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The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

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The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An utterly original exploration of the world of human waste that will surprise, outrageand entertain

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we shouldeven those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For its not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.

The Big Necessity takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people doand dontdeal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New Yorkan infrastructure disaster waiting to happento an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: Chinas five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Armys personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.

With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

Rose George is a freelance writer and journalist who regularly contributes to Slate, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Financial Times. She lives in London.

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we shouldeven those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For its not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.

The Big Necessity takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people doand dontdeal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New Yorkan infrastructure disaster waiting to happento an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: Chinas five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Armys personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.

In this original exploration of a world both familiar and unfamiliar to all humankind, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

"In the name of research, Ms. George waded through sewers and checked out latrines all over the globe. On paper, she glides with rueful and articulate poise through the biology, ecology, physiology, psychology and basic hydraulics of her subject, always articulate and persuasive. Even if you are inclined to think health-care dollars should be put into titanium rather than porcelain, you will be hard pressed to put this extraordinary book down."Abigail Zuger, M.D., The New York Times

"Rose George's The Big Necessity should become a classic in the limited literary annals of coprology. George, who is British, is an ebullient descendant of the virtuous Victorians, including Thomas Crapper, who brought us modern plumbing. With wit and style, she goes to sewage school, ventures into the sewers of London and New York, attends international toilet conferences and visits cities, villages, townships and slums in Africa, Europe, the United States, India, Japan and China. Along the way, she shines a spotlight on unknown but charismatic leaders in South Africa, heroic campaigners in India and industrious Chinese reformers who have converted 15.4 million rural households to biogas digesters: a cheap and inexhaustible supply of clean energy. She even reveals the wonders of Japanese 'washletsa generic word for a high-function toilet'especially the warm toilet seat manufactured by Toto. With $4.2 billion in sales in 2006, Toto has entranced the Japanese . . . The Big Necessity is a valuable and often entertaining, if somewhat dismal, account of the travails of human waste disposal."Anna Sklar, Los Angeles Times

"Let's get the cover-blurb pander out of the way up front: If you buy just one book about human feces this year, make sure it's Rose George's The Big Necessity. Most people older than 9 prefer not to think much about the organic amalgam the American sanitation industry, in an excellent example of corporate euphemism, calls bio-solids. (Other, more poetic cultures prefer night soil; Rose George's English compatriots once called it 'gunge.' The author herself typically uses the sturdy old s-word. The Big Necessity is nothing if not frank.) Yet George's lucid, intrepid book of globe-spanning reportage not only sustains this apparently mundane subject for 304 pages, but it also leaves a reader both outraged and unexpectedly inspired. Night soil will never seem the same again. First, of course, George must overcome the natural reflex to laugh at her subject. The Big Necessity isn't exactly dourprepare to discover the She-Pee female urinal and a latrine-emptying device called the Gulperbut, as George establishes, gunge is serious business. After all, certain prerequisites underlie civilized human life, and police, fire and espresso service all come after sanitation. Rome built its Cloaca Maxima in about 600 B.C.; without it there never would have been an empire. George lays out a shocking indictment of what we've accomplished since then . . . [George] makes an engaging and hardheaded guide, the kind of reporter who doesn't mind recounting her own urinary experiences in rural China. In the far-flung and unplumbed corners of a very septic world, she discovers a welter of solutions to the planet's s-word dilemma. She introduces Indian toilet entrepreneurs, South African cleanliness evangelists, Tanzania's Gulper inventors and China's impressive biogas digesters, handy devices that ferment human and animal waste into heating, cooking and lighting fuel. These efforts are as diverse as the places they serve, but the successful ones share a few common characteristics: They're low tech, decentralized, cheap and grassroots. The most promising, like biogas, transform a liability into an asset. (In contrast to these earthy undertakings, George's enthusiasm for Japan's scary computerized super-toilets is a bit unseemly. Just what we all need: another home appliance we can't fix. Long live the ballcock, that handy little mechanism that fills the water tank in your flush toilet.) The Big Necessity connects one of the oldest problems in human life (man's gotta eat, and man's gottawell, you know) with a future likely to fall somewhere between the high-industrial grandeur underneath

Review:

"With irreverence and pungent detail, George (A Life Removed) breaks the embarrassed silence over the economic, political, social and environmental problems of human waste disposal. Full of fascinating facts about the evolution of material culture as influenced by changing mores of disgust and decency (the popularity of high-heeled shoes dates back to the time when chamber pots were emptied into the streets) — the book shows how even advanced technology doesn't always meet basic needs: using toilet paper is shockingly unhygienic and millions of government-built latrines in developing countries have been turned into goat sheds and spare rooms due to poor design, a lack of regular water supply or simply because the subsidized (and expensive) cement and stone structures are often more appealing than the village huts. George explores how discussions on the importance of clean drinking water and the eradication of infectious diseases euphemistically address how to handle human waste. From the depths of the world's oldest surviving urban sewers in to Japan's robo-toilet revolution, George leads an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

An utterly original exploration of the world of human waste, "The Big Necessity" takes aim at the taboo and reveals everything that matters about how people do--and don't--deal with their own waste.

