Book Reviews

Book Review: The Origin of Feces


The title of this book may surprise you, but I can assure you that the content will astound you. It contains a huge amount of information on evolution and the role of waste, but the real impact comes from the unfathomable complexity and interrelation of ecology.

You will learn, among many other things, that sperm whales remove 200,000 tones of carbon from the atmosphere annually, an that guano (bird droppings) in Peru are protected by armed guards.

Japanese landlords in Tokyo appreciated the value of feces as fertilizer in the 18th century. They collected the feces of each apartment or dwelling and shipped it to Kyoto’s farmers. When a tenant moved out, the landlord increased the rent of others to compensate for lost revenue.

The author, a retired veterinarian and founder of Veterinarians Without Borders, states that everything an individual does plays a role, and that every activity has a mostly negative outcome for the ecology.

He attempts to tackle environmental problems created by huge chicken and pork “plants”, one by one.

Throughout the book, he stresses the importance of feces in history, and even today.

In less developed Middle Eastern countries untreated human feces is still used as fertilizers for vegetables, that, from time to time causes pandemics for locals, and often for tourists whose bodies are sensitive to bacteria.

Feces is also used as fuel in the eastern parts of mountainous Turkey and western Iran by country dwellers.

It is fascinating to learn the interrelation of feces and pathogenic or benign bacteria, insects, and other animals in a light hearted fashion. Highly recommended.

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