Matt Damon Does Ice Bucket Challenge With Toilet Water For 800 Million Without Clean H2O

Matt Damon was conflicted when friends Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck called on him to complete the ALS ice bucket challenge.

Find out who Damon challenges here. 

In India, Dying To Go: Why Access To Toilets Is A Women’s Rights Issue

In May, two young women in rural India left their modest homes in the middle of the night to relieve themselves outside. Like millions in India, their homes had no bathrooms. The next morning, their bodies were found hanging from a mango tree. They had been attacked, gang-raped and strung up by their own scarves. Eighteen months after a gang-rape on a Delhi bus, this incident and others since have galvanized nationwide protests to end violence against women and highlighted caste-related discrimination. The tragic story also underscores the need to talk about another taboo topic: open defecation.

Access to clean, safe and private toilets is a women’s issue. An estimated 2.5 billion people globally lack access to proper sanitation, with the largest number living in India. Women are disproportionately affected by lack of adequate sanitation. Many poor women living in rural villages or urban slums wait until nightfall, reducing their food and drink intake so as to minimize the need for elimination. Girls often do not attend school if there are no private toilets, and this is especially true after the onset of menstruation. Approximately 2,200 children die every day as a result of diarrheal diseases linked to poor sanitation and hygiene, which impacts women as mothers and caregivers. Finally, waiting until nighttime to urinate or defecate is not only dehumanizing, it makes women vulnerable to sexual assault, as vividly illustrated by the appalling events in India.

(More from Cognoscenti: Thinking that Matters-90.9 WBUR)

What toilets and sewers tell us about ancient Roman sanitation

I’ve spent an awful lot of time in Roman sewers – enough to earn me the nickname “Queen of Latrines” from my friends. The Etruscans laid the first underground sewers in the city of Rome around 500 BC. These cavernous tunnels below the city’s streets were built of finely carved stones, and the Romans were happy to utilize them when they took over the city. Such structures then became the norm in many cities throughout the Roman world.

Focusing on life in ancient Rome, Pompeii, Herculaneum and Ostia, I’m deeply impressed by the brilliant engineers who designed these underground marvels and the magnificent architecture that masks their functional purpose. Sewer galleries didn’t run under every street, nor service every area. But in some cities, including Rome itself, the length and breadth of the main sewer, the Cloaca Maxima, rivals the extent of the main sewer lines in many of today’s cities. We shouldn’t assume, though, that Roman toilets, sewers and water systems were constructed with our same modern sanitary goals in mind. Read more.


Urban Farm Hack: Peecycling

Fertilizing your garden could be as simple—and as free—as a drop in a bucket.

Most gardeners have popped a squat once or twice in the garden, especially when going indoors was otherwise impractical. Unbeknownst to many, however, this action enriches the soil with both macro- and micro-nutrients.

Vermont’s Rich Earth Institute recently made news with a pilot project to divert urine from the septic system to agricultural use, joining Germany, China, Sweden and many developing nations in experimenting with urine diversion and re-using human waste for practical and productive ends. This movement is broadly called “ecological sanitation.”

Urine from a typical person, though not sterile, has a relatively low load of potential human pathogens, and is also far lower in heavy metals like lead and cadmium than solid human waste. The ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) is reported to be around 10:1:4, comparable to a commercial fertilizer. A family of four can reportedly produce the equivalent of a 110-pound bag of solid chemically synthesized fertilizer yearly, but instead of being used to produce food and fodder, all of those nutrients are being flushed into the septic system.

With topsoils eroding, wastewater treatment requiring tonne of energy, and phosphate rock (the source of agricultural phosphorus) being mined unsustainably, peecycling can be a logical source of sustainable soil nutrition.

Read more at Urban Farm

My latest article is up over at Urban Farm! You can read my archive here.

Children wear cat masks as they play near the rubble of destroyed homes in the neighborhood of Zeitoun in Gaza City in Occupied Palestinian Territory. The masks were distributed to children by the UNICEF-supported Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, a community-based local NGO.

UNICEF is taking the lead role in coordinating humanitarian and recovery assistance in the sectors of child protection, education (together with the international NGO Save the Children), psychosocial support and mental health (with the World Health Organization), as well as water, sanitation and hygiene.

© UNICEF/Iyad El Baba

Two girls died looking for a toilet. This should make us angry, not embarrassed

Attacks on girls and women as they look for somewhere private to defecate are frighteningly common. Improving basic sanitation, as a global goal, would do a lot to make them safer

“Go to the mango trees, the body of your daughter is there”

Help us crowdsource rape laws around the world

Two teenage girls have been gang-raped and killed after doing what half a billion women and girls are forced to do every day – go outdoors to try to find somewhere discreet to go to the toilet.

A toilet, bathroom, powder room – whatever you want to call it – at home, at school, at work, in the shopping mall, is something many of us take for granted and cannot talk about without feeling embarrassed. But we must: because the lack of toilets is costing women their lives.

Today, 2.5 billion people live without access to a toilet, forcing women to walk to dark and dangerous places to find the privacy they need – those same dark and dangerous places where men wait to attack them.

So we must stop blushing when we talk about open defecation because it is not something to be embarrassed about: it is something to be angry about.


(From The Guardian)

It doesn’t matter if you’re a washer or a wiper, a sitter or a squatter; the human user interface should be clean and easy to use, because after all, taking a dump should be pleasurable.

Frances de los Reyes

“There are 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t have access to adequate sanitation,“ environmental engineer and toilet enthusiast Francis De Los Reyes says. “And there are 1.1 billion people whose toilets are the streets, river banks or open spaces.”

According to De Los Reyes, a good toilet is hard to come by (and he would know, since he loves to take photos of toilets around the world). He says that finding solutions to the global sanitation problem starts with thinking about human interfaces, or toilets, in a more thoughtful way. This means studying how poop is collected, stored and reused, to create more accessible toilets for people to…enjoy.

Happy World Toilet Day! For more on toilets, watch this>>


Can you imagine not having a toilet? Around the world, 1.1 billion people defecate in the open, contaminating their environments and water sources and spreading diseases like diarrhoea, which kills 2,000 children under 5 every day. In the run up to World Toilet Day on November 19, we’ll be sharing images and facts like these.

Pictured, girls walk towards newly constructed toilets in Mhondoro district, Zimbabwe.

© UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi