Note: This post will serve as the introductory section of another article that I am working on, I've decided to publish it separately because it does good standing alone. Think of this as a preview of my criticisms of the current implementation of the Scientific Method.
Joel Salatin is an interesting guy, he was the author of Everything I Want to Do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front and maintains what has become one of my favorite blogs. In a recent post Salatin introduced his new solution for outdoor restrooms. Salatin runs a rather unique farm where he mainly uses traditional and sustainable practices, readers of anything Salatin has published would know that he is not a fan of the modern farming techniques used by factory farms because they don't produce good food and they are quite harmful to the soil that the crops rely on. Because Salatin is passionate about what he does he allows anyone to visit at any time to learn how he does things simpler, cheaper, and healthier. Because Salatin has thousands of visitors on his farm annually he has to provide them bathrooms that government regulators in his state would approve of and Salatin doesn't like the idea of continuing to have his guests relieve themselves in a porta-potty where their feces is broken down by a bunch of toxic chemicals that will eventually get dumped who knows where.
Salatin would much rather have the feces of his guests decompose in a natural way such that it does not contribute to the pollution that exists all around us these days. He would also like to use the nutrient rich decomposed poop as a natural fertilizer on his property. Salatin describes that he plans to build a system where poop will accumulate in a large concrete box underground filled with worms which will feed on the poo, speeding up the decomposition and turning it into an even more nutrient rich soil. Then with some specialized equipment he and his friends are designing, Salatin would occasionally extract the most decomposed layers so that he could spread it into his soil. Salatin originally wanted to call this innovation Wormy the Pooh, but his grandson's name, Can of Worms, was much more popular.
As should be the case with all inventions, when Salatin introduced this idea to his readers some of them told him a few concerns they had. In a follow-up post Salatin addressed some of these. One of those concerns addressed a problem that not many people know we have. Due to the advent of modern medicine we are regularly ingesting pills that are filled with various foreign chemicals, most of these chemicals don't do more harm than good inside our bodies, but what about when they leave?
These days our urine and fecal matter is filled with lab-made chemicals that we digest with the pills that many of us take, and our sewage treatment plants aren't designed to remove these chemicals from the sewage water before it is dumped back into the environment (they really only kill the bacteria). Plants and wildlife an any natural ecosystem simply aren't equipped to deal with this kind of pollution. Over the past several years, biologists all over North America have noticed an unusual amount of male fish growing eggs. Some researchers after noticing this decided to measure what was in the water and determined that in most of these sites there was a lot of estrogen in the water. Researchers suspect that this increased level of estrogen is what is causing the unusual number of intersex fish, and some speculate that the source of this estrogen is birth control pills. The main ingredient in birth control pills is of course estrogen, and all of this surplus estrogen has to go somewhere it can't all stay in the body.
Of course, regardless of the exact source of this surplus estrogen, plain common sense would reason that pumping chemicals into nature isn't good for plants, wildlife, and it probably isn't good for us either because we end up drinking this water too. Salain's Wormy the Pooh is a way that we can avoid increasing this type of pollution. He points out that worms just so happen to be one of nature's defense mechanisms against these man-made substances, their digestive system has the ability to neutralize most things. I realize that employing worms to clean the toxins out of our poop is something that sounds like it came out of a science fiction book, but this is something that should actually work and I hope that in the future more people than just Salatin will be going to the bathroom in cans of worms.
When I picture someone who has potential to make a real difference in the world to clean up the environment, I don't picture some grad student filling test tubes with samples from a petri dish, and I deffinatly don't picture some rich kid sailing across the ocean on an expensive, impractical, and unsustainable raft, I picture a guy like Joel Salatin, a man who lets tradition and common sense govern how he treats the environment. Why don't we have more people like Joel Salatin making headlines?