Cleanliness is Killing Us: Part 1 Waste Management
Where along the way did humans develop a fear of dirt? It seems that as a culture we have an unhealthy obsession with sanitation and sterility that is quite ironically making us all very ill.
There was a time in history when a massive portion of the human population was in jeopardy due to the abhorrent conditions of the average living quarters. The main issue then was the inability to manage the waste. There was no system in place to remove the waste from the cities and bacterial infection was ravaging the populations. A narrow retrospective glimpse would seem to prove that exposure to human waste will inevitably lead to widespread plague-like disease and greatly weaken the health and condition of the human population.
With the great advent of the plumbing system we seem to have solved this so-called problem and sure enough the sanitation issues of those dark times no longer plague the civilizations of the world. Unfortunately it is not that simple, and the short sighted band-aid that we call plumbing has not really ever been reevaluated since its inception.
Sure the concepts and practices of the plumbing system have advanced and evolved technologically through the years, but our philosophies surrounding the so-called need for plumbing and its potential detriments have never been revisited. If we had reopened this investigation, perhaps we would have focused more on the diet content, food quality, and lifestyle practices of these ages and how it impacted the overall health and immunity potential of those afflicted. Perhaps the bacterial presence in the waste was symptomatic of something much more significant and the plumbing band -aid was just an early from of symptom treatment and a chance to pat ourselves on the back for fixing naturewell get to that later.
First, we must understand that despite our overall sense of detest for human waste, it is absolutely critical to the flourishing health of any ecosystem and therefore critical to the human body. Remember, nothing in this natural world is really waste. In other words nothing is produced in vain and everything has a value in the biological scheme of life. It may sound silly to say this, but our waste is how we give back to the soil that bore us our fruits and vegetables.
What do farmers and gardeners use as fertilizer? They use the waste of animals such as cows, chickens, and horses. Animal waste is rich in nitrogen and many important minerals. Even the bacteria present in animal waste has an important role in the breakdown of manure into soil. Thats right; animal waste doesnt just enrich the soil, it actually BECOMES soil. In fact, certain plants such as the banana plant, are actually so keen on nitrogen that you can plant them directly into a pile of manure and they will thrive. Of course bananas are the exception to the rule and most plants cannot handle that much nitrogen. Nevertheless, manure is quite valuable in the creation of rich organic soil; soil rich in minerals and health promoting bacteria.
So that being said, why do we have such an obsessive need to remove, destroy, and sterilize such a valuable commodity? Why do we see animal waste as black gold while detesting and fearing our own? First, what is waste? We must examine the process of digestion and how feces is formed.
Our waste is the product of our digestion, and our digestion is merely the manner in which we extract the elements of nutrition from what we consume. Digestion is a clean and simple process in which our digestive juices and enzymes act upon the food we eat to break down the nutrients into simpler and simpler forms for absorption into the body. This process in meant to be swift and efficient; leaving the final product of digestion to be much like the source. In other words, our bowel eliminations should be a close approximation to a masticated form of our collective meals.
The natural process of digestion does almost nothing to effect the superficial qualities of the food we eat. Our stool is merely the pulp of the digestive process, analogous to the pulp you would have in the basket of your juicer after extracting the nutrients for your juice, except in the case of digestion the stool is now carrying a host of friendly bacteria that will continue to break down the waste as it returns to the ground where it belongs.
Why do we think our waste to be detestable? If we have a reason to detest our waste; if we have foul smelling, bacteria ridden stools, then SOMETHING IS WRONG. One of the most unhealthy and destructive collective misconceptions of culture is that Human waste is foul. As a society we have accepted this to be a rule of convention, yet it couldnt be more wrong. Foul stools are symptomatic of poor health and an indicator of a poor diet. We must disregard the dogma of convention and think about it logically. What could be going on in the digestive process that would transform something that was originally delectable enough for us to desire into something so foul that we are embarrassed and ashamed? The answer is, NOTHING. Nothing in the natural digestive process can create this phenomenon and, in fact, foul stools only occur when this natural digestive process is impeded by improper diet.
The conventional belief of innately foul stools cannot be unchained from the conventional practice of animal product consumption. Without delving into the interminable argument of whether or not we are naturally omnivorous, let us just briefly speak to the anatomical and physiological facts relevant to this topic. When meat, eggs, and dairy products are left in a very warm and moist space we all know what to expect. None of us would leave a piece of animal flesh in a kitchen cabinet for over 8 hours on a summer afternoon because we would expect the flesh to rot very quickly, and to become quite foul and virulent. We know what kind of dangerous bacteria and parasites rotting meat can harbor. So why is it that we have no reservations about putting a piece of flesh into the soaking wet, ninety-eight degree internal cabinet of our GI tract where it can sit for over 20 hours? Why arent we concerned about the putrefaction and contamination involved; and when the stinky rotting corpse comes out the other end, why cant we make the connection? For whatever reason, we do remain willfully ignorant to the true nature of this process and instead make an unspoken pact as a society to consider the foul results of this practice a conventional inevitability;Poop just stinks. Who can argue? And who could question such a thing without becoming an arrogant elitist who walks around like his shit doesnt stink
Of course it wouldnt be fair to exclude the obvious fact that even a vegan bowel movement is not immune from such distaste. Time and time again I feel the compelling urge to remind my readers that just because I believe the healthiest diet to be a vegan one, I dont by any means consider all vegan diets healthy. I must always restate that there are many examples of how a certain type of omnivorous diet can be much healthier than a certain type of vegan diet. Any time there is a disruption of our natural digestive efforts, bacteria and pathogens heed the call. The results of poor food combining and consuming pathogenic foodstuffs can lead to the fermentation of sugars and the putrefaction (rot) of even plant based fats and proteins. This is the cause for the foul stools of the average vegan.
