Sanitation, soils and sewers.

Verity

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#1
I'd like to forward a history of sanitation and agriculture- a body of knowledge picked up in planning our house a few years ago.

Dodgy subject as a first public post perhaps, but it's been bothering me that the lack of toilets in Versailles, and sanitation under cities of the 1800's etc. is still not covered.
There IS an explanation of sorts.

It would be wrong to focus on the toilet of times past as a single subject, because it was inextricably linked with culture and health.
The 'classic toilette', or system of doing things regarding the body and health was a closed loop system, and much of it was based on health and sacred ritual first and foremost. As time progressed bathing became less sacred and more social. But bathing was a public activity for the average citizen.
And that's not all.
There were public toilets- literally public.
These were Roman left-overs.

roman-latrines-or-toilets-in-the-roman-ruins-of-vaison-la-romaine-CWX00F.jpg

Some sources say there was running water beneath the latrines which was carried to a river or sea outlet.
I beg to differ. My opinion is the soil was collected, composted and used for fertiliser, just as the Chinese are reported to have done for centuries.
It's simple, elegant and beneficial to have done so.
The west seems to have forgotten the technique completely.

This an example from a Sydney newspaper, from c.1877:

"Many Sydney-siders had been impressed by the "immense" vegetables produced by Chinese market gardeners who made use of sewage as a fertiliser without any ill-effects.
An anonymous poet in the Evening News extolled the benefits of sewage farms.


Dear people! thus to fill my maw,
By outrage of just Nature's law!-
If you but us'd your city's filth
To fatten crops, and feed their tilth,
Till Nature turning "vile" to "good",
Returned your waste in fruit or food!

Your farms and fields would gain in wealth,
Whate'er your city wins in health,
And lustier crops and lengthening lives
Would prove how sense, with science thrives.

So. China and their 'night soil'.

My introduction of how things used to be done stemmed from curiosity on how to have an 'off-grid' grey-water waste system without the dreaded septic tank which seemed retarded even as a child; "You mean some guy with a TRUCK and a vacuum has to come and suck it out every single YEAR?!" THEN where did it go? Made no rational sense at all.
I'm not a hardcore greenie- just wanted a sensible system.
I picked up a permaculture book called 'The Humanure Handbook' by J. Jenkins.

China was the culture most recently using 'night soil', which is- quite frankly- a really good system. There are occasional articles which suggest it was common practise in our culture too. But it's not popular knowledge.
China have now turned to bio-gas but their old system was not broken that it needed to be fixed. Bio-gas sounds good in theory and is obviously functional in practise, but the amount of elaborate fussy development to get the system up and running when a composting toilet worked well for... ever... smacks (to my mind) of the profiteering priorities inherent today.

Farmers would collect the humanure in ceramic pots; it would compost for two years and then, as 'black gold', would fertilise their fields.
When Mao came on the scene his henchmen went round under strict orders to smash every night soil pot and add it to the fertiliser.
The crops started to fail, starvation ensued before much longer.

"Luckily," Nixon made an historic visit in 1973, and before he left the country had made a deal for 60 contracts, including US $391.8 million dollars worth of ammonia fertiliser plants to be built... the kick-start of China's industrial revolution. (The CIA released that doc. in 2005. Link below.)

nixon-china-visit_0.jpg

(Welcome to the club, Fella.)

From an article by 'Slate':
China's use of "night soil," as the Chinese rightly call a manure that is collected after dark, is probably the reason that its soils are still healthy after four millennia of intensive agriculture, while other great civilisations—the Maya, for one—floundered when their soils turned to dust.

It wasn't just China who did this- they're simply one of the last remaining civilisations to have used it. It was common practice across cultures. They abandoned it for chemical technology and now have new sanitation tech. Again- it wasn't broken that it needed fixing.


A Chinese night-soil collector.

A night soil carrier745.jpg


An English 'sewage farm'.

SewageFarmEngland.jpg


English 'night-soil' collectors.

