Let's assume that the whole world adopted the sewage philosophy we have in the United States: defecate into water and then treat the polluted water. What would that scenario be like? Well, for one thing it wouldn't work. It takes between 1,000 and 2,000 tons of water at various stages in the process to flush one ton of humanure. In a world of just six billion people producing a conservative estimate of 1.2 million metric tons of human excrement daily, the amount of water required to flush it all would not be obtainable.56 Considering the increasing landfill space that would be needed to dispose of the increasing amounts of sewage sludge, and the tons of toxic chemicals required to "sterilize" the wastewater, one can realize that this system of human waste disposal is far from sustainable and cannot serve the needs of humanity in the long term.
According to Barbara Ward, President of the International Institute for Environment and Development, "Conventional 'Western' methods of waterborne sewerage are simply beyond the reach of most [of the world's] communities. They are far too expensive. And they often demand a level of water use that local water resources cannot supply. If Western standards were made the norm, some $200 billion alone [early 1980s] would have to be invested in sewerage to achieve the target of basic sanitation for all. Resources on this scale are simply not in sight."
To quote Lattee Fahm, "In today's world , some 4.5 billion people produce excretal matters at about 5.5 million metric tons every twenty-four hours, close to two billion metric tons per year [Humanity] now occupies a time/growth dimension in which the world population doubles in thirty five years or less. In this new universe, there is only one viable and ecologically consistent solution to the body waste problems — the processing and application of [humanure] for its agronutrient content." 57 This sentiment is echoed by World Bank researchers, who state, "[I]t can be estimated that the backlog of over one billion people not now provided with water or sanitation service will grow, not decrease. It has also been estimated that most developing economies will be unable to finance water carriage waste disposal systems even if loan funds were available." 58
In other words, we have to understand that humanure is a natural substance, produced by a process vital to life (human digestion), originating from the earth in the form of food, and valuable as an organic refuse material that can be returned to the earth in order to produce more food for humans. That's where composting comes in.
But hey, wait, let's not rush to judgement. We forgot about incinerating our excrements. We can dry our turds out, then truck them to big incinerators and burn the hell out of them. That way, instead of having fecal pollution in our drinking water or forests, we can breathe it in our air. Unfortunately, burning sludge with other municipal waste produces emissions of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, volatile hydrocarbons, acid gases, trace organic compounds and trace metals. The leftover ash has a high concentration of heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead.59 Doesn't sound so good if you live downwind, does it?
How about microwaving it? Don't laugh, someone's already invented the microwave toilet.60 This just might be a good cure for hemorrhoids, too. But heck, let's get serious and shoot it into outer space. Why not? It probably wouldn't cost too much per turd after we've dried the stuff out. This could add a new meaning to the phrase "the Captain's log." Beam up another one, Scotty!
Better yet, we can dry our turds out, chlorinate them, get someone in Taiwan to make little plastic sunglasses for them, then we'll sell them as Pet Turds! Now that's an entrepreneurial solution, isn't it? Any volunteer investors out there?
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