Pick your “ick”

The following letter to the editor by Hilde Maingay was written in response to an editorial  in The Falmouth Enterprise criticizing the “ick” factor of eco-toilets. The same paper published the letter on March 13, 2015.


The alarm bells of the climate (and environmental) crisis have been ringing in our ears for years and are getting louder all the time – yet humanity has failed to change course. What is wrong with us?

-Naomi Klein, The Guardian 3/9/15


4 CCCWG  - nutrient recovery to agriculture cycle_6What is wrong with us is that the value of human “waste” nutrients is even brought into question as “potentially useful” (Enterprise editorial, March 6, 2015). It is nature’s nutrient cycles that ensure that life can carry on on this closed system Planet Earth, which we call our home.

What is wrong with us is that we worship the present economic system of resource extraction, profit and waste that is the cause of the global environmental crisis we find ourselves in now. In nature there is no such a thing as a “profitable venture, business model” (Enterprise editorial). Recycling for sustainability is nature’s model.

What is wrong with us is that we imagine eco-toilets and recovering human waste to be “icky” while we don’t recognize that flush-toilets are the ones spreading pathogens and pollutants. Thanks to the flush toilet, bathrooms are the dirtiest places in our homes and public places, spreading pathogens well beyond the white porcelain bowl with each use and flush. Thanks to flush toilets, septic and sewer systems, our nutrient and chemical wastes now spread the globe, ending up in the water we drink, the fish we eat, and the air we breathe. Ick.

What is wrong with us is that we are willing to compromise and ignore nature’s laws and willing to force citizens to use a sewer system with fees, taxes, and betterment costs for generations to come, forcing them to support a system that will contribute to resource depletion and climate change for generations to come. Where is the business model for that system? Who is paying and who is profiting in that venture?

Industrial N cycle_1Focusing on issues that are perceived to be “icky” distracts from the larger discussions we need to have about the more serious, life threatening ick factors of greenhouse gas emissions that are rising faster than ever, disintegrating ice sheets, sea-level rise, acidification of the ocean, depleting phosphorus supplies, declining food stocks, loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.

There is no time to waste. When extreme weather hits, and sea-level rises between 3-12 feet it will be too late, and the only ones who will profit then are those who do the clean up.

The laws of nature cannot be changed. Either we change our ways, or they will be changed for us.

Pick your ick.

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