Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ecological Sanitation or Shit Composting?

From the beginning, Humble Pile was a liberating experience for me. I was familiar with the concept and I had shitted in outhouses before but HP meant that for the first time their was a bucket in my very own bathroom. I never knew about all the trouble that toilets caused until I first heard the words "shit compost." First off, it just doesn't make sense to contaminate freshwater with your poop. Freshwater and poop don't mix. Then, you got this freshwater that has been processed in all these expensive ways so that it is potable. That processing uses tax dollars and a whole lot of petroleum-based energy. It is expensive water. Nope, no reason at all to poop in that. In this day in age, any freshwater is valuable. Unfortunately, the world is becoming a place where drinking water is scarce. Us Chicagoans think we can take advantage of the fact that we live next to the 6th largest lake in the world. Still, you can tell from any beach in Chicago when you notice the shoreline from year to year: the lake is receding; its water level is getting lower every year.

Not only does sewage treatment squander drinkable water but it also creates a lot of pollution in the form of waste solids. These aren't new discoveries. Ecological sanitation has been widely successful in Africa and Asia, particularly as a method of transforming shit into soil in places where there are high rates of waterborne illnesses and potable water is scarce. The world as a whole is already faced with major sanitation problems. Almost half of people globally don't have access to a sanitation system¹. The effect of global climate change is that these issues will become a reality for even more people around the world. A great place to read a little about this is an organization called Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL). They advocate for "ecological sanitation" too, although I prefer the term shit composting.

¹ "Ecological Sanitation;" Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL);

42 comments:

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