London Nightmen from Mayhew 1861.jpg 6a00e0099229e8883301a51193e4f5970c-600wi.png



Back in Europe, it wasn't until around the 1850's when the flush cistern became accepted, around the time of London's 'Great Stink' in 1858.
There seems to have been some sort of disconnect as folks flocked to the cities, where waste was evidently an afterthought.
The industrial revolution flooded the cities in more ways than one.
Cesspits became overcrowded.. and began to 'percolate' through floorboards of the growing industrial city of London. Disease was rife.

Conveniently, there were (previously existing?) brick tunnels under the city, so one could create a tube station and tram.. ? - I mean sewers.

SewerLondonUnderground.jpg SewerUnderground.jpg tunnelLondon.jpg

And if there weren't, they built them.

SewerTunnelingLondon1909.gif
And now they're still building them, even bigger, even more elaborate.
Because- why the hell not right?

ModernSewerStation.jpg SewerNEWLondon.jpg



A new industry was born in the name of progress... and the modest yet functional English sewer pumping station was created to deal with the Great Stink.
1&2- Abbey Mills Pumping Station
3,4&5- Crossness Pumping Station
Sewer,Abbey.jpg abbey-mills-pumping-station-london-2.jpg SewerCrossness.jpg SewerOctagonCrossness.jpg Crossness.jpg



In the antipodes; The following quotes were taken from a Sydney paper by Sharon Beder, an absolutely fascinating paper in its own right (linked below);

The paper in question explores the role of the British Royal Commission into Sewage Disposal (1898-1915) in facilitating these changes in the way sewage treatment is viewed.
Sewage farms- where the council collects raw sewage and has a section of land filter it to fertilise turnips and other root veg., lucerne and animal fodder, including raising pigs, all for sale, was a profitable business. For some reason, those in power decided it was better to use chemicals to treat the sewage instead, and/or flush it out to sea.


Chemical precipitants merely clarified the sewage and retarded the action of nitrifying organisms in any subsequent filtering process.
The International System, Hickson pointed out, had only been around for five years and while over 400 patents had been taken out for various precipitating mediums, "the "survivals" could be counted on the fingers."
Almost all the available literature on the advantages of the system, he claimed, was published by the International company itself.



In a nutshell, as cities grew, so did the interest in profits as engineers vied for the most elaborate solution. If I was a cynical person I'd suggest they'd created a problem in order to profit from the solution.
Sewage farms were abandoned in favour of *new industries*.
Wiki has a write up on sewage farms, saying they 'have a place in developing countries.'

Sewage farms use sewage for irrigation and fertilizing agricultural land. The practice is common in warm, arid climates where irrigation is valuable while sources of fresh water are scarce. Suspended solids may be converted to humus by microbes and bacteria in order to supply nitrogen, phosphorus and other plant nutrients for crop growth.
Many industrialized nations have implemented conventional sewage treatment to reduce vector and odor problems for water reclamation and use of biosolids; but sewage farming remains an option for developing countries.



Here is a humble 'sewer farm' in Morstead, England.

Morestead_Sewage_Farm_-_geograph.org.uk_-_57146.jpg

Here're some systems preferred by engineers.
SewerTreatmentExytravaganza.jpg septic_example.jpg


TRENDS IN SEWERAGE TREATMENT
In the nineteenth century researchers had aimed for an ideal treatment solution that would completely, or almost completely, purify the effluent leaving no awkward by-products and no smell. The existence and discovery of new treatment methods did not end the research or settle disputes since there was always a better treatment to strive for and no agreement could be reached about the efficacy of new treatment methods. The major factors in the formation of a paradigm for sewage treatment methods were;
1) the domination of the field by engineers,
2) the discarding of the search for an ideal solution by engineers and
3) the attainment of consensus amongst engineers about which treatment technologies were adequate.


