This is a question that plagues me at night, when I’m camping, and the bathroom is on the other end of the campground. On the one hand, watering a bush seems better than flushing a toilet, but sends untreated pollutants, which will eventually land up in a stream or a river, into the ground.
Treehugger posted an axes that weighs the argument differently, in terms of biological and social liberation. The graphic suggests that dogs and shameless public pee-ers, who both have their favorite walls judging by the stench, are the most biologically and socially liberated of them all.
Most interesting to me is the degree to which the axes suggests we will subdue our biological comfort to assuage social norms, which in most places discourages public territorial markings. But then, I’ve been places where no such norm exists.
In Israel, I regularly saw people (men especially – it is slightly more discreet) happily watering sidewalks in broad daylight, making virtually no effort to disguise themselves. The same is true in Africa. Not so long ago, I saw a man stark naked, taking a bath in the river beside a busy highway.
According to The Axes of Public Peeing designed by Laura Norén, incontinent people would rather stuff pads in their pants or hold their urine to its bursting point than transgress. Which means that social norms differ, but we already knew that. In New York, even dogs are discouraged from urinating on trees, which are said to die from excessive leg-lifts.
A quick wikipedia search reveals that urine is not toxic, and that until it reaches the urethra, it is absolutely sterile. There, the liquid waste is invaded by the epithelial cells’ colony of bacteria. This bacteria produces a foul odor, which is better or worse depending on each person’s diet.
Imagine walking down a busy street where men who eat a lot of asparagus relieve themselves on a daily basis. Sounds like an interesting olfactory education.
It is also true that modern wastewater treatment plants fail to manage our waste properly anyway. So, apart from smelling up a street, peeing in public won’t create much more of a hazard than already exists. Because of the new motley of drugs we use to treat every tiny ailment, a pernicious cocktail of pharmaceuticals bypasses conventional treatment processes and wreaks havoc on the reproductive systems of certain fish, for example.
I guess what is boils down to is a) we need better (and more) public facilities that address all of these problems, b) we need more efficient wastewater treatment systems, and c) if we gotta go, we gotta go:- liberate yourself!
More on peeing and pooing: