Is Poop a Gift or a Curse?

In our world, a new creature has come into town. It is a devious enemy with a smell vicious enough to make us run away. Its brownish skin taunts you to come closer until you come close enough, and it haunts you forever. It is filling up our space and taking over, preparing to kill us one by one. The worst part is, we are producing it. POOP! Yes, poop, aka as feces, is this diabolical specimen that will be (and currently is) a big problem for the human race. Now, I’m not saying that human waste will smell worse over time and cause us to pass out every time we go to the bathroom. Do you ever wonder where all our human waste goes? Now you’re getting at what I’m saying.

Human waste isn’t the first thing you think of when someone says “crisis,” but this should be near the top of that list. Many humans don’t have access to necessary sanitation–precisely 1,800,000,000 people. Yes, you read that number correctly; nearly a quarter of humans do not have access to basic sanitation, for example, toilets. The result of this is that approximately 200 million tons of waste goes untreated. When sewage is untreated, it can lead to countless health issues. If the feces finds an entrance to the water supply, it will release E. Coli, leading to many diseases. Not only does human waste impact humans, but ecosystems may be destroyed. There was a disease spreading through the coral which decreased the population of coral greatly in the Florida/Caribbean area. This disease was White Pox. This disease spread to the corals as a result of human waste being discarded into the oceans. There are bacteria in the human feces, which we can live with but coral cannot. Many sea creatures lost their homes due to human feces. So, how do we control the amount of feces and how should we discard it?

Controlling feces is something out of the ordinary, meaning it needs an out of the ordinary solution. To control feces, there’s a two-step process. The first step is humans changing their diets to vegetarian or vegan. According to the Mayo Clinic, a leading medical center in the U.S., “Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass…” This explicitly states if you eat more fiber, your stool will be easier to pass. This means your body will be producing more waste as it’s heavier and larger. Right about now you are probably thinking to yourself, “I just spent the last 5 minutes reading why we’re producing too much waste, now he’s saying we should make more?” Yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. The more waste we produce, the more efficient the second step will be.

Fecal energy; this is the second part of controlling human waste. Fecal energy is the process of converting biomasses such as human waste into sources of energy. How this works is the toilet has a grinding system that makes the waste odorless and dries it. Once it dries, microbes will biodegrade the waste. This process generates biofuel gasses such as Ethanol. You may think this sounds crazy, turning poop into power, but I can assure you it’s not. There have been multiple instances where biofuel has been beneficial. A small city in Colorado is fueling over 40 vehicles by using biofuel gasses provided by the local waste management company. On the second occasion in Europe, a Netherland’s Dairy company has started a new project. Since their building already has over 175 cows, they decided it would be more efficient to collect their waste and convert it into biogas for the company. Since the cows are constantly eating, and eating fiber, their stool is very efficient. This is where converting to vegetarian and vegan diets come in. If we are able to produce efficient stool by eating more fibers, the result could be very similar to the success in Colorado. If small towns and big businesses can jump into the future, why can’t the big cities (which have more people and more waste) do the same thing? 

As you can see, the idea of transforming poop into power is not a fantasy; it’s happening. There have already been multiple instances of people adapting to the process. Biofuel can help countries around the globe, as we don’t need to spend millions on drilling and importing, but we can use that money to develop a cheaper biofuel facility. Innovation is using what you have to make something great. In this case, you are using your waste to produce energy. The poop crisis on Earth may be harsh, but I see it as an opportunity. What do you see?

What Your Poo is Trying to Tell You

Unicorn Poop www.instructables.com kristylynn84

Unicorn Poop Cookies
http://www.instructables.com kristylynn84

Poop, the good old number two; everyone does it. It’s a healthy part of being a living animal, and it turns out it can tell you a lot about your body and how your body is reacting to your diet. The important things to consider when observing your stool (a scientific word for poo) are the color, shape, and ease of passage.

Stool color covers the spectrum, but only some colors are considered normal. The Puristat website agrees:

The color of your stool can tell you all sorts of things about the health of your digestive system, ranging from what you ate the previous night to having dangerous bleeding in your colon.

Gastroenterologist Michael F. Picco M.D. states that:

All shades of brown and even green are considered normal. 

Only rarely does stool color indicate a potentially serious intestinal condition.

