Anyone with a lick of environmental consciousness knows that finding replacements for fossil fuels (and nuclear – but that’s another topic) is one of the defining challenges of our time. This is a big topic and there’s plenty of debate.
As is always the case, the folks that presently make money via the status quo (in this case by finding, distributing and supplying oil, coal and natural gas) aren’t fired up (!) at the thought of their industries/businesses being curtailed. On a human level it’s understandable but we can’t keep doing things because some people make money at it — not when the results are so damaging.
New energy options include solar, wind, biomass and interestingly, biogas made from human and animal waste. This article: The Scoop on the Poop Bus: How Human and Animal Waste Might Fuel Our Future describes a 40-seat bus in England that runs on fuel made from human waste. It links to another article about a VW Bug that’s been altered to run on the same fuel.
I love it.
I think there’s something oddly marvelous about the thought that we, ourselves, just by living, can produce the energy we “need” to live more enjoyably.
While I think excessive consumerism and the wasteful production of lots of immediately disposable junk are bad on many levels, I think being able to travel, being able to live in comfortably-sized spaces, etc., are valuable aspects of modern living. Maybe we can retain some version of those amenities while dramatically reducing (if not ending) the negative environmental impacts of energy usage.
The Big Necessity is a very entertaining book about human waste sanitation. The author (Rose George) makes the compelling case that advances in human waste sanitation have contributed dramatically to the improvements in life quality enjoyed by the developed world over the last 100-150 years. She has some really interesting history then addresses issues we’re facing today –sewage infrastructure in the U.S. is crumbling, just like roads and bridges — while much of India, China, and other parts of the world suffer from truly ghastly shortcomings in waste sanitation. She presents advances made in Japan that make America’s toilets seem shabby in comparison. AND, she discusses how people in China are using their own waste to power their stoves and heat their homes.
She ends on a rather sad note at the plight of people in the world who don’t enjoy the kind of sanitation we have (and totally take for granted) and the incredible hurdles faced by people trying to address the problem.
As people make strides in figuring out how to effectively use human wastes for fuel maybe there will be more attention given to the poor state of sanitation around the world.