A more effluent society?

Thursday, 7th January

ADVANCED trials are taking place to power trains through the use of “human waste” and battery packs to phase out dirty diesel engines. According to a report in The Times recently these trains would be fuelled using biomethane from organic waste.

I was reminded of my time in Beijing many years ago, when I used to join the thousands on bicycles to commute to the office, often cycling behind long convoys of carts – pulled by donkeys on rubber wheels – full of human waste being transported from the centre of the capital to the outlying farms.

It was usually a pleasant 30-minute cycle ride and like many fellow cyclists we all tried to steer clear of the carts whose aroma hung in the air. Often, I thought how typical of the ancient Chinese culture that they had found something useful even in human waste. I also wondered how effective the methods of fertilisation were though I saw no signs of any infection.

I recall how one day I got too close to a cart and skidded into it – and almost fell under its wheels. I came off slightly hurt and limped badly into the office to the laughter of colleagues when they heard what had happened.

It could have been worse.

I am confident the trials of the “human waste” trains will succeed – there is far too much waste in this consumerist society, and everything should be done to avert the coming climate disaster.

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