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Garden Book Review: "Holy Shit: Managing Manure for Mankind"

About "Holy Shit"

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book review holy shit by gene logsdon
  • Published: 2010, Chelsea Green
  • 204 pages

Review: "Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind"

It's an undeniable fact: the way we're currently dealing with our waste (both human and animal) is not sustainable in the long term. Consider the following:

  • Each of the U.S.'s approximately 100 million cattle produce an average of 27 pounds of manure per day, which adds up to over 985 billion pounds of manure per year.
  • Each pig produces an average of 8 pounds of manure per day. With an estimated 70 million pigs, farmers deal with over half a billion pounds of pig manure every year.
  • Americans flush away approximately 60 billion gallons of toilet waste per year.
  • The nation's 68 million pet dogs and 73 million pet cats produce an average of 100 pounds and 50 pounds of waste per animal, per year, respectively.

That's a whole lot of waste, and it's not even counting waste from other animals such as goats, sheep, horses, or chickens. Our current methods of dealing with it: overwhelming our sewage systems, sequestering animal wastes in "manure lagoons," and throwing cat and dog waste in the garbage are just not sustainable solutions. The odor and methane from improperly handled livestock waste is harmful to those who have to live nearby, and to the environment as a whole. Our landfills are full of plastic bags of dog and cat waste. And all of that flushing takes an obvious toll on our fresh water ecosystems as well.

There has to be a better way. Farmer, author, and manure advocate Gene Logsdon wants us to recognize that we need to change the way we deal with waste. His book, Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind, is nothing more, and nothing less, than a crash course in all things manure. Surprisingly enough, it is fascinating. Maybe not something you want to read during your lunch break, but definitely an interesting book.

Logsdon suggests that it's time to do away with the chemical fertilizer industry, which is doing more harm than good, and start using all of our waste (livestock, pet, and human manure) to enrich our soil instead. If we put all of that waste to use, we'd effectively kill two birds with one stone: rid the country's farmland of synthetic chemical fertilizers and put the waste that is currently harming our environment to good use. This means no more manure lagoons to stink up rural areas, no more endless bags of cat poo being trucked to the landfill. Gardeners and farmers alike would compost their manures to enrich the soil they grow on. He calls for the end of factory farming, because in all ways (including waste management), these operations are not sustainable.

Logsdon does it all in this book: he instructs us in how, exactly, manures should be handled for proper composting, tells us how that composted manure can be best used, and (perhaps most importantly) opens up an important discussion about our aversion to something as natural as waste. If we confront this aversion, really start to talk about it, and think about how we can handle all of the manure we produce, then and only then can we start to change how we deal with it.

Holy Shit is entertaining and informative, and full of actionable advice that any gardener or small farmer can put in place right now.

Quotes from "Holy Shit"

Here are a few representative quotes from Gene Logsdon's Holy Shit:

  • "The idea that all of agriculture might have to rely on animal waste to maintain the necessary soil fertility to keep the world from starving is not all that new to civilization. Only in the last hundred years or so has it been possible to lard enough anhydrous ammonia, superphosphate, and muriate of potash on crops to attain record-breaking yields (while burning and beating organic matter out of the soil). Before this 'progress,' human society had no other choice but to consider manure to be more precious than gold."
  • "Manure contains all kinds of goodies: starch, cellulose, lignin, fat, proteins, carbohydrates of various kinds, minerals, and vestiges of the digestive juices that began the process of decomposition in the animals' intestines. The urine adds nitrogenous compounds like urea."
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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