By David Waltner-Toews
ECW Press, 200 pages, $16.95
The title of this book, The Origin of Feces, might turn a few readers off. After all, poop is hardly polite dinner conversation in most circles. (Not our circle, but some.) But the subtitle, What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society, should be of interest to everyone. Manure is deeply interwoven into our planet’s ecology, from how it is stored in our bodies to how it is absorbed by nature, and the global ecosystem largely depends on proper management of fecal material. After all, what is one animal’s waste might be another animal’s meal, or might poison the people downriver, causing an outbreak of infectious disease.
Feces is everywhere, and it’s not going away. David Waltner-Toews weaves an engrossing and witty narrative about manure and all its components. One passage out of the book sums it up particularly well: “When we eat, we are taking a gift from the biosphere. When we shit, we are giving back. Our eating and defecating behavior says far more than any voting behavior about what kinds of citizens we are on this planet. This is why, fundamentally, shit matters.”
Reviewed by Axie Barclay