Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More people have cell phones than have toilets

More people in the world have cell phones than access to a toilet.

Image courtesy

Astonishing. More people have access to a cell phone than have access to a toilet? Yes. In a world of 6 billion, 2.5 billion have to squat behind a bush, if they’re lucky enough to be near a bush. Nearly half!

How is it possible that a person can own a cell phone, or have access to one, but have little or no access to clean water and toilets? Cell phones are cheap, for one, easy to pick up, especially disposable units. Housing, let alone housing with a privy—inside or outside—that’s much more difficult to come by. And if you don’t have a home, if you live on the street, fuhgeddaboudit! Would you open your home to every homeless person who needs a toilet? Neither would I. I know that for a fact. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to assume you wouldn’t. You tell me.

Where do they go, all these people who have no toilet? Where do they wash up afterwards? Does it matter to you and me? Is this a problem about which we have the means and power to do anything, anything at all? Yes, again.

Friday, October 15, is . The folks at think we can make a difference just talking about it. They want us to have a global conversation about water. Because when we talk about it, a few people who didn’t know about the problem might listen, and just maybe they’ll start talking about it too. The good news is, the water and sanitation problems are all fixable. It’s just a matter of will. We have to get the right information into the hands of the right people. So on Friday, I plan to blog and tweet and post on my (new) Facebook wall about water, because there is something wrong about a world where almost anyone can have a cell phone in their pocket, and almost half of them half to worry about it dropping into the ditch while they squat in the street to do their business. If that’s too graphic, I apologize. In the face of such enormous inequity, I seem to be losing my will to remain genteel and speak obliquely.

This short video is just a mite over one minute in length and shows us why we should care. Spare a moment to watch it, if you can. It’s just entertaining enough to make it easy. Well, yes, that’s the truth of it. It is just enough entertaining.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

So what do you think? What would you do if you had no access to a toilet? Are you interested in blogging/tweeting/posting to your wall about ? It’s difficult to imagine how just talking about it can do any good, but when enough of us are jamming the data lines in a world-circling conversation, and thinking about what has become a very real crisis in many parts of the world, a crisis that has the potential to stretch all the way to our comfort zone, according to some water watchers, there’s a chance some of the power brokers—television, radio, politicians, decision makers--might sit up and notice. Awareness is the first step to solving a problem.


We make peace in a million small ways every day.

All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.


SE'LAH... said...

what a statistic!!!

Hayden said...

I'm off in the bushes on this one. ahem.

Actually, I HATE and resent the fact that water is used to take nutrients away to be sterilized, and that our building codes make it mandatory. Even here, on my 10 acres, I'm required to have a septic system, and a composting toilet is forbidden. Within the next couple of years I expect to build one anyway. Composting toilets are sanitary, don't smell, and provide nutrients for the soil. The UN says that human waste should be composted for 2 years before being used on veggies - but in just a few months a properly managed compost pile is indistinguishable from rich black dirt and can be used on lawns and ornamentals.

I know this may not be feasible in downtown SF, but if it were permitted and encouraged on the outskirts we'd save tons of money. If composting toilet technology were taken to the developing world, it could change the sanitation problem overnight while reclaiming a product that is every bit as useful as horse and cow manure. Cheap technology that builds instead of destroying.

There's a guy who wrote a book on it that has been recommended by the U.N. It's available free online - The Humanure Handbook. And no, properly managed it doesn't smell bad.

kario said...

Wow! I'm glad Wanda pointed me in your direction. Put me down for learning at least one new thing today. I'm off to evangelize water...

Kathryn Grace said...

Welcome back, Selah!

Hayden, I agree that composting toilets would be a great advantage, especially in rural areas. On the other hand, the immediate need is any toilet. What would it take, do you think, to show an organization like that composting toilets could be just as cost effective while improving the soil and making life better for generations to come? Here at home (meaning the US), you are already doing so much, I can see that you might not yet be ready to take on your county and begin working for the changes you need. It's more than full time job by itself. On a positive note, and in the direction I think you are headed, you may be interested in what Google is doing with their waste water. Not that it's the end-all--but a start. Who knows maybe Google or the Gates Foundation would be interested in helping communities make such changes?

Kario, welcome! I'm looking forward to seeing what you post about water in the future. Do let me know, will you, please?

Hayden said...

Composting toilets are FAR cheaper than the kind that suck up water resources. What they do require is a good source of carbon (sawdust, dried leaves, straw) used in quantity sufficient to keep the smell gone. As organic farmers know, if you smell manure, you're losing nitrogen to the air, and that means add more straw to the bedding. areas that have little/no dead organic matter aren't well suited to the technology.

You know, when I guy gets noticed by the UN for this stuff you'd think people at would notice.

for now, for myself, my focus is to work to demonstrate what CAN be done. And yep, that'll eventually involve the county & state planning departments.

Right now, thanks to your post, I've resolved to build a GORGEOUS composting outhouse somewhere close enough to the orchard so that when I go U-Pick there'll be good facilities. Amazing how it changes your attitude when it's clean, spacious, has no smell, has sufficient daylight and is well ventilated.

And the required hollyhocks growing up behind as the signifier, LOL!

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