The Big Necessity
The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters
"One smart book . . . delving deep into the history and implications of a daily act that dare not speak its name." —Newsweek
Acclaimed as "extraordinary" (The New York Times) and "a classic" (Los Angeles Times), The Big Necessity is on its way to removing the taboo on bodily waste—something common to all and as natural as breathing. We prefer not to talk about it, but we should—even those of us who take care of our business in pristine, sanitary conditions. Disease spread by waste kills more people worldwide every year than any other single cause of death. Even in America, nearly two million people have no access to an indoor toilet. Yet the subject remains unmentionable.
Moving from the underground sewers of Paris, London, and New York (an infrastructure disaster waiting to happen) to an Indian slum where ten toilets are shared by 60,000 people, The Big Necessity breaks the silence, revealing everything that matters about how people do—and don't—deal with their own waste. With razor-sharp wit and crusading urgency, mixing levity with gravity, Rose George has turned the subject we like to avoid into a cause with the most serious of consequences.
With irreverence and pungent detail, George (A Life Removed) breaks the embarrassed silence over the economic, political, social and environmental problems of human waste disposal. Full of fascinating facts about the evolution of material culture as influenced by changing mores of disgust and decency (the popularity of high-heeled shoes dates back to the time when chamber pots were emptied into the streets) the book shows how even advanced technology doesn't always meet basic needs: using toilet paper is shockingly unhygienic and millions of government-built latrines in developing countries have been turned into goat sheds and spare rooms due to poor design, a lack of regular water supply or simply because the subsidized (and expensive) cement and stone structures are often more appealing than the village huts. George explores how discussions on the importance of clean drinking water and the eradication of infectious diseases euphemistically address how to handle human waste. From the depths of the world's oldest surviving urban sewers in to Japan's robo-toilet revolution, George leads an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior.