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The way to sustainability may lay through the toilet

The way to sustainability may lay through the toilet

Some time ago  I was watching one of the latest medieval British history movies  called “Ironclad: Battle for blood”.  Nothing much special  –all as usual – blood and murder with a dash of erotic but one episode I liked quite much and it really paid for the time spent on that film.    It is that moment when a pair of Celtic raiders sneak into the besieged castle through a toilet chute. While watching this I suddenly realized it has parallels with my job as sustainable sanitation consultant…

The concepts of sustainability and holistic thinking were around  with us for quite a while  now – at least for the last 40-50 years.  Once a revolution (and in some ways  a revelation).   These days —    just  a set  of buzz words politicians use extensively and everybody  got used to.

The concept of holistic approach  is probably  best illustrated by the 1st  Commoner’s law of Ecology – everything connected to everything.  All this true as long  as we operate in the sanatorium world of  concepts and discuss it in the universities and social media.

But The Real World is also the world  of landlords, investors, commercial farmers, developers, bureaucrats and other people who are probably not so nice  but who make real decisions, that define the final results and who own or control the real  villages, industries,  cities and  farms.   We need to convey our good ideas in the way they can take it as a guidance for decisions and actions

In theory holistic design approach is a nice thing.  In practice when you try to explain it applied to real situation it  may leave people confused and perceived as demagogy .  Too complicated.  All  this sounds  very interesting but tell us what exactly do you mean.

The eventual result  quite often is that we have to resort  again to specialization and fragmentation in order to perform real tasks in the real world.

However there is still one small  hole left  for holistic designer to sneak in.  And this entry hole, no matter how strange it sounds, is sanitation.   You may ask how it comes that such a humble subject becomes suddenly so important that enables to  speak again from a holistic higher ground?   The answer is that sanitation block  is one of the element which is almost universally present in any system and what is more important it is  connected to many other functional units.  Examples may be  the links sanitation—biogas production—energy. Then from here comes the link energy – space heating or energy- electricity generation or energy – transportation .  Or we can jump from biogas into food production and have a link biogas digester -fertilizer- food growing – animal feeding which closes the loop and brings us back to biogas.

Or it can be sanitation—forestry—building industry.

Actually endless amount of different options and connections. I do not (intentionally) mention social blocks which include behavior and other complex connections, thatthe-man-rises-from-a-toilet01 however are very important on the level of whole system performance. Almost every critical component of system can be entered through sanitation. Sanitation is a central hub from where you can get to many places.

And the most important EDUCATION!  Toilet  and waste water treatment  is a perfect place to teach people about closed nutrients loop  concept through demonstration and interaction.

We have a funny door opener now, which you can use to get into the system itself. It really reminds about the old Soviet joke about a plumber whose role is so important that he is considered a family member  and may come any time he wants and access any place in the house.

It is the same.  Sanitation specialists  are called to deal with specific sanitation problems. But once you are there “at work”  you can start operating on system, holistic level (you may not even need to report this to the customer).

So if we can’t take this   Castle of Sustainability directly let’s be smart and flexible  and attack it through the toilets.   It may not look not that heroic but it may work fine in the end.







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