While New Zealand is well known for its exports of kiwi fruit and mutton, a similarly well-known agricultural product of Kiwi-land is the honey made from the nectar of the manuka tree – manuka honey. While the manuka tree has long been known by the Maori for its medicinal properties, it wasn't until the 1990s that scientists at Waikato University in Hamilton discovered manuka honey's unique properties.
Honey in general has a long history across many cultures for its medicinal and healing abilities, ranging from assisting in the healing of cuts and burns to the soothing of sore throats. But while honey has long been revered for its various uses, it is solely manuka honey that has been noted for having rather extraordinary antibacterial properties. Coinciding with the increasing ineffectiveness of various antibiotics, it's recently been discovered that thanks to the level of what is called its Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) rating, the non-peroxide characteristics of manuka honey possesses the ability to eradicate many strains of bacteria, including the antibiotic resistant Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) super bug. Unfortunately, and much how these things generally go, the bread and circuses crowds have giddily done their part in turning manuka honey into yet another faddish superfood, contributing to the bastardization of this unique honey and to what has come to be known as "Manuka Madness."
For starters, people such as singer Katherine Jenkins, actress Scarlett Johansson, model Elizabeth Jagger, and tennis player Novak Djokovik, have publiclyproclaimed to use manuka honey – and nothing but manuka honey – to (respectively) soothe the throat, soften facial skin, protect one's gums from germs (!?), and revitalize oneself between sets. Thanks to all this snake oil salesman-type hype, what has resulted is not only a manuka honey sham, but also a manuka honey scam.
With the United States' federal election on the horizon – a horizon that drags on for almost two years! – the media's seemingly insatiable appetite for its catnip of political polarization seems to be ramping up like clockwork, with one of the latest and oh-so-ungreatest issues getting bandied about being whether or not transgendered people should have the right to use the restroom they feel most comfortable using, or, whether they must use the restroom that matches the gender listed on their birth certificate.
For lack of a more appropriate word, let's get one thing straight: when God created public restrooms He didn't first create the man's wing, pull some pipes out from the walls, use those to create the female's wing, and then with his indomitable breath imbue the toilets with the spirit of His holy and flushable water. Put a bit less ridiculously, and contrary to what goes for common sense, there is absolutely nothing "natural" about restrooms separated based on a person's biological sex, nor with porcelain maws that like to gobble down our refuses.
If you know of the name Dan Chiras, then you've probably heard it in reference to the multitude of books he's written on alternative energy sources, alternative building methods, and more. But as important as his previous works have been, his latest book, on an alternative food source, is probably his most important yet. Yes, for those who already know what his latest book is about (and/or just saw the cover shot accompanying this post), I did just say "alternative food source." For Chiras' indispensable latest book is called The Scoop on Poop: Safely Capturing and Recycling the Nutrients in Greywater, Humanure and Urine.
As Chiras states in the book's first few pages,
As I remind my ecology students, all life is built on the dead remains of the past... It's for this reason that in this book I don't refer to urine and feces as "waste" without using quotation marks, signaling to you what "waste" really is – nutrient-rich material we must recycle in order to ensure the continuation of life on planet Earth. The only time that calling human excretions "waste" is appropriate... is when it refers to the fact that we waste so much of it.
That I would call our urine and feces an "alternative food source" is due to the simple fact that what is one organism's "waste" is another organism's food. And since, as Chiras points out, our "waste" is currently wasted, that means that something out there isn't getting its just deserts. And that something is our soils.