Moreover the goal of utilising the sewage as fertiliser was not an aim of engineers [..] and was unlikely to be profitable.
The debate over sewage treatment methods in the 19th & 20th centuries until recent years can be accounted for by the the establishment of a profession and the formation of a paradigm which occurred during the end of the 19th century.
The establishment of the profession of public health engineering allowed the domination [...] necessary for a paradigm to be formed.
The paradigm, in turn, strengthened the profession, giving it a set of treatment methods to choose from and allowing it to focus on improving those treatments, which were agreed to be appropriate.


sewHydraulicSanitation1890.jpg

The sewerage treatment paradigm has been continued through the ongoing training of new recruits to the profession, the protection of the profession's autonomy and the exclusion of outside interference in decision-making and the physical existence of millions of dollars of capital works that are a testament to that paradigm.
Whether a technological revolution will emerge that will see a new paradigm put in place has yet to be seen.




In Roman times, bathing was something sacred, and later on, social.
It wasn't a quick shower before a night out drinking, it was a ritual.
Women bathed with women, men with men. Children rarely bathed.

BathsofCaracalla1.jpg WALKTHROUGH_Great_Bath_1.jpg 51V6Ekj7XSL._SX425_.jpg alma-tadema.jpg washerwo.jpg


Lower classes could choose to use a bucket of sorts in the privacy of their own home.
Those who were happy to share a public convenience did so.

Toilet2.jpg roman-public-toilets-at-dougga.jpg


And as for Versailles and such palaces.
They had commodes. There is probably a link to Commodus but I didn't look very hard to follow it up.
From the Latin commodus, 'to accommodate.'
Here's a couple of tacky modern version found in your local hospital or elderly persons bedroom.

Commode4.jpg Commode1.jpg

Wood and textiles for the wealth of yore.

Commode2.jpg sewcommode1860.jpg paris-france-antique-furniture-inside-french-monuments-chateau.jpg sewCommode'Dagobert'.jpg


Romans had a good system- I don't pretend to know how they transported business from those communal collection points, horse and cart perhaps, but I do suspect it was similar to the Chinese system in that it was collected and used for soil building.
They were not foolish enough to flush valuable fertiliser OR clean drinking water in to water ways to create toxic problems.
It was a neat, intelligent, closed system.

recyling_human_animal_dung_02.jpg

History of Sewage Treatment
Brisbane night soil collector Lyle Barlow
China's Industrial Plant Import Program
A Timeline of Toilets
The Humanure Handbook - Center of the Humanure Composting Universe
Visit London's Most Glorious Sewage Pumping Station
2. Margate in the middle of the ninteenth century Board of Health Margate | Margate History

p.s. Our story ended happily ever after with a 'worm-farm'.
Looks nice and legit with white ceramic everything indoors, and bore or rain water flushes to the worms who make 'compost tea' for massive growth. We haven't yet hooked it up to the orchard but would it we were staying put. The growth where it reaches the paddock is absolutely massive compared to the non-fertilised grasses.


 

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WildFire2000

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#2
I can only add some anecdotal information here. My uncle composts food leftovers and such, but he would also relieve himself - urination only as far as I am aware - in his garden. While he hasn't moved on to gathering further human waste for fertilizer for his gardening, his plants were always amazing, and his plots of land produced far better than other places I've seen.

The weirdness of lack of sanitation in most urban centers, is a bit boggling, unless of course the population growth in most cities were from victorious conquerors that didn't understand how their system worked? So maintenance was not kept up properly? I don't know. I really don't. Some aspects of things can, I think, be contributed to lack of knowledge and science, do a limited to degree. Other things though... *shrug*
 
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#3
This post is full of shit! 😂 sorry couldn’t help myself. Great work Verity - very extensive research. I will comment further once I have read through the entire post.

I wonder if human excrement in the past had a less offensive smell as a result of our diet - no chemically processed food. You are what you eat they say.
 
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Ice Nine

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#4
What a crock of shit. Couldn't help myself either, what are we 12 or something. :D

Verity I read your most excellent post last night and I think you nailed it. It really makes a lot of sense and explains much.

