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Simple, low-tech composting systems not only have a positive impact on the Earth's ecosystems, but are proven to be sustainable. Westerners may think that any system not requiring technology is too primitive to be worthy of respect. However, when western culture is nothing more than a distant and fading memory in the collective mind of humanity thousands (hundreds?) of years from now, the humans who will have learned how to survive on this planet in the long term will be those who have learned how to live in harmony with it. That will require much more than intelligence or technology - it will require a sensitive understanding of our place as humans in the web of life. That self-realization may be beyond the grasp of our egocentric intellects. Perhaps what is required of us in order to gain such an awareness is a sense of humility, and a renewed respect for that which is simple.

Some would argue that a simple system of humanure composting can also be the most advanced system known to humanity. It may be considered the most advanced because it works well while consuming little, if any, non-renewable resources, producing no pollution, and actually creating a resource vital to life.

Others may argue that in order for a system to be considered "advanced," it must display all the gadgets, doodads and technology normally associated with advancement. The argument is that something is advanced if it's been created by the scientific community, by humans, not by nature. That's like saying the most advanced method of drying one's hair is using a nuclear reaction in a nuclear power plant to produce heat in order to convert water to steam. The steam is then used to turn an electric generator in order to produce electricity. The electricity is used to power a plastic hair-drying gun to blow hot air on one's head. That's technological advancement. It reflects humanity's intellectual progress . . . (which is debatable).

True advancement, others would argue, instead requires the balanced development of humanity's intellect with physical and spiritual development. We must link what we know intellectually with the physical effects of our resultant behavior, and with the understanding of ourselves as small, interdependent, interrelated life forms relative to a greater sphere of existence. Otherwise, we create technology that excessively consumes non-renewable resources and creates toxic waste and pollution in order to do a simple task such as hair drying, which is easily done by hand with a towel. If that's advancement, we're in trouble.

Perhaps we're really advancing ourselves when we can function healthfully, peacefully, and sustainably without squandering resources and without creating pollution. That's not a matter of mastering the intellect or of mastering the environment with technology, it's a matter of mastering one's self, a much more difficult undertaking, but certainly a worthy goal.

Finally, I don't understand humans. We line up and make a lot of noise about big environmental problems like incinerators, waste dumps, acid rain, global warming, and pollution. But we don't understand that when we add up all the tiny environmental problems each of us creates, we end up with those big environmental dilemmas. Humans are content to blame someone else, like government or corporations, for the messes we create, and yet we each continue doing the same things, day in and day out, that have created the problems. Sure, corporations create pollution. If they do, don't buy their products. If you have to buy their products (gasoline for example), keep it to a minimum. Sure, municipal waste incinerators pollute the air. Stop throwing trash away. Minimize your production of waste. Recycle. Buy food in bulk and avoid packaging waste. Simplify. Turn off your TV. Grow your own food. Make compost. Plant a garden. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you don't, who will?

[humanure handbook writer's block]

Source: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127. To order, phone: 1-800-639-4099.

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weblife.org | library | Humanure Handbook | Chapter 8: Environmental Potty Training 101