All we need to know about shit, is that we want to be away from it. Sadly many can't get away from it, they end up living, inhaling and consuming it. This leads to death and disease.
In development people refer politely to water borne disease leading to over 2.2m child deaths per year according to the UN. Water borne diseases in most instances relate to drinking shit polluted water. Too put that in context AIDs is estimated to kill 2.0 million and malaria around 1-1.5 million per year. Shit kills.
This is a problem that the now developed world has kind of solved and that the developing world is still working on. Like all human endemic problems it is rooted in behaviors, beliefs and fears.
Understanding shit and what happens to it is key to human development as much as economics, corruption etc. and curing diseases are. Indeed, solve the shit problem and many of the diseases that limit human development and factors related to GDP growth may resolve themselves a bit.
Rose George has written a very entertaining and important book entitled The Big Necessity in which she travels the world discovering the cultural issues and mores around handling waste. Her voice is that of the economist magazine, for which she once wrote, humorous, well read and considered.
If you are interested in the human condition and understanding the behaviors, and issues that may better it, read this book.
I am fascinated by economic anthropology and sustainable development and appreciate the field work that George has done in trying to understand what the solution to the problem of shit may be. Solutions aren't just about plumbing and digging toilets. Like most aid dropping in money or technical help rarely does anything but minimize acute crises.
Marketing, behaviour, economics and technology, distribution and other issues. Consider it a business problem/opportunity. This is a fascinating book about something that gets very little attention relative to its impact on limiting the human condition and capabilities.
Rose George's description of techniques used to change a village's behaviour, involve economic incentives and changing beliefs while raising awareness. The lessons about motivating people for sustained change are as relevant to the business manager as they are to the aid worker. technocrats and major aid institutions often fail in these areas.
- Thomas Crapper helped improve the usage of the toilet in London, hence the phrase "take a crap" (perhaps best to leave it)
- For all of the butch culture, Americans are very prudish in the waste dept. euphemisms abound in the culture
- the japanese have the most advanced toilets in the world, warm seats, water wash etc.
- Wiping with paper is very unsanitary relative to washing with water
- Since 1994, 935 million gallons of raw sewage have been dumped into lake Michigan
- German men pee sitting down
- Chinese put used toilet paper into trash bins instead of flushing it away
- Many chinese public toilets have no stalls or barriers, so people get to know each other very well
- The average shit session yields 250 grams about .551 pounds of solids
- 1.7 million people in the US don't have a toilet
- The corridors of the palace of Versaille used to be filled with urine and fecal matter as people had nowhere to go, it was an honor to hold the king's chamber pot while he filled it.
- 400,000 people get sick in 1993 in Milwaukee from feces contaminated drinking water killing 100
- The UK has 186,000 miles of functioning sewers that are 250 years old
- One of the only cures for a "superbug" infection is a fecal transplant
- Wash those hands: in the UK "more than 1 in four people have faecal matter on their hands"
- over 40% of people don't wash their hands after going to the toilet
- much more in the book about a key element of the human condition, namely shit
You get the point the Shit book (The Big Necessity) is interesting, educational and important about something "polite" people don't talk or think about. If you are interested in sustainable development, furthering the human condition or understanding how to drive change among a group of people with a fixed behavior check out this book.