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Dealing with Human Waste

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We feel we have to mention this sensitive topic for completeness, and also because it's a very important part of a sustainable way of life.

Think about nitrogen's flow through our current society: from the atmosphere, via the Haber process -- fueled primarily by non-renewable energy -- into ammonia, thence into various soluble fertilizers, into cropland, some into crops and eventually humans; the rest into ground-water where it pollutes and contributes to algae blooms, fish-kill, and dead zones where rivers empty into oceans. The human portion winds up in sewage streams, flowing again primarily into rivers and oceans.

Historically, nitrogen is easily taken from the air by micro-organisms in the soil and in plant roots, and used to build bodies of plants. These are then eaten by animals and humans; the nitrogen is mostly excreted and used to grow further crops. So this cycle is closed instead of open, and has been part of the natural world for 3 billion years or so.

We understand now how diseases can be passed among humans in this waste stream; so to prevent this, we allow time and opportunity for other natural organisms to kill and eat the disease carriers, interrupting disease cycles. This interruption happens during the vital step of composting, which has only been understood during the last century or so.

For more depth, please examine some of these resources:

Title Author, etc. Medium Topic Library Description
Goodbye to the Flush Toilet Stoner, Carol Hupping Book Radical recy. KSC An early manual on composting toilets
Holy Shit Gene Logsdon Book Small Fam Frms Kl Co Managing manure to save mankind
The Humanure Handbook Joseph Jenkins Book Humanure Both Many good reviews on their website, where it's also for sale. Also check out their "reader feedback" page.
Solar Living Source Book John Schaeffer Book LS, Energy Both "Your complete guide to renewable energy technologies and sustainable living." This is a catalog of the Real Goods store in Mendocino County, California, but it's much more than that: it's a guide to living off the grid, as well as to sustainable living in urban areas. A true compendium.

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