Friday, August 12, 2016

A Campaign Wrought In Extremis

Social marketing (ne: social media) stems from the field of public health. A lot of it involves consciousness raising. My consciousness about our utterly disastrous approach to wastewater recycling was recently piqued by overflow incidents in Howard County which allowed over 7 million total gallons of untreated sewage to discharge into the Patuxent and Patapsco Rivers.
Photo by DrewsTheOne
Former state senator Bernie Fowler, a long-time champion of cleaning up the Patuxent ever since a historic sewage overflow incident spurred him to the cause, lamented that he probably won't live to see a restored Patuxent after last week's incident. Sewage overflows into our waterways are a public health nightmare, as well as environmentally devastating.

The root cause of the problem of sewage in our rivers is not a matter of how well we operate wastewater treatment facilities, nor is it flooding brought on by increased stormwater. The root cause is that we treat sewage as waste and not as a resource, because, if we did, we would not dispose of it, but recycle, i.e. compost, it. Composting is best done as close as possible to the source and point of final application. People should, wherever possible, compost their excrement hyper-locally.

Other than the general public and wildlife, the beneficiaries of adopting humanure composting would be gardeners and foresters. Humanure compost can be used wherever standard compost is used, provided it is made with care pertaining to temperature and curing time. It is also a good fit for biochar.

Culturally, there is a great challenge to getting USAnians to adopt humanure composting. One of the precepts of social marketing is that culture trumps strategy, so adaptation to culture is necessary in all cases. The audience to target in this campaign is going to have to be avid composters who have no worries about personal injury liability stemming from their methods and inputs. Not that thermogenically composted humanure is unsafe, it's just that most here can't shake their fecophobic preconceptions.

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