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Trumpet for Topsoil!: Applying the principles of a closed loop system to TOILETS

  • Apr 8, 2012
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Australian Hamish Skermer of Natural Event is an environmental chemist who became intrigued about chemical porta potties at festival sites. The design didn't make any sense to him; no wonder the service came at such a high price. The system design itself was flawed, resulting in a skewed cost  for 'clean-up'.
 A (bowel) movement is indeed a natural 'event' and when we turn our attention to WHAT is actually being produced we are finally thankfully addressing the crucial gap in our thinking about TOILETS; finally responding to informational feedback;

"Ramaprasad (1983) defines feedback generally as "information about the gap between the actual level and the reference level of a system parameter which is used to alter the gap in some way", emphasising that the information by itself is not feedback unless translated into action. [1]"

So here's where we 'alter the gap'. Any toilet design that salvages what we eliminate is the embodiment of 'cradle to cradle'; applying the principles of a closed loop system; intelligent design from an ecological sanitation (ecosan) viewpoint.

In contrast, the contents of a porta potty at the end of the day is classified as  'hazardous waste', 'blackwater' (dangerous/deadly), when actually everything we eliminate is designed to turn into healthy soil, given half a chance; "It's proper to refer to this as 'nutrients" John Forrest Dohlin, Bronx Zoo; that is to say; no red-tagging needed if you do it right.
The very cool thing about the Bronx Zoo system (Clivus Multrum) is that it is a 21st century quantum leap from the proverbial hick's outhouse. The first time I saw the Bronx Zoo system, it sent me fantasizing about how we could incorporate this oh-so-pleasing, ceramic/gleaming/non-smelling(!!), restroom into an urban Victorian house retrofit. In no small way, this high profile, gorgeous example helps us to engage with a subject we had previously rather leave to the anonymous man in the HAZARDOUS WASTE COVERAGE SUIT (our heretofore 'wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot barge pole' syndrome re poop processing).

"Dare to get your friends off port potties!" is a peer-funding initiative to install equivalent, low-cost but scientifically verified, temporary  toilets for 1000 Hummingbirds international women's gathering for the Waters of the Earth. 1000 Hummingbird Women's Council understands that emergent ecological toilet design has everything to do with access to safe drinking water. Water IS more precious than gold.

With our ingrained prejudices and fear around human manure ('humanure'), there is a re-education process that must precede any innovation in this field. The State of California, for instance, turned out to be one of the harder nuts to crack for permitting the Clivus Multrum system (as seen in these Bronx Zoo restrooms). It was a milestone then when San Francisco Presidio chose this 2-stall installation for trailhead restrooms near El Polin spring (part of the Tennessee Hollow Watershed).

Pioneers in humanure must include USA Joseph Jenkins, whose Humanmanure Handbook Hamish has referred to as the "bible in the field". Both Joe and Hamish have been part of the deep assist crew to Haiti, relaying the simple principles of humanure in a grossly unsanitary milieu that is, yes; seeing outbreaks of the dreaded Cholera.  Hamish went in at the invitation of a U.S. non profit, GiveLoveOrg, founded specifically to teach ecological sanitation; in the forefront of what you may hear referred to as the 'Brown Revolution'. 

Cholera of course is what we have been taught to equate with poop getting anywhere but speedily down the right pipe and straight to our Western civilization superior design sewage plant. Now, as intelligent people engage with what are the real issues, we come to learn that it is the mishandling of humanure, due to a basic misunderstanding of what is designed to be not a toxic but a regenerative process.

Patricia Arquette of GiveLove reports from Haiti that deteriorating sanitation hits children the worst. No surprise there; access to safe drinking water significantly improves survival rates, especially in children. But  once local folk are applying the simple principles of humanure, survival rates unequivocally double. 

Hamish of Natural Event oversees the installation of humanure restrooms he designed, providing restrooms for 1000s at music festivals in Australia and England. In his documentary trailer he says cast your eye over a music festival encampment, fade out the music, and you have a refugee camp. Patrica Arquette recognized this when she approached Natural Event  to consult for GiveLove/Haiti. 
It may not come as any surprise that Hamish Skermer is a character. Perhaps it's a necessary requisite to be a pioneer in the field of poop. Natural Event's impressive research in the field has ultimately changed health & safety regulations in Australia and more recently in Great Britain. In Britain, where he was commissioned to bring his system for the Glastonbury Music Festival, folk got to choose between chemical porta potty for free, or Natural Event beautiful toilet for 2 pounds a go. The festival saw long lines forming when people chose to pay for the gorgeous Natural Event stalls/thrones;

No-Smell!! is the astonishing pronouncement and refrain.

That's right; no smell, no matter if these toilet stalls are servicing 1000s of people for weeks-long period in the blistering heat of an Australian summer. This is not your regular compost toilet. This is state of the art humanure system. Next frontier is USA Burning Man.

Interesting to note that the porta potty design was dreamed up in the '50s, patented in the 1960's, which in this regard is seamlessly linked to the mid-century '50s mindset, in which chemicals manufactured for World War II deployment were re-purposed for agricultural pest control; a pest for a pest, war on nature. The Humanure toilet is a game-changer; re-designing our human systems so that we are working with/guided by Nature's inherent deep ecology processes for life.

Bill McDonough's cradle to cradle/remaking the way we make things (cradle2cradle) says that there IS no 'away' to throw anything; we live in a closed loop system, period. How nature perfectly cycles and recycles everything is the Lesson and the teacher 'patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper''. This premise is echoed in the contemporary emergent field of , by which we study and apply the long range successful laws of nature, thereby distilling solutions to previously unresolved dilemmas and challenges in our world.

Design, says Bill, "is the first signal of human intent" - since our intent is to continue to relish, savor and enjoy the bounty of the earth; May All Our Relations Thrive As Far As Our Hearts Can Dream, we align to Design which embodies this worldview & vision.

This cradle2cradle premise is echoed in the emergent field of , by which we study and apply the long range successful laws of nature, thereby distilling solutions to previously unresolved dilemmas and challenges in our world. 

In waking up to water cycles, we come to redesign our restrooms. This post-Millennial conversation about eco-toilets is ultimately about WATER;  an ecosystem Water wake-up call.

A veritable vortex of innovation is born of bright intelligent undaunted individuals turning their creative flair to toilet Design for living systems.

Lend your support to 1000 Hummingbird 2012 eco-toilet-build
By pledging little or large at "StartSomeGood"

1000 hummmingbirds was Approved by StartSomeGood this Spring as a social benefit initiative.

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