Stool color is generally influenced by what you eat as well as by the amount of bile — a yellow-green fluid that digests fats — in your stool. As bile pigments travel through your gastrointestinal tract, they are chemically altered by enzymes — changing the pigments from green to brown.

Both websites agree; brown and green are good colors for poo. Colors divergent from brown or green are a strong reason to go see the doctor. While some abnormal colors are more serious than others, all indicate a problem with the digestive tract. Black and any shade of red indicate bleeding within the system and lighter colors indicate a blockage of the bile duct or a lack of bile for some other reason.

Related Article: Salamba Sirsasana: It’s Time to do a Headstand!

The shape of your poo is also important. The Bristol Stool Chart defines 7 different types of stool with descriptions. The Continance Foundation of Australia explains the chart saying:

Every person will have different bowel habits, but the important thing is that your stools are soft and easy to pass – like types 3 and 4 below.

  • Type 1–2 indicate constipation
  • Type 3–4 are ideal stools as they are easier to pass, and
  • Type 5–7 may indicate diarrhoea and urgency.

I was strongly under the impression that a daily bowel movement was important for the digestive systems health. However, a helpful page on constipation and impaction, reviewed by the Harvard Medical School, informed me that:

Normally, people have bowel movements at fairly regular intervals, and stool passes out of the body easily without much straining or discomfort. Although the normal frequency of bowel movements varies from person to person, about 95% of healthy adults have a pattern that ranges from three times a day to three times a week.

The ease of passing a bowel movement can be affected by the amount of fiber, and fluids in a diet, or by the amount of exercise or medication in one’s life. For more information on how to keep normal, easy bowel movements head over to the Intelihealth page about constipation and impaction.

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Another factor that can also be an indication of a health problem is the smell of your stool. Stool is not a generally pleasant smelling byproduct, but if it starts to smell particularly foul for an extended period of time, consider the factors at hand. If there has been no change in your diet it might be time to see a doctor.

 

 

 

Sources:

The New York Times- Looking Beyond Fiber to Stay ‘Regular’

Harvard Medical School Reviewed- Constipation and Impaction

Puristat- Understanding Bowel Movement Stool Color

Mayo Clinic- Stool Color: When to Worry

MD Health- Stool Color Chart

Bristol Stool Chart

The Continance Foundation of Australia

Medline Plus- Stools Foul Smelling

 

Extra Reading for those Interested:

PLOS ONE- An In-Depth Analysis of a Piece of Shit: Distribution of Schistosoma mansoni and Hookworm Eggs in Human Stool

NDDIC- Gas in the Digestive Tract

io9- This scientific article about poop may have the best title in the history of peer-reviewed research (possibly NSFW figures)

The American Gastroenterological Association- Understanding Constipation: A Patient’s Guide from Your Doctor

National Institutes of Health- Let’s Talk About Bowel Control

Mayo Clinic- Frequent Bowel Movements

Instructables- Unicorn Poop Cookies

Failure of Central Planning and the Venezuelan Toilet Paper Shortage

Venezuelan officials continue to undermine individual freedom by further demonstrating the deleterious effects of economic central planning. The nation is experiencing shortages of dozens of staple items including rice, milk, butter and toilet paper. These shortages have been exacerbated by a new pilot program designed to limit the amount of goods each person can purchase. However, innovation and decentralization have provided a way for savvy shoppers to once again beat the government’s vain attempts to control the market.

In an attempt to curb the crisis, the western state of Zulia is embarking on a digital endeavor that will track the goods individuals purchase and will block them from buying staple products from different stores on the same day. Blagdimir Labrador, a state official, explains:

Considering the average size of a family, one person should only buy 20 staple products during the period that we establish, which we think will be one week.

The initiative’s pilot will be run in 65 supermarkets in Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia.

Related Article: Public School Failure in America

The shortages were in part caused by price controls set into law during the Hugo Chavez administration, which keep goods like rice and flour below their market price. Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University, describes the flawed policy:

State-controlled prices – prices that are set below market-clearing price – always result in shortages. The shortage problem will only get worse, as it did over the years in the Soviet Union.

Although the intention of these policies was to ensure that the poor would have access to these necessities, their actual (and predictable) effect has been to dramatically reduce the supply of staple items.

Recognizing the shortage, many people are stocking up on supplies and some are reselling them at greatly inflated prices to needy Venezuelans. Zulia borders Colombia, where prices are several times the subsidized costs in Venezuela, and there has also been an increase in trade across the border.

