Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Of Toilets and Hygiene

Did you know that nearly half the world's population has no access to a toilet of any kind and has to relieve themselves of their bowels and bladders by squatting in a field?
I'd laugh, but I'd be a hypocrite. A mere four generations ago, my great grandfather is on record as refusing to allow a toilet in his house, on the grounds that toilets inherently smell (as the outhouse that he used did), and that having it in the house would stink up the entire house.
But, as the article shows, many people lack even that. They have a bucket, that they empty into a field while no one's watching, or worse, have to squat in the field and hope no one bothers them in the process. Not good for hygiene (that field is going to stink) or health (bandits are a problem in these kinds of countries -- it wouldn't surprise me if they learned to harass people in the field, so to speak) or the environment (these fields are often very close to rivers, or even in them). Ick.
Apparently a number of charities are working hard to dig outhouses, the kind my great grandfather used, in these places so that people will have a safe, clean (if unbearably stinky), non-polluting place to do their business, and this makes a major difference.
Bonus if this also somehow fertilizes the nearby farms. (I've heard mixed reviews as to if that would work.)


Pawl Bearing said...

On the other end of the spectrum you have the Japanese who treat toilet seats the way hip 16 year olds treat view their cell phones. The variables that can be controlled are impressive: heated seats, hot water pre flush (so that if you splash it will be nice and warm to the touch) etc. I never had the courage to use the mechatronic bidet

themadengineer said...

Travelers to Japan have often reported on there being a remarkably different set of priorities for technology there. You have advanced toilets for comfort, super-speed trains for transportation, and high tech phones, but central air conditioning and heating is nonexistent, clothes drying is done purely by clothesline and sun, and when you really get into the sticks, suddenly instead of high tech toilets you have what amounts to a porcelain hole in the floor.
Oh, and each of us finds the other bizarre and wasteful.

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