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World Toilet Day: Noble Fecophiliacs Break Taboos to Save Lives

Toilet taboos are literally killing people around the world. So find an artsy/activist event in your neighborhood to save lives with potty talk.


World Toilet Day is almost here, November 19. What's that, you ask? An international day of education, activism and downright bizarre behavior to support global health. Did you know that 2.5 billion people currently live without access to adequate sanitation? Well now, because of World Toilet Day, and the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, you do.

Not only does lack of sanitation mean residents have to live in filth in many cases, it is the number one cause of infections around the world, spreading disease, killing 1.8 million people, mostly children, each year. The tragedy, is that all of those deaths are completely preventable. That's the power of a working toilet. The United Nations made clean sanitation and access to clean water Millennium Development Goal Number Seven.


So World Toilet Day is like most other cause days, it just happens to have, at its very core, a message that offends people. Not because of the mission, but because of the language you have to use to talk frankly about the topic of feces, filth and infection.


Mostly it's earnest advocacy, but the blunt, and borderline crass language around some of the event is mission-message too. A call to action like "be a part of the big squat" is going to catch more eyes and garner more clicks from the unconverted than "support sanitation, it matters, really it does."

For example, Shawn Shafner is hosting an event on WTD. He deliberately chose a shocking name for his organization: The People’s Own Organic Power Project—yes, that shortens to the POOP Project. He says, taboos around his topic are part of the problem. "In linguistic and cultural terms, that stuff that comes out of our bottoms is unmentionable, which means it's impossible to avoid breaking a taboo if you want mention it," he told me. His organization is hosting an event in New York where, in addition to learning about sanitation, you can record a “commode confessional,” write on a stall wall, and dabble in other potty and health-themed interactive features. He wants to get people talking about sanitation and says, "as long as people are shy to talk about the bathroom, however, I don't believe we'll have these conversations."

There are events around the world, ranging from lectures at schools in Nigeria, to documentary screenings and "potty parties," across America. You can take in stand-up comedy or take up a chance to meet "celebrities" of sanitation like the author of the Super Toilet.

Host an event or find one in your area through the World Toilet Organization.



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