Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Big Necessity

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The Big Necessity

The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

by Rose George

The Big Necessity
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2008, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2009, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Beth Hemke Shapiro

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Beyond the Book

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 section.

There’s 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...

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