[permaculture] Fwd: Re: [SANET-MG] Dirt Poor (nutrient content in fruits and vegetables) + Humanure use around the world.

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Tue May 10 21:53:03 EDT 2011

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Dirt Poor
Date: Tue, 10 May 2011 20:47:16 +0100
From: John D'hondt <dhondt at EIRCOM.NET>

Hello all involved in this. To me it is no surprise that nutrient contents
in fruit and vegetables and really food in general are dropping. In natural
systems nutrients cycle in the environment. Plants take up necessary trace
elements from the soil, get eaten by an herbivore and whether or not that
herbivore is eaten by something else, eventually the waste products
containing the trace elements end back first on top and then back into the
soil not too far away from where they were in the first place..
Our most important human contribution here has been to break those cycles.
Instead, food with nutrients and trace elements are taken from the land and
transported over huge distances to highly populated areas, cities. There 
waste products will be mixed with more or less toxic chemicals and then 
of that is gotten rid of into the oceans of the world where it creates dead
There have been civilizations that managed to produce food on the same
ground for thousands of years but only when they brought a cart full of 
waste back home at the end of the market day after selling their produce.
The Romans were not amongst these. North Africa exported grain to Rome 
the nutrients ran out there and it became desert and imo this is one of the
major factors that led to Rome's collapse. Of course we are much more
powerful and smarter than the Romans and also much more numerous and so we
have achived in 50 years what it took Rome a few hundred years to do.
And it definitely does not help that this subject is really taboo and 
not to
be spoken or even thought about.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Dirt Poor
Date: Wed, 11 May 2011 08:59:51 +1200
From: Don Miller <donmillernz at GMAIL.COM>


Right on the button as usual John.

A lasting impression of my travels around less developed parts of China a
decade or so ago was the traditional emphasis on maintaining soil
fertility.  This ranged from complicated constructed fields of layered
animal manure and stones (to ensure a constant yearly crop yield despite the
variations in rainfall in Gansu Province - average 400mm rainfall per year)
to the simple placing of human waste on vegetable gardens.  The use of
toilet paper left no doubt as to the source of the manure on those gardens.

If the taboo is due to a fear of disease, and it is a widespread taboo even
in the Pacific Islands, apparently preceding missionary influences, then
surely the success of China in peopling its land has proved this fear to be
unfounded.  Some how this reluctance to recycle human waste reminds me of
the early Greenlander's refusal to eat fish, as related by Jared Diamond, a
taboo that led to their eventual demise.

An ironic benefit of the Christchurch earthquake (and I hesitate to say
anything positive about that tragedy) is that the vegetable gardens will
yield better crops in the future with onsite human waste disposal accepted
as a necessary norm in some suburbs.  In fact a professor at the Otago
Medical School has been advocating a simple bucket system for solid human
waste for those whose sewage system has been destroyed.  When the bucket is
full it is tipped into a shallow (200mm) trench in the garden.  What has
fascinated me is that the official hurdles against composting toilets and
other human waste recycling systems can be suddenly overturned in a
crisis.......  The real risk of disease has come from damaged centralised
sewers being discharged into rivers.

For my part, virtually all of my own urine goes into my compost.  Were I
living on my own the rest would too.  Meanwhile Queen Charlotte Sound, where
I now live, receives the local town's waste outfall and suffers increasingly
severe algal blooms that shut down its commercial shellfish industry
seasonally.  Logic!


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [SANET-MG] Dirt Poor
Date: Tue, 10 May 2011 22:13:35 +0100
From: West Hill Farm <info at WESTHILLFARM.ORG>

At last!

Well done John, and thank you Don.   If anyone has the inclination to
learn more about human waste - one of the few growing natural resources
on the planet - I recommend the Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and
The Big Necessity by Rose George.  There is a Sustainable Sanitation
Alliance based in Germany as well (SuSanA)

Susi Batstone
West Hill Farm
Devon UK

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