UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) Digging Deeper LXV: December 15, 2008, 7:00 p.m.

Rose George, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2008). [Title: Sheikh Razak, a slum mason in Mumbai, remarked in the documentary “Q2P” that for poor people a toilet is “the big necessity” (204).] Introduction: Examining the Unmentionables. 2.6bn people have no access to any sanitation (1-2). Sanitation has made modern urban civilization possible (3-4). Cryptosporidium crisis in Galway, Ireland, in 2007 (4-5). 90% of the world’s sewage ends up in oceans, rivers, and lakes, untreated (6). This book is justified by its subject’s cultural universality, utility, and interest (6-9). It is the ultimate taboo; terms, source of disgust (9-11). Invisible, the subject is everywhere once one is alerted to it (11-13). Ch. 1: In the Sewers. Visit to a London sewer (15-16). Only 39 “flushers” for the entire system (16-18). “[T]he average human produces 77 pounds of excrement and 132 gallons of urine a year” (19). Sewer stories (19-22). History of London sewers (a word deriving either from ‘seaward’ or from ‘seuwire’, an Old Northern French verb meaning ‘to drain the overflow from a fish pond’ (22-26). Back-ups, mostly caused by FOG (fat, oil, and grease) (26-28). Visit to a New York sewer (29-37). Ch. 2: The Robo-Toilet Revolution. The flush toilet (39-41). Japan has the world’s most advanced toilets: the Washlet (41-42). Japanese toilet manufacturer TOTO (42-45, 47-49). Rival Inax (49-51). TOTO’s ad campaigns (5153). TOTO’s campaign to extend market to the U.S. (53-63). Ch. 3: 2.6 Billion. Jack Sim and the World Toilet Organization (65-71). The economic value of good sanitation (7174). Ronnie Kasrils, former minister for water affairs in South Africa and his campaign for sanitation goals of the Millennium Development Goals (74-80). Trevor Mulaudzi, hucksterish South African toilet activist (81-87). Ch. 4: Going to the Sulabh. India’s scavenger class (89-96). Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak’s Sulabh International, India’s largest charity, promoting the Sulabh Shauchalaya (Easy Latrine) and the concept of pay-for-use among the poor (96-107). Ch. 5: China’s Biogas Boom. The Chinese are the people “the most at home with their excrement” (110). 15.4m rural households have biogas, producing energy from excrement (11127). Ch. 6: A Public Necessity. Public restrooms and privacy across cultures and epochs (129-47). Ch. 7: The Battle of the Biosolids. Sewage treatment, with a focus on efforts to make fertilizer from sludge (treated human excrement) (149-71). Ch. 8: Open Defecation—Free India. India is building latrines and campaigning to ban the common practice of defecation in the open (173-97). Disgust analyzed (188-89). Ch. 9: In the Cities. Sewage disposal in urban slums in Mumbai, India (199209), and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (209-23). Ch. 10: The End. Waste disposal in outer space (225-26). Water is a limited resource and using it for waste disposal is wasteful; irrationalities abound in attitudes toward water use (227-29). “Eco-san” controversies (229-32). Sustainability and flexibility as trendy themes in sanitation (232-34). The

possibility of source separation (234-5). Prospects for the future (236-38). Notes. 36 pp. In U.S., about 2m people still lack basic plumbing facilities (240). Further reading. 30 books. No articles or websites. Filmography. Eight films, all made 2005-2008. Acknowledgments. Interpreters, researchers, subjects, editors, friends, family. Index. 8 pp.

About the author. Rose George was born in 1969. She has written for The Nation, Slate, the New York Times, and the Guardian. She is a graduate of Oxford (modern languages; fluent in French and German) and has a master’s in international relations (or international politics?) from the Univ. of Pennsylvania. Her first book, A Life Removed, was about Liberian refugees. [Additional information. In the Sept. 26, 2008, London Telegraph, Tom Fort called this “a tactful, outspoken, amusing, shocking, highly informative, and useful book. It may even—if you read it carefully— change your life.”]