@Verity wrote:" Back in Europe, it wasn't until around the 1850's when the flush cistern became accepted, around the time of London's 'Great Stink' in 1858.
There seems to have been some sort of disconnect as folks flocked to the cities, where waste was evidently an afterthought.
The industrial revolution flooded the cities in more ways than one.
Cesspits became overcrowded.. and began to 'percolate' through floorboards of the growing industrial city of London. Disease was rife. "

I think that is exactly what happened as people started moving to large urban centers they got away from living on and off the land and got very lazy and just threw their waste out the windows into the streets. And like everything else, people figured out a way to make it very complicated, instead of basically composting our waste, into creating elaborate sewers systems.

This really answers alot of my questions about lack of toilets of some kind in palaces and buildings, grand hotels, at a time when they had elaborate fountains everywhere and yet no indoor plumbing.
 

dreamtime

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#5
This really answers alot of my questions about lack of toilets of some kind in palaces and buildings, grand hotels, at a time when they had elaborate fountains everywhere and yet no indoor plumbing.
Interesting perspectives. It could be the answer.

Although, what about:

- lack of other things related to hygiene like showers?
- the fact that most of the houses seemingly were already there when people from outside the cities started moving in?
- No transfer of knowledge to the palace personell (e.g. Versailles), and subsequent filth and regular cleaning periods when the king was away for a few months?
- Why building elaborate fountains and buildings but not sanitation stuff that would make things more efficient?
 

KorbenDallas

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#6
King Louis XIV stench came from the fact that his physicians advised him to bathe as infrequently as possible to maintain good health. He also stated he found the act of bathing disturbing. Because of this, he is said to have only bathed twice in his lifetime. Another in this “gruesome two-some” class among the aristocracy was Queen Isabel I of Spain who once confessed that she had taken a bath only twice in her lifetime, when she was first born and when she got married.

Why Bathing Was Uncommon in Medieval Europe

I have a few words to add on the toilet issue but have to run to work :)
 

anotherlayer

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#7
Ablutophobia, the fear of bathing. Literally two people in the history of idiots has had this disease... King Louis XIV and Queen Isabel I.

At this point, I'm so jaded that I'm just going to guess that TPTB made shit stink so they could sell perfume. No doubt.
 

Glumlit

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#8
In a recent episode of The Good Place, there was a joke about the "afterlife architect" (basically a god) forgetting to include toilets/bathrooms in a project. I don't remember the quote exactly, but Versailles immediately sprang to my mind.

This is good shit.
 

Casimir

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#9
I wonder if human excrement in the past had a less offensive smell as a result of our diet - no chemically processed food. You are what you eat they say.
I think this comes into play in more ways than one. Unless you're extremely careful about the food you eat nowadays your gut biome is a complete wreck. Right now, your skin is a jungle type warzone littered with predators and prey. The non-human bacteria and other entities that call your body home and ultimately work together, seemingly by accident, to keep you alive is such a fascinating subject if you ever are feeling curious. Yet again, as above so below.

Anyways, I think the fact people were eating naturally grown and harvested foods on a permanent basis back then means their insides were largely much more healthy than ours. I think on top of the fact that the shit of the past probably didn't smell AS bad, I also think the human machine was much more efficient as well and likely didn't even shit as often or as much as humans do now.

My subjective experience is thus: I lived for decades not really considering what I was eating: fast food, any ole restaurant you can find (funny how many restaurants get their ingredients from the same food truck delivery system), snagging the cheap groceries from the store without a thought. Then I met my current gf, who's extremely gung-ho about how fucked the food industry is and how mistreated our bodies ultimately are whether we are conscious of it or not. She runs an organic, local food hub type deal where we live where she works with local farmers who take the time and energy to take care of their crops / animals and finds outlets for them to sell in competition with the big ag dominated stuff. Anyways, as I slowly started to change my lifestyle I noticed changes inside myself as well- physically. And swear to god, the biggest most tangible change after a couple years of working on my food choices: I literally don't fart as much. I mean, of course I feel better as a whole and seem to have a stronger immune system etc and its not like I had some sort of clinical farting issue- but its just one of those little things you notice. I can't help but tie this in with my gut biome being healthier overall. Imagining if I only ever ate organic vegetables and ethically, less stressed free range animals, I could see that #2 probably was way different to people back then in many ways.
 

