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Oh, poop “If you eat, you’re gonna excrete”

Photo of muck barges on a river in Shanghai from Franklin King's Farmers of Forty Centuries, published 1927

Portrait of Professor Donald Worster

Professor Donald Worster

It’s time to face an uncomfortable fact. After more than 200 episodes devoted in their various ways to what we eat and drink, I’ve never looked at the direct consequences of all that ingestion: excretion. Time to remedy that, by talking to Professor Donald Worster. The ostensible reason is his essay The Good Muck: Toward an Excremental History of China. While we do discuss the origins and details of what he calls “the faeces economy,” there’s a lot more to it than that. Excrement is unavoidable. But is it simply a waste product, to be dumped out of sight and out of mind? Or is it a valuable resource that we squander at our peril?


  1. I’m pretty sure that neither of the Donald Worsters you will locate on Twitter is the real thing. However, The Good Muck: Toward an Excremental History of China is available to download at The Rachel Carson Center.
  2. Here’s the transcript.
  3. The problem of human waste is still with us, even in the “rich” world. Two weeks ago, The New Yorker published The Heavy Toll of the Black Belt’s Wastewater Crisis.
  4. The poor world too, more so, but for some reason the people actually doing something about it don’t want to talk to us about their work.
  5. You can also download Franklin King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries; or, Permanent Agriculture in China, Korea and Japan, which is where I got the banner photograph.

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  • Mincéir Ally And Proud Tomboktu


  • Joanna
  • Defne Koryürek
  • Aaron Davis
  • Dan Saladino
  • AgroBioDiverse



  1. I asked my grandmother when she was about 90 years old (2006-ish) what she thought was the most amazing invention during her lifetime. Answer: indoor toilet.

    I was telling this story to another friend of mine 5 or 6 years later. She was about 92 At the time and blurted out, “indoor toilet!” So, I apologized—thinking I’d already shared time story with her. But she quickly told me that was *her* answer.

    So: important stuff!


  • Yedikule marulu, İstanbul’un vidanjörleri ve topraktan gelen toprağa gider diye… ama başka diyarlardan :) @mevlatal @terzihane

  • Jeremy, reading this newsletter about excrement and listening to your conversation with Donald Worster reminded me of this segment I saw on ABC about cochroach farms. Not only do they provide a food source, but they also help dispose of various waste products.

  • Oh, poop….. yes it says it’s about ‘poop’ but it covers so much more… from the rise of China’s earliest cities to the importance of soil fertility ⁦@EatPodcast⁩ “if you eat you’re gonna excrete”.

  • Since we’re talking about shit, why not listen to this talk about shit on @EatPodcast

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