A Glimpse into the Future
Ten years ago, I tried yelling, crying, pretending to be sick – every means – just to avoid going back to the village I grew up in. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I lived there ‘til seven and I still miss the corns [corn] piled in the yards and the bike I rode with my friends. Everything was sweet and fresh – except the toilets. Built on a pit with two stone slates on each side, they were dark, damp, smelly, and with mosquitoes flying around. But this is part of the daily life of my grandparents, of my parents, and of me for the first seven years of my life.
This might sound distant to you but is actually a story repeated across China. Jack Sim, founder of WTO, the World Toilet Organization, said in the 2018 Toilet Expo that “Though most village households in China have been equipped with water heaters and TVs, their toilets are still in the most primitive form.” Such poor infrastructure exhibits a way of life beyond backward. Xinhua News Agency reported in 2015 that more than 80 percent of infectious diseases in rural villages were propagated by the pollution of human waste.
This issue goes beyond China. As suggested by [the] Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2013, 2.4 billion people worldwide do not have a decent toilet. Sanya, a five-year-old living in a village in India, died from diarrhea after drinking water contaminated by human waste. More than 1.5 million Sanyas die from the same reason every year, globally.
Yet when we bring up the future, we tend to relate it to cutting-edge 5G technology, artificial intelligence, or even space shuttles exploring the “cutting-edge” future. But aren’t we neglecting something? We have a mere 7.5 percent penetration rate of sanitary toilets, 3 million children without proper education, 16.6 million people to be lifted out of poverty. These unerasable marks from the past and present seem innocuous, but are the “Achilles heels” of our society. While we forge ahead, talents, technology and policies should be shifted more towards humanity, providing a decent life for every human being.
Looking into the future, I hope all children like Sanya could be drinking clean uncontaminated water; that my grandma wouldn’t have to bear the odor and swarms of flies when using the toilet; and that I wouldn’t regret having drunk that much water before visiting my hometown.
This future is the one that we are working towards. My dad gave up his job in the cities to help with the renovation of toilets in villages, turning them into biogas systems for every household. My friend majoring in environmental engineering started a project to explore and design toilets for extremely cold area [areas]. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the deeper we dive into our present, the more likely we can shape a better future. With government and research institutions striding down this path, the ongoing toilet revolution is giving us a glimpse into the future by promoting a life of safety, decency and dignity.
My dream of keeping every child free from the fear and danger of old-style toilets will come true. I shall take a part, significant or humble, as a member of the World Toilet Organization, a college-graduate village official, or just a girl with a childhood nightmare. Either way, our future is not slipping away. Thank you.