Magnus

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#10
It is only possible to compost human feces with a 100% vegetarian diet, meat eating animals such as dogs and cats are not suitable for dung fertilization.

Urine must be diluted or the high nitrogen content will burn plants' sensitive roots

P.s. AWESOME post!!
 

Ice Nine

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#11
It is only possible to compost human feces with a 100% vegetarian diet, meat eating animals such as dogs and cats are not suitable for dung fertilization.

Urine must be diluted or the high nitrogen content will burn plants' sensitive roots

P.s. AWESOME post!!
So I wonder then, did we have a major dietary change at some point. A major shift from being vegetarians to what we are now, essentially human garbage cans. Much like pigs who can eat anything you throw at them.
 

Glumlit

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#12
It is only possible to compost human feces with a 100% vegetarian diet, meat eating animals such as dogs and cats are not suitable for dung fertilization.

Urine must be diluted or the high nitrogen content will burn plants' sensitive roots

P.s. AWESOME post!!
Why is this? What happens to the meat poop?
 
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#13
It is only possible to compost human feces with a 100% vegetarian diet, meat eating animals such as dogs and cats are not suitable for dung fertilization.

Urine must be diluted or the high nitrogen content will burn plants' sensitive roots

P.s. AWESOME post!!
I don't know where you got this information about human feces needing to be a 100% vegetarian diet - I can say from personal experience that this is not true.
 
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#14
I only have an anecdotal comment to add, which will quite likely resonate with some of the others here.

I'm a fairly new father, my son has only started eating solids about a month ago, prior to that it was breast milk only. It's still probably 75% breast milk and maybe 25% solids. However, the point I'd like to make is that up until he started eating solids his shit didn't stink. Not in the sense that he can do no wrong, but his poopy diapers literally didn't smell bad at all. They were very runny and seemed quite liquid-ey, and they were like a pale yellow.

At one point when my wife was splurging on dairy his poops started to smell like butter. Was really weird more than anything and still didn't really smell bad (but made me not want to eat butter...).

But now that he's eating some solids, his poop has turned the regular brown color that you'd expect to see come out of a person. They're also getting stinkier (and never smell like butter anymore). He's eaten a small amount of meat (a very small amount) and his solids consist mainly of pureed fruits and vegetables, as well as a bit of brown rice and some oatmeal.

So if the ancients were eating nothing but breastmilk, I can see that they would have had non-smelly poo. But if they were eating anything else, I don't think that would be the case.

I'm also curious as to Magnus' comment regarding vegetarian poop being the only poop that's suitable for compost and fertilization. That seems quite odd to me.

P.S. My brother-in-law was vacationing at a resort in Mexico a couple years ago. There was a big beautiful lawn in part of the resort that had luscious, thick grass. He was walking around on it when one of the groundskeepers told him not to walk around on there, or at a minimum to put on shoes. Of course his response was, "Why not?" Well it turns out that they didn't have any sanitary sewers there and the waste was pumped out onto the lawn as fertilizer. By the sounds of it they didn't do that two year composing thing to turn it into "night soil" either. Straight from the tank, mixed with other grey water I believe, and then out onto the lawn. So this isn't a totally lost practice, but it sounds like they're not doing it correctly, at least in this instance.
 
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#16
This post is full of shit! 😂 sorry couldn’t help myself. Great work Verity - very extensive research. I will comment further once I have read through the entire post.

I wonder if human excrement in the past had a less offensive smell as a result of our diet - no chemically processed food. You are what you eat they say.
Great question, I know deer dropings don't really smell, so maybe just looking at other wild animals waste might be a good indicator.
 
OP
OP
Verity

Verity

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#17
I can only add some anecdotal information here. My uncle composts food leftovers and such, but he would also relieve himself - urination only as far as I am aware - in his garden. While he hasn't moved on to gathering further human waste for fertilizer for his gardening, his plants were always amazing, and his plots of land produced far better than other places I've seen.

