Rose George wants to start a conversation about human excrement, said David Biello in Scientific American. “I have no particular fascination with the substance itself. I don’t like it any more than the next person,” she says. But the British journalist believes that human waste remains an enormous global health hazard, and she argues that our embarrassment about discussing the subject is part of the problem. Thanks to the flush toilet, she says, we’ve added 20 years to life spans in the West but flushed an important topic from our minds: Four in 10 people on the planet still don’t have a bucket to defecate in, and fecal matter plays a role in 80 percent of illnesses worldwide. “The modern world assumes that sanitation has been solved,” she says. “It hasn’t really.”
George’s smart new book on sanitation, The Big Necessity, doesn’t advocate a flush toilet in every hut, said Katharine Mieszkowski in “Waterborne waste sewage was an excellent solution in the 19th century,” George says. In the 21st, clean water is too scarce a resource to contaminate with such abandon. She thinks that composting toilets might be a better idea, though no one yet has developed a system likely to work on a mass scale. “I don’t have a magic bullet solution,” she says. “The first step is to put the issue out there and talk about it.”