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| Last Updated:04/04/2014

Latest News(Archive)

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Why Sanitation Is a Basic Human Right

Take Part, 04 April, 2014


A man washes in Yamuna River in New Delhi in February 2008. City residents pour an estimated 950 million gallons of sewage into the waterday each day, 50 percent of which goes in untreated. (Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Image)

Rose George has heard all the jokes before. For the premier author and journalist covering the largely overlooked world of human excrement, it comes with the territory. But for the 2.5 billion people around the globe who do not have access to a toilet, the sanitary disposal of human waste is no laughing matter; it is deadly serious. Around 700,000 children die annually from diarrheal diseases brought on by unsafe water and no access to proper sanitation. That’s almost 2,000 kids every day.


George's second book, The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, was deemed one of the best books of 2008 by The Economist and one of the top 10 science books of that year by the American Library Association.


I recently interviewed the British author about her work and her thoughts on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s initiative Reinvent the Toilet. When I contacted her, I told her that my book on the subject of industrial farming, Animal Factory, was also largely about crap. Rose let her celebrated—and necessary—sense of humor shine. “Well done on your poop book,” she replied. “We are a small but I think highly prestigious group of people, the poop writers.”