Friday, February 27, 2009

one step away from nothing

Reusable toilet wipes, anyone? Might as well use your bare hand, as they do in some countries (often the same countries in which one eats with one's hands). By the way, aren't there studies showing that disposable diapers are, ultimately, greener than cloth diapers? Wouldn't the same logic apply here?

In Seoul, toilet paper is a major issue. Many public restrooms have signs declaring that all toilet paper should be tossed in the wastebasket next to the toilet instead of inside the toilet itself, a practice that most Westerners find filthy, but which does make a certain amount of sense in a city of 12 million. Not all restrooms make this demand, though: Korea University comes immediately to mind. Their restrooms have stickers encouraging people to throw the paper into the toilet, claiming that the paper will "melt in water" (...mul-ae nogeuni byeon-gi-ae beoryeo-jushipshi-o).

I keep wondering when people will invent a massive grinder that churns all waste into some sort of powder. Such powder would be easy to store, and might even be useful as fuel for an energy plant that could be built to run on the stuff, whatever the powder's composition. With a minimum of sorting to prevent soil-harming chemicals from being included in the powder, you could end up with fertilizer, or with landfills that actually biodegrade faster than current ones do (current landfills apparently don't degrade much at all).

Perhaps the best solution would be something along the lines of that "Mr. Fusion" device from "Back to the Future," a power plant that eats just about anything and converts it all to energy through nuclear fusion. Oh, that would be sweet. A tiny Mr. Fusion in your bathroom to gobble used toilet paper would be a godsend: power your house through your butt! If that device were linked to others throughout the property-- in the kitchen and the bedrooms, and out in the back yard, for instance-- you'd be generating quite a bit of energy.

Of course, the culture would change radically, especially for criminals (and politicians), who would finally have an Orwellian "memory hole" in which to dump all incriminating evidence forever. Future students would be able to get away with some version of "the dog ate my homework," blaming their Mr. Fusion-powered artificial sandworm for consuming their 50,000-word pinhead nano-etching. Book-burnings would be a snap. Still, despite such potential pitfalls, I'd say a Mr. Fusion is the way to go.

And I'd still rather wipe my bum with toilet paper than with a reusable cloth.


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