Science Book a Day Interviews Morna E Gregory

morna-gregorySpecial thanks to Morna Gregory for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book, which she co-authored – Toilets of the World

Morna E. Gregory is a freelance writer based in Vancouver. After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Morna spent eight years in Brussels, Belgium, with her world champion canaries and Canadian goldfish. When she’s not scouring remote corners of the world in search of toilets, Morna enjoys fly-fishing and painting. – From Toilets of the World’s Homepage

Morna’s Twitter:

#1 – What was the impetus for this book?

My best friend (photographer Sian James) and I were sitting on a beach drinking beer in Fiji one day, comparing unusual toilets we’d encountered in the course of our travels. We were discussing how incredibly different they were in various parts of the world, and that people in first world countries who don’t travel might think that toilets everywhere are white porcelain thrones complete with toilet paper, running water and a private stall. We thought it would be a great idea to show the world the truth about toilets, by doing a book that would both educate and entertain.

#2 – In your tour of toilets around the world. How are they the same? How are they different?

Interestingly, toilets worldwide are similar across economic strata. In first world countries, for example, the white flush toilet is the norm. The more economically disadvantaged a region, the more sanitary conditions are compromised. A simple hole in the ground is more common in such areas. Economics aside, there are delightfully quirky toilets everywhere that reflect local culture and values (to a certain extent). There are toilets carved out of large cactus trunks in Bolivia, toilets on stilts over the sea in Panama, solid gold toilets in Hong Kong, solar panel compost toilets in New Zealand and toilets that wash your bottom in Japan. The list goes on. What they all have in common is their fundamental purpose and the basic of needs of the humans who use them.

#3 – As a form of technology, how important are toilets in human history?

Toilet habits throughout history loosely followed the civilization of humankind. The idea of designating a specific place for toilets only came about once people decided to live together in large groups. There are references to this practice as early as the Old Testament of the Bible. I think that the development of toilet technology was necessary as more people amalgamated, ultimately resulting in the formation of cities. In short, if humans hadn’t eventually come up with toilet solutions, urban populations would have been decimated by the ensuing diseases.

#4 – What was your favourite toilet?

I encountered many toilets throughout my travels that I found fascinating for various reasons, but hands down the one I found the most pleasant to use was the Japanese toilet. Often equipped with a blissfully heated seat, the toilet comes with a panel of control buttons. You can choose the type, angle and temperature of the spray that cleans your bottom when you’re done, followed by a warm air dry. If you’re feeling shy about what you’re in there for, there’s a noise button you can push that either plays music or makes loud canned flushing sounds. (Because nobody knows what you’re doing in there, right?) It’s really a complete spa experience for your nether regions.

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about?

I’m taking a stab at fiction right now, which I’m pretty excited about but it’s very slow going with my 9-5 job writing advertising!

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