Leigh's Reviews > The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

The Big Necessity by Rose George
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's review
Feb 12, 09

bookshelves: adult-nonfiction
Read in February, 2009

A fascinating look into how the world manages human waste. Sewer systems in cities such as London and New York, third world farmers, astronauts in space..

Some of the stories are really alarming. A lack of basic sanitation (toilets) in third world countries leads to incredible infestations of dystentery, worms, you name it. In western countries, disposal of so called "bio-solids" is terrifying. You might think that water treatments plants separate water from human waste but in the modern age, EVERYTHING gets dumped down the sewers so everything gets spread on farmland. Chemicals, biohazards, ashes from mortuaries, you name it. The effects on residents is horrific.

In some third world countries, there are cultural taboos associated with defecation. Women are forced to only go outside at night, where they get raped, bitten by snakes etc. Attempts to persuade villagers to use toilets instead of latrins involve both coercion and force. In many countries, people just shit wherever they want and it's extremely difficult to teach them to use a latrine.

Astronauts have to be truly ingenious to deal with waste. Everything from funnels to diapers is used.

The book is well written, with plenty of anecdotes and of course some humor as well. Highly recommended.

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02/10/2009 page 147
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