The weirdness of lack of sanitation in most urban centers, is a bit boggling, unless of course the population growth in most cities were from victorious conquerors that didn't understand how their system worked? So maintenance was not kept up properly? I don't know. I really don't. Some aspects of things can, I think, be contributed to lack of knowledge and science, do a limited to degree. Other things though... *shrug*
Lemon trees are especially supposed to benefit from undiluted pee. :)
This post is full of shit! 😂 sorry couldn’t help myself. Great work Verity - very extensive research. I will comment further once I have read through the entire post.

I wonder if human excrement in the past had a less offensive smell as a result of our diet - no chemically processed food. You are what you eat they say.
Yep, sugar and processed dairy are huge culprits in messing with the gut micro-biome and general acid balance. I've noticed since going 'paleo' (meat, fish, veg., fruit, nuts etc.) I don't need to wash as often. I don't really stink- pretty serious call- but made in confidence. I used to have to wash my hair every day. Now it's twice a week. No casual colds, all good.
I've started being able to smell chemical eaters down-wind, believe it or not.
Interesting perspectives. It could be the answer.

Although, what about:

- lack of other things related to hygiene like showers?
- the fact that most of the houses seemingly were already there when people from outside the cities started moving in?
- No transfer of knowledge to the palace personell (e.g. Versailles), and subsequent filth and regular cleaning periods when the king was away for a few months?
- Why building elaborate fountains and buildings but not sanitation stuff that would make things more efficient?
Showers were irrelevant. They are new to our society in the scheme of things.
'Not' bathing wasn't a big deal.
Having wet hair lead to colds I suppose, which would develop in to pneumonia etc. and knock one off not that long ago. And people weren't as smelly due to a natural diet in the earlier times.
Growing up we didn't even have a shower- just two bathrooms with baths. It was a lovely house, built in the 1920's and untouched from the original plan.

Perhaps because the most serious diet changes were in the 1840's (tea and sugar used to lengthen the common workers output), as the diet changed the body chemistry changed too.
Eat chemical food, need chemical deodorants/perfumes to hide the stink? Maybe- sounds rational.
Weston A. Price noted that people who ate their natural, whole diet never brushed their teeth yet had no cavities.
Westerners who brushed religiously had rotting teeth simply from the foods of commerce.

I don't know about the houses already being there. Those villas in London always make me wonder. I saw an episode of Grand Designs once where they realised the bricks were laid straight on to the soil- no foundations at all. Total freak-out from all involved as they ran to find supporting metal poles etc., but the house was solid.
These villas stretch easily the entire length of streets.
What's weird though is that electricity meant hooking everyone up, house by house to meters and power lines. Same with sanitation/water.
A water jug and bowl was completely normal up until around 1900 and later for the poorer folk.
And yet the 'basement flat' so popular with younger people in London (because they're poorly lit and a bit depressing, therefore cheaper) look buried.
It's weird, I know, and while I was collecting details I found this weirdo map. Check it out. "London before the houses".
This was confusing.

LondonBeforeHouses-1.jpg

-"No transfer of knowledge to the palace personell (e.g. Versailles), and subsequent filth and regular cleaning periods when the king was away for a few months?"
I don't really understand the question. I think you're asking, 'Why didn't someone oversee sanitation when the king was out?"
I'm working on the premise that there was no king per se.
It's too big for one family, royal or not. It sounds like a new story to explain the grandeur.
It was built (in my opinion) in a time when there WAS a system was in place for sanitation- there would have been a caste system. (There is no shame in caste systems, they're pretty decent actually, as it turns out.)
After whatever happened happened, the first time, (so around 1500-1650AD?) whoever lived there left, died, starved, whatever. New kids turned up and had no clue of the systems, the general running of things. They took on the authority but there was much lacking in their overview. I'm guessing from what I can see that still exists, and from stories from the past.

