04/30/2008 06:30 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The ultimate kapu

My friend and co-conspirator, DeAnander, just put together a very informative and important article. For environmental dilettantes, throwing your disposable water bottle into a recycling can is how to escape the consequences of runaway ecocide. DeAnander and I have been looking at a lot of empirical evidence that says our situation is based on -- among other things -- the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Her definition of that is, "you can't win, your can't break even, and you can't get out of the game."


So her article is for the more serious among us who have said that what we have to change to escape the worst consequences is... everything. Total redesign from the bottom, up.

So I am linking this article, that starts at our bottoms.

It might be the ultimate kapu. After all, everything from child molestation to necrophilia to bestiality to gang rape is now routine fare in online porn, and anyone who's genuinely upset by that may commonly be mocked as an old-fashioned "prude"; but most Americans are still deeply shocked/upset by the idea of a composting toilet. In many municipalities you can't get a permit for one -- i.e. it's illegal to operate one. In other countries however, such as forward-looking Sweden, the popular composting toilet called "Biolet" is being adopted by entire small towns/villages.

The association between flush toilets and Modernity, Sanitation, and Progress (not to mention class and race superiority) is very strong in Gringolandia. The "outhouse" and other non-flushing toilet concepts are a mark of the despised rural life for which urbanites often have a cringeing biophobic contempt (ironically, but perhaps inevitably, coexisting with a saccharine faux-nostalgia expressed in kitsch art); and they are a mark of third world poverty and "primitive" conditions. Flush toilets are right up there with SUVs on the list of "things those goddamn Greenies want to pry from our cold, dead hands" in the fulminations of online anti-environmentalist or cornucopian cranks. It is an outrage -- nearly a heresy -- to suggest that the flush toilet might not be such a cool idea after all.

Even those whose biophobia can be somewhat separated from their class, race, and national ego-extensions often remain convinced that human waste [I'll come back to that term later, to challenge it and the assumptions behind it] management is a highly technical problem which can only be solved by expert technomanagerial cadres and heavy technology -- i.e. the way we've been doing it since the industrial revolution. Any less "scientific" and technocratic approach will, they fear, lead inevitably...