Saturday, February 25, 2012

Where Does All the Poo Go?

As a dog lover, and dog owner, I am trapped in a huge conundrum regarding picking up after Abigail when she "does her business." I have the plastic bags, and I usually do pick up after her. Sometimes she goes into places that make it impossible for me to "do the responsible thing." There are many dogs in our apartment complex, and some do and some don't. We have a couple of neighbors who behave like Rumpelstiltskin when they see dog droppings on the ground. One threatens to call the police every time, and blames every illness on dog droppings left to collect bacteria, which then becomes airborne and flies into the noses of every old person and small child to make them sick. I do realize that solid waste can be full of bacteria, and there are times that exposure could make one sick. I'm not sure if poo in the grass can produce flying spores to infect people walking on the sidewalk, but I try to be responsible, and I try to smile and nod just enough to keep these two neighbors from ripping themselves in half. I did recently have the experience of going out to a big hill on our property with my 5-year old granddaughter. She wanted to roll down the hill, and me to roll with her. It was loads of fun-making me feel dizzy, just like spinning when I was her age. Then she moved over to another section, and laid down to roll, and I noticed that if she had rolled there, we would have had an unhappy walk back home. Game over-I don't want to play in poo. So I started picking up at least one other pile each time I picked up one of Abigail's. But I also thought about all the animals and humans who have lived since the beginning of life on earth. There were no water treatment plants, there were no toilets or landfills for the kitty litter. We simply expelled our liquid and solid waste, and let nature take it's course. Bacteria are part of that process. So are snails, which I've observed making use of many of those piles of poo, especially after a heavy rain. It doesn't just sit there making people sick, it gets broken down and reused by "Mother Earth," and when she takes care of things, she makes it useful again. We spend all of our days walking on reclaimed poo and evaporated urine. Every living thing, including microscopic organisms produce waste after they take in nutrition. It isn't something to be afraid of, or to snicker at. It is part of life. I still don't want to play in it, or have my grandchildren play wear it home on their clothes.

There is a great deal of road construction going on in my neighborhood. I've commented on this before, but as I pass by the construction areas I notice giant tanks of something called "non-potable water." I looked this up, though I had an idea what it was before I Googled it. It is water from the water treatment plant (read: sewage) that is not considered drinkable, but can be sprayed onto construction areas as needed. Now-a quick lesson what is known as "the hydrologic cycle." That undrinkable sewer water gets sprayed on work areas, it evaporates, goes through the cycle, falls as rain into our water sources, gets used again by the people who provide our drinking water. It's all the same water. And it's still the same struggle for me about whether to be a zealous poo picker-upper.

I do think the sheer numbers of living creatures converting energy  and eliminating its waste is the crux of the problem. I think about our local dog park and all the dogs running and playing-and urinating there. If owners weren't picking  up after their dogs, it would become a giant sewage swamp. I read an article by a scientist recently that suggested earth needs to lose at least one third of its population in order to be sustainable. I'm sure that number involved waste products in its equation. So, I'll keep picking up when I can-and when she goes where I can't get it, well, no one will step on it there either. But the bigger question still remains. Sigh. Sometimes all we get are questions. 

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