on the planet burps out about 280 liters of methane gas per day. Pound per pound, methane causes 25 times more global warming than carbon dioxide. Of course, carbon dioxide weighs 2.75 times as much as methane, so liter-per-liter methane causes only 9.09 times as much warming as carbon dioxide. Nonetheless, that means that over the average seven-year life of a cow, the cow's burps alone are the equivalent of chopping down about three trees (or somewhere above 32,500 fucks).
When you consider the fact that much of the current deforestation in the tropics occurs to create livestock pasture, it's pretty clear that we ought to be worrying more about steak and roast than about who's humping whom. Make Love, Not Hambugers.
*I'm not kidding. Livestock account for about 20% of emissions of greenhouse gases--more than all the transportation fuel burned in the world.
Since I've been a vegetarian since 1969, little of that is on my account. I have carbon credit to spare. I think I'll go get laid 32,500 times for every cow I didn't consume. See you in a bit.
Oh, before I go--Happy New Year!