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, that 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.