Eco-Innovation or Eyesore? Public Urinals Cause Backlash in Paris
Bright red urinals designed to be an eco-friendly solution to the problem of public peeing have become a source of controversy in Paris, CNN reported Tuesday.
The urinals are located in flower boxes and use straw to eliminate odor. The urine is then used to fertilize the plants in parks and gardens.
City officials said in a statement that a year's worth of pee from a single person has enough nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to fertilize 400 square meters (approximately 478.4 square yards) of wheat.
But for residents of the Ile Saint-Louis, where one such urinal overlooks the Seine not far from the Notre Dame cathedral, the urinal's environmental benefits don't make up for the way it pollutes their island's iconic scenery.
Opponents have written a letter to the town hall demanding the urinal be removed, Reuters reported.
"There's no need to put something so immodest and ugly in such an historic spot," 68-year-old Venetian art store owner Paola Pellizzari told Reuters. "It's beside the most beautiful townhouse on the island, the Hotel de Lauzun, where Baudelaire lived," she said.
Ariel Weil, the mayor of the fourth district of Paris where the offending urinal is located, defended its necessity.
"If we don't do anything, then men are just going to pee in the streets," he said, according to Reuters. "If it is really bothering people, we will find another location."
There are currently four of these Uritrottoirs, a portmanteau of the French words for peeing and pavement, in locations around the city where public peeing has become a problem. A fifth is planned to join them.
But residents find the current, exposed designs, labeled clearly with signs, offensive.
"I think installing a urinal in the streets of Paris for those who don't respect their surroundings is a good idea, but in my opinion, this model is not attractive at all, and where it's been set up is not appropriate at all," one man said, according to CNN.
There is also a gendered component to the disappearance of public urinals, and their reappearance now.
British Toilet Association managing director Raymond Morris told CNN that public urinals were common in Paris since the late 1800s for men travelling to work.
However, when women began to enter the workforce, exposed urinals began to be replaced with enclosed stalls.
Gwendoline Coipeault of French feminist group Femmes Solidaires said the new public urinals unfairly forced women to surrender their urban environment to the needs of men.
"They have been installed on a sexist proposition: men cannot control themselves (from the bladder point of view) and so all of society has to adapt," Coipeault told Reuters. "The public space must be transformed to cause them minimum discomfort."But for Morris, the problem was not that men had too many public peeing options, but that women still had too few, even after the spread of enclosed stalls. "The trouble today is the inequality for women," he told CNN.
Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
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