The “Yah, but…” response
Early in the development phase of new ideas and systems, there are many naysayers. The “Yah, but…” response is a common means of acknowledging that a new idea has some merit, but dismissing it based on its current state of development. To illustrate, we can continue using the composting toilet versus flush toilet comparison. It would be easy to dismiss the notion of widespread use of composting toilets as being an idea with positive possibilities, but impractical to consider as a mainstream option.
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This outlook ignores the trajectory of all developing ideas, which start as good ideas and then move into prototype and testing phases, followed by small-scale market penetration and, in some cases, widespread adoption. Composting toilets may have limited appeal because of inherent revulsion about dealing with human waste. However, it is possible to imagine the feasibility of service contracts for removing composting toilet contents and handling them at a central facility in much the same way that we currently handle solid waste and household recycling. Commitment to a better idea is what spurs the development of practical solutions — the notion of recycling came before the invention of coordinated neighborhood pickups in specialized trucks.
The “Yah, but” outlook also ignores the ways in which social mores can influence development of ideas. In many parts of North America, we applied laws and a high degree of social pressure to induce dog owners to pick up their animals’ feces from lawns, parks, and sidewalks. In a matter of a decade, this social pressure resulted in a new norm, one in which dog owners get “up close and personal” with their animals’ waste (in a way that is much more visceral and off-putting than dealing with a composting toilet!). If we seriously undertook a social plan to make it inexcusable to foul our waterways with human waste, we could achieve the same type of result.
If it’s possible to convince people to do this, it’s possible to get people to deal with clean and simple humanure composting.