Poop Politics

Some people have seriously shitty ideas

By Alison Levy

I don’t like public bathrooms. I am the kind of person who refuses to eat communal chips, and thinks hand sanitizer was a gift from God. One can only imagine my disgust on last weekend’s camping trip when I was faced with a porta potty. We had just arrived at the canoe rental site, and I had to pee — badly. I couldn’t use a porta potty, but I saw no other options. We hadn’t gone in the water yet; my friends would certainly notice if I peed myself. Thus, I started in the direction of the dreaded porta potty, which I could smell from six feet away.

I approached and backed away from the enemy three times before settling on a different plan. I opened the front and back doors of a car in the parking lot and peed in-between them while several friends shooed passers-by away. Classy, I know, but I just couldn’t stand the smell or sight of other people’s bathroom business. I don’t want to know what comes out of anyone else. Ever. That’s why we invented toilets that flush, right?

Wrong. A “no-flush toilet” movement is currently sweeping the world. I shit you not. Some people want to essentially bring porta potties into our businesses, our homes, and our everyday lives. As a self-proclaimed germaphobe, this is my worst nightmare. This could easily be turned into a horror movie more scarring than The Ring.

Bennett Gordon, a key villain in this movement and writer for The Utne Reader, introduced the idea at his local caucus in Minneapolis. It passed almost unanimously on the premise that one billion people worldwide lack access to water and 2.4 billion lack basic sanitation. Why? Because we Americans flush up to seven gallons of water a day. Big deal. Luckily, when brought before the Senate District 60 Democratic Convention, the delusional Gordon became a laughing stock. While many people commended his motives, they felt that giving up their own luxury of flushing on demand was just was not worth it. His sub-caucus group of crazies totaled a whopping three. In your face, Mr. Gordon. No one wants to smell your shit.

I, all too quickly, jumped to the conclusion that this plan was contained and thwarted at this convention. Wrong again. This ludicrous idea made it mainstream, aka it’s on Facebook. Go look it up and you will find a Facebook Cause Group titled “No-flush toilets” with 176 uncleanly followers and $10 donated (apparently no-flushers are also no-spenders). The group tries to rope you in by stating that “one out of every five people on earth live on less water than it takes to flush a toilet.” Clever gimmick. Still doesn’t make me want to see, smell, or be in a 20-foot radius of someone’s poop. Is this just Mr. Gordon with 176 different Facebook profiles, or are there really 176 people that will sacrifice their own noses just so others can drink water?

Upon clicking on a link to a Boston Globe article, I was informed I was one out of a total of two people to view this link. The group’s goal is five viewers. I helped them achieve 40 percent success. I vowed to myself not to help the no-flush movement in any further way.

After my inadvertent support, I began to read the Globe’s article. It turns out that each person flushes about 4,000 gallons of water a year. Obviously this hoarding of resources is not the gross part. It’s that this article advocates toilets that don’t flush, but rather store our waste. The article describes a toilet that sucks waste down a dark hole then separates liquid and solid business. The liquid is immediately used as fertilizer, and the solid is stored but receives a monthly raking. After a year, the solid stuff is finally used as fertilizer. Essentially, you are asked to rake your own shit and then grow things in it.

Oh, you also have to aim for the front of the toilet, which clearly poses problems for different genders and different sized people. Farmers all across the world use similar toilets called arbeloo toilets, which create compost out of human crap. Toilet experts hope that developed countries will follow suit. Mayling Simpson Herbt, of the Catholic Relief Services, said, “Some of our farmers say, ‘We used to think poop was dirty, but now it's our gold.’ They won't let their children defecate in the open. They say, 'Go put your gold in the toilet.'” Um, ew. This is reminiscent of when Jessica Simpson said she was going to “drop her kiddies off at the pool.”

Illustration by Monica Palmer