The Shitty State of Human Sanitation
For Chekhovs Kalashnikov’s very first interview on Change Makers we will be talking with environmental activist Chris Canaday from California about the broken and dangerous state of human and water sanitation systems and the solution to this problem that is damaging our environment and health.
I think that, before we talk about this revolutionary sanitation system, it is important to touch on why the current system is broken. Can you elaborate on how the contemporary western toilet came into being and the devastating effect that it has had on the environment and our health? People in Europe used to live in total filth in their cities, throwing their excrement out the window. Porcelain flush toilets had been worked on for some time, but only in 1861, after her husband had died of fecally transmitted typhoid, Queen Victoria ordered flush toilets to be refined and installed in much of Britain.
It is also reported that she was so obese that she had trouble squatting and someone decided that it was not dignified for the queen to squat. They gave her a new porcelain throne and then, via mass psychology, all the Western World has wanted the same thing as the queen of England, even if it is not good for them or their environment.
The modern flush toilet has contributed greatly to the cleanliness of cities, but has not really solved the problem, just moved it farther away. Water always gets recycled and there are always more people living downstream. Developed countries spend millions and probably billions of dollars trying to clean up their wastewater, but never really succeed.
“The modern flush toilet is largely based on the concept of “out of sight, out of mind”. It is also a prime example of selfishness: cleaning up the environment close to the user, while contaminating everyone’s general environment”
It is interesting to note that at the same time that Water Closets were being developed, Earth Closets were, too. There was even one reportedly used in Buckingham Palace for a while. Over time, Water Closets won out as the standard for Modern Western Society, likely due to their ease of use and maintenance, as long as piped water comes to the house and sewage goes away.
Another key way in which the current, water-based sanitation system is “broken” is that it is based on the illogical, unsustainable and linear concept that natural resources should be used once and then thrown away. Flush toilets not only throw away huge amounts of water, but also all the nutrients found in the excrement. With a simple push of a lever, we effectively deplete our agricultural soils and contribute to the eutrophication of rivers, lakes and oceans and in them the formation of hypoxic dead zones.
If these nutrients were instead given back properly to the soil (and if the population were stable), we could forget about the non-renewable, unsustainable chemical fertilizers that are currently the basis of Modern Western Society’s food production. Those who learn to recycle these nutrients in an orderly way now will have every advantage in the future when these chemicals run out, and when there are possibly 9 billion people on Planet Earth, all wanting to eat.
Water is so essential and vital that we simply cannot live without it. Nonetheless, modern homes in developed countries dump between 25 and 40% of their water down the toilet, and the number engineers use in Ecuador is closer to 75%, given the high incidence of unmaintained toilets through which water flows constantly. We need to promote a culture of respect for water, as a source of life, which should never be treated as a garbage dump.
If these are not enough reasons to consider the current water-based toilet to be broken, obsolete and illogical,please consider the following unreliable, unhygienic and not-so-easy aspects of flush toilets:
• They often need to be scrubbed after each use, if they are going to be presentable.
• They frequently need to be flushed more than once for everything to go away.
• They occasionally get plugged and need to be cleared with a plunger, with sewage splashing or overflowing out.
• They make so much noise that everyone in the building can hear when they get flushed.
• The great turbulence of flushing creates a plume of microscopic, fecally contaminated water droplets that then land on everything in the bathroom, including the toothbrushes.
So the reason Colon Cancer is skyrocketing in the Western World today is because we aren’t completely clearing our bowels, thanks to a custom-made invention for a morbidly obese queen?
Yes, and not just colon cancer, but also constipation and hemorrhoids. The natural position human beings have used when defecating, over millions of years, since before we were people, has always been squatting. In this position, the outlet is straight and the body can eliminate its waste more easily, efficiently and completely. When sitting, the outlet is not straight, certain muscles contradict each other, one needs to push more, and not all of the feces come out, so there is more constipation, hemorrhoids, and the colon never gets a rest from being in contact with festering feces, causing a greater incidence of colon cancer).
Squatting has the added advantage that it is more hygienic, especially with respect to women, since the user’s private parts do not touch anything. (Most women apparently never actually sit on a public toilet, but actually sort of hover above, which is much more uncomfortable than squatting all the way down.) Also, the squatting position is more accessible and intuitive for little children, since the floor is the same height for everyone, while a toilet bowl made for adults is much too big, uncomfortable and unsafe for them. Furthermore, in Urine-diverting Dry Toilets (UDDTs), the squatting position allows for a more certain separation of the urine and the feces, plus it is
easier and cheaper to build.
This is an excerpt of an interview which originally appeared in the CHEKHOVS KALASHNIKOV. Reproduced with permission.
Please visit: www.chekhovskalashnikov.com/water-sanitation/