The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society

The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society

David Waltner-Toews

Language: English

Pages: 198

ISBN: 177041116X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us about Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society

David Waltner-Toews

Language: English

Pages: 198

ISBN: 177041116X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


An entertaining and enlightening exploration of why waste matters The Origin of Feces takes an important subject out of locker-rooms, potty-training manuals, and bio-solids management boardrooms into the fresh air of everyone’s lives. With insight and wit, David Waltner-Toews explores what has been too often ignored and makes a compelling argument for a deeper understanding of human and animal waste. Approaching the subject from a variety of perspectives — evolutionary, ecological, and cultural — The Origin of Feces shows us how integral excrement is to biodiversity, agriculture, public health, food production and distribution, and global ecosystems. From the primordial ooze to dung beetles, from bug frass, cat scats, and flush toilets to global trade, pandemics, and energy, this is the awesome, troubled, unexpurgated story of feces.

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they live, and who the neighbors are, many strategies to deal with this local competition have evolved. Usually these strategies involve animals — birds, fish, wandering herbivores — and often entail seeds traveling in shit. This means that how we manage animals and their excrement has profound implications for plants as well. Again, understanding these relationships requires us to see the ecosystems that emerge from them, to keep making the dizzying transitions from cells to organisms to the

large mammals like people are the losers in this transformation of diverse megafauna and megaflora into shit, then, at least in the short run, insects and micro-organisms are the beneficiaries. Does this mean we are moving from the anthropocene to the scarabocene? More generally, how do we know what happens to shit once it is separated from an animal’s body? The chemical components of excrement are not easily traceable on their journeys through the biosphere, and back through to their

Using massive inputs of fossil fuels, people accomplish this by completely restructuring the physical landscape of agriculture to accommodate the growing of grain crops to feed the chickens, as well as to provide consistent, climate-controlled housing for the birds. This changes the way rural communities are organized and how they relate to cities, and creates opportunities for bacteria to find new pathways into social systems. So, as long as the sun shall shine or we mine stored solar energy

Geographic reported on pilot studies exploring the use of llama dung for filtering water. Researchers in Bolivia have discovered that llama dung contains microbes of the genus Desulfovibrio, which have the remarkable skill of neutralizing acidic water and aiding in the removal of dissolved metals, such as zinc, lead, copper, iron, and aluminum. The runoff from silver and tin mines is directed through ponds and lagoons filled with llama dung. Similar pilot studies have been done in the U.K., using

top of this, every day tens of billions of our own cells commit suicide, an act referred to scientifically as apoptosis, or programmed death. Other cells, especially those that line the intestine, are scrubbed away by the passage of food and come out in our feces. Every day, parts of you are replaced. Have a look in the toilet or chamber pot. That’s not just a stool sample: that’s the old you. That’s life. Many of the materials in the food that are not allowed across the intestinal walls

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