The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

by Rose George

For it's not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death.

Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet.

Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New York--an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen--to an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: China's five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Army's personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 4.00
  • Pages: 238
  • Publish Date: October 14th 2008 by Metropolitan Books
  • Isbn10: 0805082719
  • Isbn13: 9780805082715

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It is very educational and thought provoking, a must read for people with an interest in public health, city planning, international aid, water use, agricultural and energy issues. The Big Necessity is very good public health book that should not go to waste.

Excreting is something we all do and almost none of us like to think about it, let alone talk about it, let alone read a whole book on the subject. Who would have guessed, for example, that the world divides between those who clean themselves after defecating using something dry (leaves, corn cobs, toilet paper) or with water (or other liquid substance like a disinfectant), and that the logic lies with the half we (you and me, pal) don't belong to.

To be uninterested in the public toilet is to be uninterested in life. While these three books were particularly engaging and well-executed, they are nonetheless eclipsed by the sheer unadulterated genius of Rose George's inspired exploration of - well - shit. This book is completely awesome - Rose George is an ideal guide to what Newsweek refers to as "the history and implications of a daily act that dare not speak its name".

When I was a kid, I would read "historical" books, like Little House on the Prairie, and I would be thinking, hmm, where did they go to the bathroom? How could that work?

Sad-faced celebrities talk about helping people obtain access to water and helping girls get menstrual supplies so they can go to school -- what they mean (sayeth George) is that the girls' school toilets are filled with shit. This isn't about lazy people who can't be bothered to flush, it's a structural problem: almost no one has a flush toilet. People don't like talking about shit. (And then she was locked up for the rest of her life, a convenient scapegoat for a problem she hadn't really caused, and couldn't fix.) Cleaning up human shit is human work. Who cleans the most bedpans?) My cold, jaded heart feels a sneaking suspicion that the sexism in the division of labor, moreso than the act of the labor itself, is the real reason why shit is shameful, hidden, unspeakable, and ignored in favor of "more important" topics.

Without easy access to safe and effective sanitation, communities cannot provide clean drinking water or food free from contamination or lower the risk of life-threatening diseases.

"2.6 billion people don't have sanitation. Four in ten people have no access to any latrine, toilet, bucket or box. Four in ten people live in situations where they are surrounded by human excrement because it is left in the bushes outside the village or in their city yards, left by children outside the back door. The author visits villages in India where activists are trying to convince people to change unhealthy behavior that has been going on for generations.

I think this book should have been called, The History of Toilets and Sewers Around the World or Poop: How To Get Rid of a Whole Lot of It. It really wasnt so much about human waste itself, but how it makes people sick and what the world does with it. I had no idea that so many people in the world did not have toilets or any kind of sewers. I had to re-watch the movie.) Anyways, it is a little village along a river. (I have a great fear of accidentally peeing down my leg!) I paid my 30 cents and went in. A little while later we went on a boat ride down the river. Then we saw the pipes coming straight out of the building and pouring right into the river.