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One City

The eco-yoga toilet post here a few days ago made me think. About interdependence. About my childhood. About the Destroilet.

When I was growing up, my family had a little place in southern Vermont, a tiny vacation cabin for skiing,
fishing, summering, rusticating, and such. 

Our cabin was on a small pond, sewage tanks were a problem, and rather than contribute to runoff and wastewater problems, my dad, an accomplished fluid systems engineer who
had designed numerous wastewater treatment plants (He liked to tell
people “Your [expletive] is my bread and butter!”, much to the mortification
of my mom) decided to act with awareness.

It was the 1970s. Dad read the Mother Earth News and Euell Gibbons’s classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus. His work made him acutely aware of the interdependence of systems both natural and man-made. So to prevent sewage runoff
and protect the pond, he ordered a new toilet from Sweden
for the Vermont house.

The Destroilet.

I kid you not.

This toilet rid the world of human waste by incinerating it. After
use, when the top lid was closed, a small, thick, double-layered metal lid would simultaneously seal over the well at the bottom. A jet of burning gas would leap forth into the well, cremating the solid waste and vaporizing the liquid. A chimney to the
outdoors carried away the vapors.

Not very far, it didn’t. The air quality in the vicinity after use
of the Destroilet was indescribably memorable. The pond remained pristine; fish frolicked, newts flourished, we and the neighbor children swam and splashed. Who knows what was floating around in the air. Imagine if all our neighbors had installed the same?

We children gleefully terrorized our youngest brother with the
Destroilet for years. It’s a wonder the poor child was ever successfully trained. All too often, raising the
lid before the recommended 5 minutes of cremation would reveal burning embers of waste, glowing and pulsing a terrifying and hellish red. A toasty seat indeed.

Oh, those environmental Swedes; Oh, those conscious engineers. The pond was pristine; the air was . . . odd. Actually, the whole neighborhood smelled funny sometimes. We cringed about Dad and the Destroilet for years.

Years later, when I started studying Buddhism, and when I read One City and started thinking seriously about interdependence, I remembered the Destroilet.

Every action we take has effects. But that’s no
reason not to take them. It’s just good to remember how big our
neighborhood is. To remember we have neighbors, in fact. Who breathe, just like we do.

That’s what I try to remember. Every since Buddhism. Ever since the Destroilet.

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