An Indiana grandma killed off a devastating superbug with a homemade fecal transplant and then embarked on a crusade to win over the FDA.
(Art by Laurel Lynn Leake)
Traditional flush toilets aren’t an option in many parts of the world, but neither is leaving people with unsafe and unhygenic choices. Now, one company is piloting a new loo that’s waterless, off-grid and able to charge your phone.
(Art by Chester Holme)
Bird feces contribute nutrient-rich fertilizer to ecosystems. Harvesting them has also been a big business for centuries.
In eighteenth century Japan, human excrement played a vital role in agriculture. Can similar solutions help manage waste today?
(Image courtesy Wellcome Images, a website operated by Wellcome Trust)
The back-end product of a turkey is perfect for electricity production, according to scientists at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. When converted to combustible biomass fuel, it could also reduce greenhouse gases and provide a renewable energy source.
Image: Tony Castro Wikimedia Commons
I grew up in a family of Russian scientists listening to stories about volcanoes and black holes while eating dinners from my family’s organic orchard. Since then, I survived a winter in Siberia, a summer in Madagascar, a year at Columbia J-School, and have written for the New York Times, Reader’s Digest, Popular Science, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Sierra Club, Atlantic, Newsweek, BBC, NPR and AFAR, and appeared on radio and TV. Along the way, I won two awards for stories on sustainability and four for covering the science of poo, and decided to pen a book on the subject. Named THE OTHER DARK MATTER: THE SCIENCE AND BUSINESS OF TURNING WASTE INTO WEALTH & HEALTH, it will be published by Chicago University Press in November 2021, just in time for the World Toilet Day! In writing this book, I toured a slew of smelly sewage plants, hopped over many murky street gutters, stuck my nose into a stool bank—and lived to tell the story. Now go read it! I promise you lots of good laughs, aha moments and ‘holy shit’ revelations. You’ll never flush the same way again! Amen.
The average person produces about four hundred pounds of excrement a year. More than seven billion people live on this planet. Holy crap!
Because of the diseases it spreads, we have learned to distance ourselves from our dark matter, but the long line of engineering marvels we’ve created to do so—from Roman sewage systems and medieval latrines to the immense, computerized treatment plants we use today—have also done considerable damage to the earth’s ecology. Now scientists tell us: we’ve been wasting our waste. When recycled correctly, this resource, cheap and widely available, can be converted into a sustainable energy source, act as an organic fertilizer, provide effective medicinal therapy for antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, and much more. Hygienic waste repurposing can help battle climate change, reduce acid rain, and eliminate toxic algal blooms.
Grossly ambitious and fully scientific, THE OTHER DARK MATTER shows how human excrement can be a life-saving, money-making resource—if we make better use of it! So let’s start doing it now. My dear fellow humans, please use your innate organic power for the greater good. Don’t just sit there and let it go to waste!