Since the issue of detestable waste permeates the whole spectrum of food choices, it is quite a challenge to convince society that we must return to our natural ecological cycle of consumption and elimination. In fact, perhaps it would be more appropriate to reverse the order of that simple phrase so that instead of elimination being perceived as a product of consumption, we can see a perspective of the food we consume being a product of our elimination.
Soil as we know it, rich organic soil, is a product of decomposed waste. Whether that waste is fallen leaves, dead branches, fallen plants, or animal waste, it will all naturally become new soil. More to the point, it is impossible to think of a soil that is not a product of such a process.
How ironic does it become when we passively allow a society to burn or dispose of yard clippings, create elaborate plumbing and violent chemical-based treatment systems, legislate the mandatory removal of vital decomposition mediums, and then all the while rant about our concerns for the demineralization and nutritional depletion of our soil. Moreover, instead of pursuing the eradication of these outdated and misguided practices we look to even more manufactured technology; even more alienation from our own ecosystem as a solution for this issue. While we continue to throw our own fertilizer quite literally down the drain and send our yard clippings to the dump, we look to the supplement industry of refined and synthesized nutrients, b-12 shots, and the industrial and economical imperialization of rainforest superfood strongholds to save us.
The solution is easy and at all of our fingertips. All we have to do is return to our natural ecological relationships. We can begin reciprocating to the soil that feeds and nourishes us by allowing all of our organic waste to return to the ground. Everything from our yard scraps, fallen leaves, branches, pulled weeds (bury pulled weeds in brown matter to prevent seed spreading), kitchen scraps, and yes even our bowel eliminations can be composted and used to revitalize the soil. You dont even need a fancy bin. A simple pile will work just fine.
I know, you are still psychologically plagued by stigmas surrounding the waste issue, and thinking of keeping a pile of your own waste in your yard is either terrifying or ridiculous (or both). Perhaps youve even heard the myths about the health risks of using composted human waste for edible plants. In fact, many advocates of composting toilets even warn against using the composted waste for vegetables and instruct us to use it only for flowers and trees. However these advocates and experts in composting are not necessarily consuming a healthy plant based diet or inclined to understand the intricacies of human digestion.
As we have discussed, human waste that is a result of a poor diet and/or improper digestion can be quite foul and even poisonous because it contains many of the harmful toxins and bacterias that were a product of its improper breakdown. However we shouldnt mistake this process as the norm and we should understand that eating a properly combined plant based diet produces waste that is nearly odorless, rich in minerals, and teaming with all the friendliest bacteria ready to return to the decomposed state of soil.
Have you ever heard the B-12 supplementation arguments made by even some raw vegans? They tend to conclude through their fear based rants that B-12 supplementation is absolutely necessary and attempt to dissuade the reader of any natural alternatives by phrasing them in a very loaded way. Theyll tell you that if you want to get your b-12 naturally, you will need to eat your own feces. What a way to phrase that point; what a visual that brings to us. We are meant to think of an un-evolved primitive wretch sitting naked on a rock eating fistfuls of his own stinky feces instead of logically working out what this all means biologically and chemically. If we use a very simple composting toilet and let our waste decompose naturally in a proper compost pile, the waste will decompose and become soil. Although it has now taken a new superficial form, the b-12 producing bacteria is still intact and present in the soil. When you use this soil to grow your food, you are ipso facto eating your feces and therefore naturally getting your b-12 and many other soil based nutrients. Furthermore, the storage of the composting waste is not a problem when the diet is clean and plant based because there are no odors or bacterial issues. We do this with horse, cow, and chicken waste all the time; why is human waste sounding so ridiculous?
The fact remains that the process of elimination and consumption is a vital and integral part of our ecosystem, our human/plant co-evolution, and our overall health. We cannot overlook this necessary and amazing process of soil production. Returning the waste to the soil is our end of the natural relationship between us and our planet; it cannot be circumvented, replaced, or synthesized. Just remember that your sensual perception of your waste is a reflection of your diet and lifestyle, so if you perceive your waste as foul then you must re-evaluate those things before you abandon your ecological relationships and sever one of your most intimate ties with mother nature.
Learn more about composting toilets and build one for less than $20 from this video.