The Western World's dependence on flush toilets could be its environmental downfall.
Toilets that use less water, such as the "squat toilet" in which one squats over a hole in the ground, are prevalent in parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, but a new historical study suggests that after decades of flushing, it will take radical innovations for the mainstream West to adopt any new system.
Part of the reason the West was able to advance beyond other parts of the world was due to the fact that the West figured out how to separate the human from the human waste, which improved health. Water plays a crucial part in this.
"Most people can hardly imagine that other ways of handling human waste have ever existed," said study author Maj-Britt Quitzau, an environmental sociologist with the National Environmental Research Institute of. "But actually, systems did exist prior to the flushing toilet where human waste was collected within the cities and re-used in farming areas."
Perhaps most people are naive to the previous systems for the collection of human waste, but there is a reason for that...water proved to be the superior and most advantageous way of removing waste sanitarily.
Since the 1900s, scientists have known that flushing away human waste comes with environmental consequences , such as using precious, potable water. Each year, a typical person will use almost 4,000 gallons of drinking water to flush away 75 pounds of feces and 130 gallons of urine, according to a 2001 study by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.
While drinking-water shortages plague millions in such places as and in some African nations, Westerners continue to oppose alternatives to the flushing toilet.
Water is not an internationally traded commodity (or commode-ity, if you will). It is a local to regional commodity. Using less water in Peoria will not provide drinking water to Africa.
Westerners have not always been addicted to flushing toilets.
In the 1850s, for example, a recycling "earth toilet" was as American as apple pie.
It consisted of a seat placed over a container filled with dry earth. After use, more dry earth was piled into the container. Instead of throwing away the waste in the container, farmers put it to use in agricultural fields as compost.
Try taking a dump in January in Eagle River, ass clown. That method is dead, especially in Northern climes where, despite the screeching of global warming, it still gets damn cold. And if you have even been to an old cabin built by the CCC in the 30's, then you know that an outhouse in the summer is pretty damn unpleasant, too.
In the city ofalone, the number of water-flushing toilets rose from 127 to more than 80,000 between 1890 and 1925, according to a study reported in a Swedish Science Press journal. At the same time, environmentally sound earth closets, considered less sanitary, went extinct.
Sanitation is the key. The sanitation renaissance is what really kicked us into the modern era. Look, if someone can develop a toilet that is superior to the flush toilet, I'm all for it. But until that point, I'm willing to trade wastewater for worrying about the waste related diseases that killed so many in our past. Wastewater, I might add, which in many communities is recycled and sent back into local rivers or lakes.