An interview with Rose George author of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.
Weekly Signals (KUCI/Orange County, CA)
Hosts: Mike Kaspar and Nathan Callahan
Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we should — those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. 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. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.
George takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people do — and don’t — deal with their own waste. 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.
Rose George is a freelance writer and journalist who regularly contributes to Slate, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Financial Times.
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