Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 20, 2009


Tree Hugger - Flush toilets are nice. But they are a 19th century technology that is a prodigious waste of resources, taking potable water and turning it into a waste product, needing an elaborate treatment system to deal with the waste properly, electricity to run the pumps and diesel fuel to make the electricity. And that doesn't even account for the loss of a useful resource in the waste that is flushed away. . .

Deep in the rainforest there is no central plumbing supply, and there are no sewers. In order to use their fancy government-supplied toilets, they had to drag water half a kilometer from the Napo River (one of the sources of the Amazon) and flush it into a cesspool in the back forty behind the toilets. The Anangu are no dopes and quickly realized the silliness of this, and shut them down in favor of "eco-toilets"- these well ventilated, raised, two-chamber outhouses where they can squat like they always have, don't need to carry water and only have to muck out twice a year. It is a lesson that appears to be lost on the rest of Ecuador.

I asked Mrs. Campverdo how the toilet works; she says they have a diesel generator that runs the pumps that fills the cistern at the top of the pole. She said that she thinks the waste goes into something under that concrete lid over there, and that in a few years the government will come back and move the lid.


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