Deadly Diapers and the Siren Song of Composting Toilets

It turns out that diapers are evil:

Despite his concerns, Noelle continued to use diapers on his daughter, despite the fact that he “felt like a monster and a fraud.”

Noelle finally chose to go diaperless and looked to traditional cultures for inspiration. “How I longed for a simple, dirt-floored, baby-friendly hut like that of a Yequana family,” he wrote.

I think it’s clear that this is a man who has done a lot of thinking.

Oh yeah, composting toilets. We know everybody wants one. How could one not? But take heed of this cautionary tale by a pioneer. This composting everyman sheds light on the origins of irrational prejudice against an ecological marvel:

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have all kinds of worms, flies, spiders, cockroaches, a whole mini-ecosystem in your composter but you don’t really want them coming out of the pedestal and into your house. Even if I was to be convinced that there was little health danger from flies coming out of the toilet and landing on food (e.g. drosophila go straight for the fruit bowl) how would I convince my guests that it was ok. Guests rarely had a problem with the composting toilet per se, although I did move the light so it didn’t shine straight down the chute, and some wanted a tape-recorded flushing sound to really feel that the act was complete. But at one stage I was spraying low-toxic personal insect repellant down the chute just before the guests arrived, and hoping for the best.

Obviously the man is a cynic, but true believers will not be dissuaded.

(Via Iain Murray)

UPDATE: Moira Breen’s comments on the diaper issue are worth reading. It’s easy to make light of this subject. However, what’s interesting to me is how some people can look at a technology that has become universal, and instead of studying its history and the issues involved, and trying to figure out why the technology has become popular, they proceed from ignorance and latch on to marginal theories, then invest themselves in alternatives that have not stood the test of time.

One sees this kind of behavior in many fields of human experience, and I think that it goes beyond merely reinventing the wheel. It seems to be based on a systematic unwillingness to credit human experience, and ultimately on contempt for other people.

6 thoughts on “Deadly Diapers and the Siren Song of Composting Toilets”

  1. I especially like this quip from the 1st Annual Dry Toilet Conference 2003 : “exhibition was visited by countless of interested people”. With less than 200 people involved in putting on this Convention of Crap, how tough could it have been to keep a running tally of interested people? C’mon Jonathan, fess up, this is really a Saturday Night Live skit, right?

  2. Ha! Thanks for the laugh Jonathan. I’ve often toyed with the idea in my head of just laying down a plastic tarp and let the kid do what he wants. Peepee, poopoo, no problem, just hose it down at the end of the day. But how good of a father would I be then eh?

  3. When i was i high school the debate was over disposable vs. washable diapers. Turns out the energy required to wash was higher than the energy thrown away in the disposables, so the discussion seemed to disappear.

    Somehow i’m not heartened to see it back in this form…

    Matya no baka

  4. Do what we do with our kids. We had a room tiled on the floor and all sides and added a drain in the middle. Our kids eat whatever food we can slip under the door–matzoh, pizza, etc.–and do their business as they will. Once a day we wash it down with fire hoses while we “hold” the kids, who seem somewhat in need of the attention. Go figure.

    The only issues are their long hair and nails, but they’re not coming out until they learn to supress their eliminations much as their parents do. I can only assume others would have adopted the “tile room” training method had they thought of it, thus this missive.

    You’re quite welcome.

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