To be one with nature

2009 July 29
by Kirsten

For a guy who has camping down to a fine art, my husband still manages to scribble outside the lines. And I’m calling him on it.

He’s an expert camper; he becomes one with nature. His camping pillow, before my arrival to his life, was caked with dirt, sweat and body oils. Doesn’t get much more natural than that. He spends hours splashing around in a river: building a dam, kayaking, swimming to islands to retrieve wood on “man expeditions” or floating with a cold beer in a koozie. He could entertain himself, let alone survive, in the wilderness for weeks at a time by himself. Admittedly, I could entertain myself and survive for a weekend, with a carload of food and shelter items, packed and set up by the husband.

We don’t always agree on camping best practices, but enjoying nature together is something we do do (Read: doodoo).

Which brings me to my point. Last weekend, he was appalled at my interpretation of becoming one with nature: going No. 2 near a tree or bush. Human waste of that sort belongs, according to him, only in the pit beneath the gaping hole, swarming with flies, surrounded by putrid smell, further encased by four walls and a ceiling that trap, heat and thereby expand the molecules of reeking filth. Also known as the outhouse.

Last time I checked, the many critters large and small with whom we share campsites are aligned with my philosophy — this stop on the circle of life route should be in the open air, not suffocating in a man-made hole of Hades. Our waste will decompose and fertilize the land just as the animals’ will.

My husband would argue that if everyone followed my line of thinking, campsites would be overrun by human waste. If that’s true, and we can predict the outcome of every camper adhering to our example, then we need to drop this crappy issue and move on, because campsites will soon be overrun by carcinogens. … Follow me to the culprit (and watch your step)…

Said husband, while careful about human waste, is quite careless about man-made waste. His campfires burn everything from wood to Coors Light boxes to sytrofoam plates to plastic containers. Polyvinyl choloride (PVC) products are in bottles, wrappers and lids. When burned, one of the
combustion products is hydrochloric acid, which is acrid, corrosive and toxic to human tissue. Styrofoam, a polystyrene, burns to produce extremely fine particle soot similar to diesel exhaust that can enter the lungs and pass into the blood stream. Many plastic bags with liners, made of Teflon, decompose in a hot fire giving off hydrofluoric acid, which is extremely toxic — a potential agent for chemical terrorism.

Too extreme? Possibly. The amount of campfires and Teflon needed to reach terrorist levels is probably more than our self-contained marshmallow-roasting flames. But if it’s between his damage to the environment and mine, I’d say mine wins, hands (and pants) down.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. July 29, 2009

    I think you’re being a bit irrational about how bad pit toilets are. Just because it smells in there doesn’t give you freedom to poop wherever you please, especially when there’s a perfectly good toilet. I think the first time you are walking in the woods and step on a likeminded person’s turd, you will change your mind. Either that, or you will give up on camping (hopefully not the latter). I will concede that burning all those plastics is not the best for the environment, but that’s for a different time.

  2. Ryan permalink
    July 29, 2009

    Woah there! So what happens if I keep my bathroom in disrepair and forget to clean it for 12 months? Does that mean everyone who comes over is justified to head out to the back yard and squat all over the place to be one with nature? I guess I think it depends on said campground. If it is a standing camp ground that hosts dozens to hundreds of people per year, no way should everyone who stays there poop all over the place. If someone is backpacking in a little known spot, the impact will be small and no one’s kids will find the leftovers from the previous people’s processed chili dogs.

    Without debate, a groover is the best way to be responsible with your deposits and enjoy being one with nature at the same time. The best of both worlds!

  3. quepash permalink*
    July 30, 2009

    Let’s agree to bury the poop and not burn plastics. Compromise :)

  4. August 20, 2009

    as i’ve been researching composting toilets for a while I’ll put my two cents in:

    If poop and urine combine then there’s no hope of not creating a toxic sludge. It’s incredibly toxic and should not be buried or kept anywhere near people, or food producing fields.

    However, urine when diluted with water is applied directly into the ground it’s high nitrogen content becomes a great fertilizer. In high and concentrated quantities though it decompes into Amonia (hence the smell) and can burn and destroy plants ….

    Poop also can decompose safely but it must 1.) be mixed with highly carbonaceous matter… popcorn does well so does shredded junk mail (finally a use for it!) 2.) It must have adequate oxygen exposure so that the aerobic bacteria that digests and converts it to compost can thrive.

    See http://www.greenlivingtips.com/articles/234/1/Composting-human-waste.html for more info…

  5. quepash permalink*
    August 27, 2009

    Wow! Thanks, Theo. And Nick should be thanking you too, for proving my solution to be far more harmful than his (using the outhouse). I now know more than I ever wanted to about #1 and #2.

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