Let’s flush this piss-poor campaign down the toilet

Guy Pierce

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Recently, an article appeared on the BBC News website that looked like a joke. Apparently, two students from the University of East Anglia (UEA) have set up a Facebook page, Go with the Flow, aimed at convincing UEA students to take their first leak of the day in the shower.

The Go with the Flow campaign is born from a belief that water and money will be saved if students use the shower rather than the toilet to relieve themselves. One of the founders, Chris Dobson, said: ‘With 15,000 students at UEA, over a year we would save enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool 26 times over.’ In addition, they believe £125,000 per year could be saved if all students at the university shunned the flush. To those concerned that peeing in the shower is a bit unhygienic, Dobson assures us that, ‘as long as the water is flowing there is no hygiene risk as urine is sterile’. Phew.

While, yes, the campaign will save water and money, and the hygiene risk is minimal, the Go with the Flow challenge places saving resources above human comfort and seems embarrassed about the incredible role sanitation has played in ridding the Western world of pestilence and disease. There may be no hygiene risk involved with peeing in the shower, but this is only because of the sanitation developments pioneered and introduced over the past two centuries.

As we see today across West Africa with the spread of the Ebola virus, good sanitation and technological advances are key to ending preventable diseases and human suffering. This is why good sanitation should be celebrated and not seen as an optional luxury to be limited and cut back on in order to save resources or money.

Sanitation is one of humanity’s greatest achievements and something we should be proud of. However, the Go with the Flow campaign appears to be ashamed of those achievements and would rather people live in less comfort, under the guise of saving resources. Human ingenuity means we can overcome any shortage we have in resources, but not through limiting our lifestyles. The ‘porcelain throne’ stands as a monument to human ingenuity, so let’s flush this piss-poor campaign down the toilet.

Guy Pierce is a writer and researcher based in London.

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