Sunday, April 22, 2012

Up a Creek without a ...

I have just finished cleaning myself up after our Earth Day contribution.  Our family participated in a local creek clean-up.  After a few years and several volunteer groups, I am happy to report that our section of Doan Brook was looking pretty good.  I did run into a small problem however when my 9 year old son urgently needed a toilet.  We popped up out of the creek gorge in our bright yellow worker's vests carrying bags of filthy garbage on a major road in Cleveland with not a clue where we should look for a public facility.  Luckily, I saw two men leaving their house and so we ran across the boulevard and asked to use their toilet.  They looked more than a little surprised but did not hesitate to let us in.  It made me wonder: if two strangers showed up at our door and asked to use the bathroom under what conditions would I be willing to return the favor?

On the way back I started thinking about public toilets in urban areas.  They used to be more common but now they are very rare.  I know that I always see signs in the city saying "You can't use our toilet unless you are a paying customer."  It makes me wonder where are homeless people supposed to use the bathroom.  People always complain about the smell in parking garages and so forth, but really, what are the options?

My son and I hurried back down into the ravine to catch up with our group.  Unfortunately, I missed a step while crossing the stream and got a full bath.  It was at that moment it occurred to me where the homeless might be going to relieve themselves.

I found this lovely synchronicity in my inbox when we got home.  It is from someone who knows that I have written about the lack of sanitation in third world countries before.   They asked if I would post it.

Lack of Sanitation
Created by:
Happy Earth day Everyone!  I hope you found and excellent way to celebrate.


  1. LOVE the new look!!Very you, Jeri. And what a terrific post, all tied in to the family element.

  2. i hope that somewhere along the way our waste can be flushed with success . . . . steven

  3. Why is human waste so much worse than animal waste?

  4. That is a good question Ellen. Animal waste in the water can be very bad as well. I know that it is a problem in Nepal especially with Giardia. (I've had that 3 times!) Also, we often hear in the US about the environmental problems of too much chicken waste getting into the the surface water and killing fish. Hormones and antibiotics that are given to cattle are very difficult to remove from our drinking water. But the real problem with human waste versus animal waste in developing countries is how it affects humans. We are much more likely to harm each other with deadly bacteria that is in our own fecal matter. For example cholera transmission that affects humans is only found in two other animal populations shellfish and plankton. In underdeveloped countries without sewage treatment, the water comes straight from the streams and into the house for bathing, cleaning, drinking and cooking.

  5. thank you for this, that's an interesting poster. i hope for a solution too. i hope all is well with you and your family jennifer!

  6. I knew this was a world wide problem and this post really helped to define the depth of the problem and that someone is really trying to work on a solution. I cannot recall the A-List actress right now that said this but, a reporter asked what is one of her pet peeves, she advised "People wasting water". She said it bothers her how much we take clean water for granted. This lady recalled how her family had to use the same water in each opportunity to take baths (they all shared the same water), to wash clothes and a few other things. I think about that each time I take a shower, cook, clean, water my plants, wash my car. Something so seemingly abundant to us is not so to others and things could change. So, I've enjoyed how some green thumb eco activist creatively learn how to work with water collection. I could not imagine not having the means to dispose of our feces and I am quite sure many have wondered, where it goes. This is a great post.

  7. Hi Divinite,

    When I was living in Japan it was a common practice for the entire family to bathe in the same water. One would shower off first but then each family member would take a turn climbing into the tub to soak. The water was not changed and usually guests were offered the tub first.