- "Why building elaborate fountains and buildings but not sanitation stuff that would make things more efficient?"
Again this is my opinion. There was no point in building sanitation systems because they weren't any more efficient that the system that WAS NOT BROKEN.
Our current paradigm is firmly entrenched in our over-stuffed heads.
Waste is bad m'kay. Gross, dirty, stinky, bad.
Back then it was golden. It created the best fruit, vegetables, fodder for animals who grew strong and tilled the soils.
Who needed over-engineered farm equipment dependent on fossil fuel (or whatever) when animals did it all for you, and one had a great feast from the "equipment" (pigs especially) on days of celebration?

The system wasn't broken, it has BEEN broken. In my opinion.
So I wonder then, did we have a major dietary change at some point. A major shift from being vegetarians to what we are now, essentially human garbage cans. Much like pigs who can eat anything you throw at them.
Pigs and goats have what amounts to a vitamin-C factory in their bodies. They can eat anything because they have that extraordinary anti-oxidant property built-in. Unfortunately for us, we have to get it from food and (therapeutically-speaking) ascorbic acid.

There is a tribe in Africa who live by vegetarianism, but they grow tall and die young. Some Indians are veg. too for whatever reason. Could be availability or choice- I'm not sure.
Also, it's been said that in a golden age (which we are emphatically not in), vegetarianism is the ideal.

Weston A. Price did his studies in terrific depth (in the 1930's). His book, 'Nutrition and Physical Degeneration' is one of the most valuable books I've ever read. I couldn't fault his research.
The norm for healthy, happy, beautiful off-spring and a good community culture (internally and externally) was a diet rich in animal foods fed on their natural diet, and fermented vegetation.

Thanks for the thumbs everyone. :)
 
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Ice Nine

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#19
Rules to live by:

Don't eat anything your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food and if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. Simple real food and no chemicals, as much as possible in this day and age. I haven't been to any fast food joints in decades.
 

Onijunbei

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#20
I only have an anecdotal comment to add, which will quite likely resonate with some of the others here.

I'm a fairly new father, my son has only started eating solids about a month ago, prior to that it was breast milk only. It's still probably 75% breast milk and maybe 25% solids. However, the point I'd like to make is that up until he started eating solids his shit didn't stink. Not in the sense that he can do no wrong, but his poopy diapers literally didn't smell bad at all. They were very runny and seemed quite liquid-ey, and they were like a pale yellow.

At one point when my wife was splurging on dairy his poops started to smell like butter. Was really weird more than anything and still didn't really smell bad (but made me not want to eat butter...).

But now that he's eating some solids, his poop has turned the regular brown color that you'd expect to see come out of a person. They're also getting stinkier (and never smell like butter anymore). He's eaten a small amount of meat (a very small amount) and his solids consist mainly of pureed fruits and vegetables, as well as a bit of brown rice and some oatmeal.

So if the ancients were eating nothing but breastmilk, I can see that they would have had non-smelly poo. But if they were eating anything else, I don't think that would be the case.

I'm also curious as to Magnus' comment regarding vegetarian poop being the only poop that's suitable for compost and fertilization. That seems quite odd to me.

P.S. My brother-in-law was vacationing at a resort in Mexico a couple years ago. There was a big beautiful lawn in part of the resort that had luscious, thick grass. He was walking around on it when one of the groundskeepers told him not to walk around on there, or at a minimum to put on shoes. Of course his response was, "Why not?" Well it turns out that they didn't have any sanitary sewers there and the waste was pumped out onto the lawn as fertilizer. By the sounds of it they didn't do that two year composing thing to turn it into "night soil" either. Straight from the tank, mixed with other grey water I believe, and then out onto the lawn. So this isn't a totally lost practice, but it sounds like they're not doing it correctly, at least in this instance.
Fibrous matter has to be broken down by bacteria... There are no enzymes to speed up the chemical process needed to shred cellulose.. The bacteria is most likely causing the "smell"... The bacteria in a sense also has waste matter... Methane..to name one...
 
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