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 shouldeven those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For its 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.
The Big Necessity takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people doand dontdeal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New Yorkan infrastructure disaster waiting to happento an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: Chinas 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. Armys 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.
Anthropologists should be having a field day with bathrooms, according to the author. "A place where all sorts of human needs and habits intersect: fear, disgust, conversation, grooming, sex." In short, she boldly maintains, "To be uninterested in the public toilet is to be uninterested in life." After following the author's investigative escapades of the London sewers and checking out toilets connected to biogas digesters in China, readers will be left wondering about hygiene in other parts of the world and the resulting societal effects. What is happening with human bodily excrement in Egypt? In Venezuela? The topic becomes increasingly relevant the smaller our global world becomes, and here's hoping that Rose George keeps it right in front of us. (Reviewed by Beth Hemke Shapiro).
[A]n intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior.
An utterly disarming and engrossing tour of all things excremental.
An important book for a world that will have to face the consequences of human waste disposal in an age of rapidly expanding populations; strongly recommended.
Simon Winchester, author of The Man Who Loved China
This fascinating, wise, and scrupulously drawn portrait of the world and its waste will last long as a seriously important book. Like a literary treatment farm, it manages to turn the completely unpalatable into something utterly irresistible. Rose George, a brave, compassionate, and ceaselessly impeccable reporter—and, when needed, a very funny one too—has performed for us all who care a very great service. A big necessity, indeed.
Mary Roach, author of Stiff
In Rose George’s hometown in England, impoverished immigrants took up residence in the new public latrines. (‘Fighting over the more spacious disabled cubicle was fierce.’) Which is worse? Living in a toilet or living without one? George bravely—and sometimes literally—submerges herself in the tragedy and occasional comedy of global sanitation. Sludge, biogas, New York City sewage: I ate it up and wanted more! The most unforgettable book to pass through the publishing pipeline in years.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by jarrad primrose This is the real shiz I loved dis book ye, this book is off the chain, bro. George was apple to exquisitely present crucial ideas about toilet issues whilst keeping the reader intact and attentive with humorous chunks.
Biogas Digesters In The Big Necessity Rose George introduces readers to biogas
digesters in rural China. Biogas digesters (often shortened to biodigesters) are
permanent structures, usually constructed of cement, in which waste
(human, animal and agricultural leftovers) decompose in the lower section
causing the micro-organisms to release methane that is collected in the upper
Theres evidence that biogas was used to heat bath water in Assyria around 10 BC. The first modern-day biodigester was built in a leper colony in Bombay India in 1859. China began using biogas technology back in the late nineteenth century. By the
end of 2005 there were about 17 million digesters, predominantly in rural areas,
with about 50 million Chinese reaping the benefits. By 2020 biogas could potentially
supply energy to one quarter of Chinese rural households. The reactors are
commonly built in tandem with new pigsties, with toilets draining directly into
them. In China, a biodigester can be built in about a week for about...
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