This has got to be the latest wacky entry in the increasingly-visible movement to deny the benefits of modern civilization to underdeveloped nations.
It was bad enough when various eco-Nazis and junk science apologists like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth contributed to the mass starvation of millions of people in Africa by convincing those people that the donated bio-engineered grain from the United States was “poison” (in spite of the fact that Americans have been eating it for 20 years).
But apparently famine isn’t enough for these people. Now there’s movement afoot to discourage the development of indoor plumbing and modern sewage infrastructure through the discrediting of the flush toilet.
What do they advocate instead? The so-called “dry toilet”, recently hailed in the first ever International Dry Toilet Conference (even the Onion couldn’t make up stuff this good). This dry toilet is a contained unit that requires no plumbing. It collects urine and feces and must be emptied by humans on a regular basis (which can conveniently be used as compost, for those of you who live in homes that actually have a need and a space for such a thing).
Y’know, even a hole in the ground in the back yard is better than that.
The argument goes that installing flush toilets in countries where they don’t already exist is prohibitively difficult and expensive due to the lack of a general plumbing infrastructure. That, of course, is a weak argument since the civilized world seems to have adapted fine to the concept.
The more relevant argument is, I think, the assertion that this use of water is wasteful and harmful to the environment.
I’m not entirely sure what harm is meant here. The flush toilet is part of the modern phenomenon of running water and sewage treatment. Water doesn’t vanish from the Earth when you flush the toilet. The Earth is a closed system, and that water will wind up somewhere.
So then they argue that not all societies have access to such plentiful water.
Duh? That’s what pumping stations, reservoirs, and desalination plants are for.
In the article I cited above, Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute takes vehement exception to the concept of the dry toilet and the motives of the people who advocate it. He states: “The toilet and indoor plumbing and indoor sanitation generally have greatly assisted in elevating the life expectancy and disease mitigation of the developed world. . . [Advocates of the dry toilet] are ultimately seeking to subject people to undeveloped standards of living.”
I agree. I cannot see a legitimate reason to promote the dry toilet as a universal substitute for a flush toilet, nor can I see any justification for removing flush toilets to install these stupid contraptions. Sanitary sewage and flush toilets are one of the most significant factors in modern disease control, especially in dense populations.
And let’s face it, if I had to empty my own toilet, where would I put it? I don’t have a yard. Urine and feces qualify as biohazardous waste, and the disposal of such waste is heavily regulated. You can’t just dump it in the trash, not to mention how bad for the environment THAT would be.
Still, I think there is humor value in an International Dry Toilet Conference (read: conference of people from everywhere except the United States). And I don’t think it’s realistic to expect people to give up their flush toilets, voluntarily or otherwise. I mean Jesus, I have relatives and friends with living memories of moving up in the world by finally having indoor plumbing.
But I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.