We started with the facts. We learnt that separating sewage from drinking water was the main cause of improving health in the 20th century. Yet at the same time, this system has broken the link between human waste and agriculture that’s existed for much of human history (the ancient Chinese had a magic recipe, of 25% human waste, 25% animal waste, and 50% straw).
We learnt that the current system mixes really clean water and really dirty human waste; lets all the nutrients escape into the sea; and then means we have to clean the water back to the point where it’s drinkable again. We learnt how much water we need to do this. On average, each person in the UK uses 150L a day, of which 35% is for flushing the loo.
We learnt that, whilst poo is full of pathogens and dangerous, wee is clean. Urine is 95% water, and 5% salts. It’s so clean, you can use it to wash wounds. It’s so rich in nutrients, carpenters used to wee on their hands when they had blisters, to help them heal faster, so they could get back to work. What are these nutrients? NPK: Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium.
Ariana then told us the scariest statistic we’ve heard at The Clearing so far. NPK is the exact same stuff that industrial farming (and deforesting) is leaching out of the soil at human-race threatening speed. The current estimate is that we have just 60 harvests left, globally, until there’s not enough nutrients to grow the food we need. 60. That takes us to 2075, folks. Hold on tight.
WELCOME TO POOTOPIA.
But don’t panic. This being The Clearing, it’s not all doom and gloom. It was at this point that Ariana introduced us to her concept of Pootopia – ‘turning the little bit of you that turns to shit everyday into something useful’. And she passed around our ticket to survival into the 22nd century: humanure.