Environmentalism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative

Recently, I read a post on Maximum Bob, via a link from another friend’s site (Cardboard Gods). Bob was writing about how the installation of wood-burning stoves, a commendable action when it comes to reducing dependence on foreign oil, could basically re-smogify Britain.

The issue reminded me of the Destroilet, an artefact of my engineer dad’s 1970s Mother Earth News/Euell Gibbons-reading era:

We had a little place in Vermont, a tiny vacation house for skiing, fishing, rusticating, and such. It was on a small pond, and rather than contribute to runoff and wastewater problems, my dad, an engineer who had designed numerous wastewater treatment plants (He used to tell people “Your shit is my bread and butter!”, much to the mortification of my mom) decided to act with awareness. So to prevent sewage runoff and protect the pond, he ordered an expensive new toilet from Sweden for the Vermont house.

The Destroilet.

I kid you not.

This toilet rid the world of human waste by incinerating it. After use, when the top lid was closed, a small, thick metal lid would also close over the well at the bottom. A jet of burning gas would incinerate the solid waste and vaporize the liquid. A chimney to the outdoors carried away the vapors.

Not very far, it didn’t. The air quality in the vicinity after use of the Destroilet was, um, not high. God only knows what was floating around. Imagine if all our neighbors had installed the same? No one would have been able to go outdoors.

We children gleefully terrorized our youngest brother with the Destroilet from the age of about 4 onward. All too often, raising the lid before the recommended 5 minutes would reveal burning embers of human shit, glowing and pulsing horridly red. I’m surprised the kid was ever successfully trained.

Anyway, those damn Swedes. . . . watch out how environmental you are. Or how big you think your environment is. It DOES include the neighbors. Ask what Kant would ask; consider the categorical imperative.

Would you want all to behave — or burn — as you do? that’s the question I ask myself. Ever since the Destroilet.

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2 thoughts on “Environmentalism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative

  1. Oh man, that was hilarious. Not only do I relate to it on a Vermont-raised child of the Mother Earth News seventies level, but it also makes me recall what I like to think of as my greatest legacy…the big outhouse barrel I filled over the course of my year (1999-2000) living in a cabin with no electricity. The guy who owned the land planned to use it as fertilizer. I’ve avoided produce from Vermont ever since, you know, just in case.

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