The Waste of Waste (2000)

 by John A. Davison

            

Dateline October 30, 2000.


Dateline The Waste of Waste

 

It is interesting to me that very often in political campaigns the most

important issues are ignored. Here is one such issue. There are now on

this planet approximately 6 billion people and roughly the same number of

chickens. The number of cattle has been estimated at perhaps 2 to 3

billion with other domesticated livestock in somewhat lesser

numbers. There is no doubt that the animal biomass on earth is at an all

time high. At the same time the plant biomass has been steadily decreasing

due largely to the destruction of the tropical rain forests. Plants

utilize the carbon dioxide produced by the animals and, when this balance

is disrupted, CO2 levels increase. This in turn produces the greenhouse

effect and accordingly promotes global warming. Related to this are the

problems associated with the handling of the enormous quantities of human

and animal waste. It is this issue that I want to address.

 

We currently deal with human waste through sewage treatment facilities

often of very sophisticated design. Nevertheless, the effluent from these

facilities enters out freshwater environment and ultimately reaches the

sea. The same can be said for septic tanks the leachate from which also

enters the aquifers and ultimately, because water flows downhill, the

ocean. I feel that these practices are unacceptable. Whenever an energetic

system is open the second law of thermodynamics takes over and the total

energy of the system tends to a minimum. We are also of course poisoning

both our freshwater and marine water systems by these practices. There is

a limit to what the ocean can absorb. The Mediterranean Sea has become a

virtual sewer, although some steps are being taken to reverse that

condition.

 

I offer the following suggestions as a means to stop the effect of these

practices. The solution as I see it is the composting toilet. Units

suitable for a family of four are available for under two thousand

dollars. The finished compost can be collected and returned directly to

the land from which the food that we eat originates. This closes the

energetic loop and avoids the loss of valuable nutrient. It also serves

to eliminate the water necessary to flush the conventional toilet. It is

interesting to note that progressive farmers are employing this practice

with their cattle. The animals are kept in barns and fed corn and hay

which is grown nearby. The animal droppings are collected and placed in

digesters which generate methane which is used to provide electrical

power. The finished compost can then be tilled into the soil for the next

sequence of crops. It all makes very good sense. The Orientals for

centuries have employed similar practices by placing their homes atop

hillsides. Their waste serves to fertilize rice and other crops grown on

terraces below the house. At the bottom is a pond into which fingerling

fish are introduced. After the fish mature they are caught and taken up

the hill to be eaten and the cycle continues with a minimum of lost

energy. I am confident that these concepts can be effectively employed to

deal with human and animal waste on a world wide level.

 

I have recently purchased a ten acre lot on the shores of Lake Champlain

on which I plan to build an energy efficient home to include a composting

toilet. At the present time it seems that Vermont will not allow new home

construction without a state of the art septic system. That is a sad

state of affairs. Other states have approved composting facilities to

replace septic systems. Vermont should do the same. As your Governor I

would propose tax breaks for any household employing a composting system

as a replacement for either a septic or municipal facility. I would also

encourage composting toilets for all public buildings and give tax

breaks to industries that would do the same. We have simply got to stop

poisoning our environment!

 

Of course this can only be done through the bully pulpit which is what

this Newsletter is all about.

 

Thank you. God Bless Vermont and God Bless America.

 

 

 


(c) Copyright 2000 by John A. Davison. Latest modification October 30, 2000. This document and others by the same author may be found on-line at: http://www.uvm.edu/~jdavison/