Related Article: Income Inequality in America: Red Herrings and Wealth Envy

The result of this market mangling is an eminently foreseeable feedback loop: Economic controls and central planning distort the actual prices of staple products. This imbalance between cost and actual value leads to shortages which create incentives for people to hoard goods. This further diminishes supply, and by rationing the remaining goods the government further induces people to stockpile and the shortage is exacerbated.

In short, the Venezuelan government dug itself into an economic hole and is trying to dig its way out.

The national shortage of toilet paper has struck a nerve with many Venezuelans. In order to quell their frustration, the government says that it is going to import an additional 50 million rolls along with 760,000 tons of food.

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Amazingly, Commerce Minister Alejandro Fleming blamed the shortage of staple goods on “excessive demand.” To a dyed-in-the-wool statist, the inherent friction involved in managing a society is always to be blamed on the proletariat, never on the Top Men attempting to organize the nation.

However, people are already ingeniously subverting the statists’ attempts to model society. On May 29 Jose Augusto Montiel launched an app called Abasteceme, which translates to “Supply Me,” which helps people get around government-caused scarcity. The app utilizes crowd-sourcing technology that alerts users to supermarkets that still have desired goods in stock. According to Montiel, toilet paper and flour are the items most sought after by shoppers. When users find a store that has these items on the shelves, they flock to the market and whip out their checkbooks. More than 12,000 people have already downloaded Abasteceme, mostly in Caracas, but its popularity is spreading.

The economic problems in Venezuela are intrinsic to the state-controlled political legacy Chavez helped create. Venezuela ranks 174th out of 177 in the 2013 Heritage Foundation report on economic freedom, nestled neatly between Eritrea and Zimbabwe. Chavez’ authoritarianism echoes elsewhere in Venezuelan society, as Chavez repeatedly attacked and censored the media for criticizing his regime and held human rights in disregard.

Related Article: The Senate is Useless and Should be Dismantled

Central planners believe in Top Men who have the knowledge and ability to maximize the productivity of a country and its people. They fail, however, to have the humility to realize that this is an absurd task for any leader or politburo, as it’s inherently impossible for a group of few to effectively run a nation of many. History has borne this out repeatedly and this further elucidates the mindset of Top Men. Every problem or inefficiency can be blamed on the Little People who audaciously have an “excessive demand” for anything, be it toilet paper, a free press or even liberty itself. For them, the problem isn’t that their political and economic ideology is fundamentally flawed, logically destined to devolve into the same illiberal hell that every socialist government has thus descended.

It’s that the proletariat didn’t comply or simply that the “right” Top Men weren’t in charge.

Modern technology has made controlling human activity gloriously challenging. This is a decided advantage of living in the 21st century, where people can wirelessly transmit knowledge and innovate myriad wrenches to throw into the machinery of tyranny. However, to statists this development makes their ultimate goals more difficult to achieve. To them it is something to be stymied and snuffed out, perhaps most dramatically seen during the 2011 uprising in Egypt when the Mubarak regime literally turned off the Internet to make it more difficult for the protesters to organize.

This authoritarian impulse can also be seen in America, as news of secret NSA surveillance has been leaked. Also reminiscent of Chavez’ regime, the Associated Press was specifically targeted and the phone records for 20 reporters were seized by the Department of Justice.

The statist playbook is outdated; their only remaining tool is the administration of further force onto an increasingly unwilling populace. This gambit continues to work in many regimes around the world, but its expiration date is nearing. People have begun to realize that the decentralization of power and the abandonment of Top Men leads to freedom and peace.

By innovating to strip Top Men of their iron authority, the Little People—too numerous and evasive to be stomped out—can hopefully reject unwanted and unwarranted authority in illiberal governments around the world.

Sic semper tyrannis.

 

Related Article: Gossip Through the PRISM: NSA Shenanigans

 

Sources:

http://news.yahoo.com/venezuelan-state-considers-system-limit-food-purchases-160925448.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/10112604/Venezuelans-use-smartphone-app-to-find-toilet-paper.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/venezuela/10062640/Venezuela-running-out-of-toilet-paper.html

http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/03/05/venezuela-chavez-s-authoritarian-legacy

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/01/egypt-isp-shutdown/

wondergressive.com/2013/06/11/prism/