Mark Nelson does not expect you to overcome your aversion to excrement overnight, but he invites you to consider various schemes that make use of wastewater and reduce the need for massive, centralised sewage systems. His stock-in-trade is the wastewater garden in which suitable plants are used to filter the products of our toilets, and where the resulting water can produce sustainable and very beautiful landscapes. Nelson has created such gardens around the world and much of the book is taken up with a description of his curious odyssey.
It is a rather inspiring tale and, even if you are unconvinced that a wastewater revolution is in the offing, you might still applaud the basic principles that underpin Nelson’s vision. It is, after all, rather silly to use potable water for horticultural tasks when something less refined will do. And would it really be so terrible if we treated and used human waste at the local level? I don’t imagine that compost derived from the contents of our loos will be appearing at garden centres any time soon, but one never knows for sure.
THE WASTEWATER GARDENER: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time by Mark Nelson, Synergetic Press, £21