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Hurray! No More Poop Showers
A week on Mackinac Island and my appreciation of progress.
I spent the week at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island as my wife, Laken’s, plus one. It’s been about 20 years since I’ve spent considerable time on the Island and I really enjoyed it. If you’re not familiar, Mackinac Island is between the upper and lower peninsula in Michigan. It’s unique in several ways but one of the ways it stands out is that it doesn’t allow any cars on the Island. It kinda feels like you are transported back in time before some of the modern conveniences that I take for granted. Although, with that being said, there are now several electric bikes whizzing around the island and there are ubiquitous high speed internet connections.
But one constant that most people notice about the island is the persistent smell of horse manure that is a unique, but somehow a pleasant, aroma when you’re on the island. That smell and trying to dodge manure piles in the road got me thinking about something.
Today, we seem to be constantly told that our society and our generation is ruining the planet. We are regularly told about pollution, overpopulation, chemical spills, plastics contaminating the oceans, dirty water, oil spills… and on and on. It’s downright terrifying! We are told that we need to use flimsy paper straws, separate our recycling from our waste, and pay extra for plastic bags because our actions have destroyed the planet for the generation coming after us.
From the way people talk about things, I am led to believe that we humans are a terrible parasite that is destroying this world. It sounds like things have never been worse than they are today and that our actions are responsible for the current hell that we are living in. Maybe that is not the message that people are trying to convey, but it’s the message that I hear. But is that true? Are we humans destroying the world and things are only getting worse?
As I walk down the streets on Mackinac Island and dodge piles of horse poop, I am reminded of what major cities used to be like.
Walking down a city street just a few hundred years ago was a very different experience. The streets smelled disgustingly and there were trenches of open sewage basically everywhere. If you were to step in a puddle or get splashed, it was most likely urine and manure that you were being splashed by. And that wasn’t just horse poop and pee, it was most likely human, pig, and any other animal that was common in the city streets at that time.
Have you ever wondered where the tradition of having the woman walk on the inside of a sidewalk away from the road came from? It was because back in the day emptying your chamber-pot (toilet) through the window was a normal practice. The person that was walking closest to the building was less likely to be covered with feces and urine if someone rained their sewage on them from one of the windows above. Yup, since we didn’t have modern indoor plumbing yet, people would poop and pee in a pot inside their apartment building and just toss it out the window.
At this time, it was even common practice for a gentlemen to carry a handkerchief that was doused in perfume to cover their face and nose to cover up the horrible smells from the city streets that were full of sewage and pollution.
It make sense that humans are concerned about the emissions that come out of the exhaust of our automobiles. Transportation can be a dirty business. But we have to at least acknowledge that our previous form of transportation by horses wasn’t without it’s environmental flaws.
As I look out upon the beautifully maintained streets of Mackinac and I observe a worker meticulously sweeping up the one patch of manure on an otherwise immaculate 1/2 mile stretch of paved road - I’m reminded that we have done a pretty good job of developing systems to take care of our environment. It reminds me of how far we have come and it makes me very proud of Humans.
Undeniably, this doesn't imply that we should grow complacent or cease striving for enhancement. The improvements we have made in our living standards and environmental safeguards within our cities are primarily due to the relentless efforts of Active Optimists. These individuals did not merely stand by, idly hoping for conditions to get better. They rolled up their sleeves and propelled action, tirelessly working to effect meaningful changes.
I’m not trying to imply that we should stop advancing.
But I do wish that sometimes we would celebrate the progress and accomplishments that we have made instead of solely focusing on our faults and deficiencies. As I’ve said before, if you look at the news/politics you will think that the world is getting worse. If you pay attention to history, you will realize the reality that the world is getting better.
I greatly enjoyed my time on Mackinac Island. It’s a real treasure. But it also made me appreciate the simple fact that on my daily runs back in Haslett, I rarely have to be on vigilant look out to ensure that I don’t mistakenly step in horse manure or be showered with my neighbors human feces from above. And I have to say, that’s pretty cool.