Big Job, Good Job


Thinking Allowed (10th Sept 2008) alerted me to this fascinating looking book on, well, poo. It appears to adopt the now familiar 'social life' approach examining a substance and set of practices which, for reasons that are as obvious as they are inexplicable, have largely avoided academic or even pseudo-scholarly, popular approaches. 

As author Rose George's website puts it,this is a pressing topic indeed:

2.6 billion people lack the most basic thing that human dignity
requires. Four in ten people in the world have no toilet. They must do
their business instead on roadsides, in the bushes, wherever they can.
Yet human feces in water supplies contribute to one in ten of the
world’s communicable diseases. A child dies from diarrhoea – usually
brought on by fecal-contaminated food or water – every 15 seconds.

Meanwhile, the western world luxuriates in flush toilets; in toilets
that play music or can check blood pressure, where the flush is a
thoughtless thing, and anything that can go down a sewer…

there are mutliple aspects to this hidden world which, at least in the developed West, we partake of in near Fort Knox like security and privacy. There's the economics of the waste – flushing poo down a loo with potable water, then cleaning the water again so that is potable; there are cultural and gender issues to accessing places to go to the toilet; there's the technological issues of re-using waste and extracting gas from it – and the cultural issues of embedding this technology into pre-existing ecosystems of waste removal and farming. There's geographical issues too – as the world urbanises so creating the space, and the infrastuctures for poo-ing becomes an ever bigger challenge. It pout in mind of anthropologist Francesca Bray's work on toilets – American Modern