Synopsis:

“One smart book...delving deep into the history and implications of a daily act that dare not speak its name.”—Newsweek

Bodily waste is common to all and as natural as breathing. We prefer not to talk about it, but we should—even those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. Disease spread by bodily waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in the United States, nearly two million people have no access to an indoor toilet, while the sewers of major cities worldwide are an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen. With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George's The Big Necessity breaks the silence, turning the taboo subject into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

Synopsis:

An utterly original exploration of the world of human waste that will surprise, outrage—and entertain

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we should—even those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For its not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.

The Big Necessity takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people do—and dont—deal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New York—an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen—to an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: Chinas five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Armys personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.

With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

About the Author

Rose George is a freelance writer and journalist who regularly contributes to Slate, The Guardian, The Independent, and the Financial Times. She lives in London.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780805082715
Subtitle:
The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
Author:
George, Rose
Author:
Heiligman, Deborah
Publisher:
Picador
Subject:
SOC042000
Subject:
Developing countries
Subject:
Human Services
Subject:
Environmental Science
Subject:
Naturalists
Subject:
England
Subject:
Environmental - Waste Management
Subject:
Sewage
Subject:
Hygiene
Subject:
Development - General
Subject:
developing
Subject:
Emerging Countries
Subject:
Developing & Emerging Countries
Subject:
Envir
Subject:
onmental Science
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:
20140909
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 11 black-and-white photographs
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8 x 5.25 in

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Related Subjects

Engineering » Environmental Engineering » Waste Management
Engineering » Home Construction » Plumbing
History and Social Science » Sociology » General
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » General

The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 320 pages Metropolitan Books - English 9780805082715 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "With irreverence and pungent detail, George (A Life Removed) breaks the embarrassed silence over the economic, political, social and environmental problems of human waste disposal. Full of fascinating facts about the evolution of material culture as influenced by changing mores of disgust and decency (the popularity of high-heeled shoes dates back to the time when chamber pots were emptied into the streets) — the book shows how even advanced technology doesn't always meet basic needs: using toilet paper is shockingly unhygienic and millions of government-built latrines in developing countries have been turned into goat sheds and spare rooms due to poor design, a lack of regular water supply or simply because the subsidized (and expensive) cement and stone structures are often more appealing than the village huts. George explores how discussions on the importance of clean drinking water and the eradication of infectious diseases euphemistically address how to handle human waste. From the depths of the world's oldest surviving urban sewers in to Japan's robo-toilet revolution, George leads an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , An utterly original exploration of the world of human waste, "The Big Necessity" takes aim at the taboo and reveals everything that matters about how people do--and don't--deal with their own waste.
"Synopsis" by , “One smart book...delving deep into the history and implications of a daily act that dare not speak its name.”—Newsweek

Bodily waste is common to all and as natural as breathing. We prefer not to talk about it, but we should—even those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. Disease spread by bodily waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in the United States, nearly two million people have no access to an indoor toilet, while the sewers of major cities worldwide are an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen. With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George's The Big Necessity breaks the silence, turning the taboo subject into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

"Synopsis" by ,

An utterly original exploration of the world of human waste that will surprise, outrage—and entertain

Produced behind closed doors, disposed of discreetly, and hidden by euphemism, bodily waste is something common to all and as natural as breathing, yet we prefer not to talk about it. But we should—even those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. For its not only in developing countries that human waste is a major public health threat: population growth is taxing even the most advanced sewage systems, and the disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, 1.95 million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.

The Big Necessity takes aim at the taboo, revealing everything that matters about how people do—and dont—deal with their own waste. Moving from the deep underground sewers of Paris, London, and New York—an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen—to an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, Rose George stops along the way to explore the potential saviors: Chinas five million biogas digesters, which produce energy from waste; the heroes of third world sanitation movements; the inventor of the humble Car Loo; and the U.S. Armys personal lasers used by soldiers to zap their feces in the field.

With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.

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