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比尔·盖茨:世界值得拥有更好的厕所
2018-11-14 22:21

我跨越了半个地球,为的是看一眼厕所。

 

        如果你长期关注我的公众号,这不会让你感到惊讶。比起其他事来,有那么几件事是我尤其喜欢谈论的。环境卫生是我们关注的最重要问题之一,我甚至在几年前喝过用人粪做的水。

 

        因此,我本周很兴奋地来到中国北京参加“新世代厕所博览会”,这里将展出一些世界上最高科技的厕所。

 

 

 

        我将在北京看到的这些厕所不仅仅是吸引人的小玩意,它们有潜力挽救数百万人的生命。全世界一半以上的人口使用着不安全的卫生设施。即使在人们能用上马桶或坑厕的地方,他们的粪便也不能被安全地处理。粪便里的病原体进入当地的水源,使人们生病。

 

        由被污染的水导致的疾病,每年夺走超过50万五岁以下儿童的生命。那些活下来的孩子往往因病得太重而无法上学。毫不夸张地说,恶劣的卫生条件阻碍了整个社区和整个国家的发展。

 

        如果你生活在3级或4级国家,你可以感谢你的下水道系统保护你的安全。下水道在历史上一直是确保粪便不向环境释放有害病原体的最佳途径。

 

        但如果你不需要下水道就能保证人们的安全呢?如果你的厕所可以完全独立处理粪便呢?

 

        这个厕所也许看起来和其他任何厕所没什么两样,但它完全独立、可以处理粪便,从中我们可以展望卫生设施的未来。当我在中国时,我会看到这个和其他一些令人惊叹的新发明,它们可以兑现无下水道厕所的承诺。

 

        我们的基金会已经投入了大量资金开发下一代的环境卫生解决方案。2011年,我们发起了“厕所创新大赛”(Reinvent the Toilet Challenge)。许多参赛作品如今已准备好可以投入使用了。一群来自世界各地的杰出工程师、科学家、公司和大学做出了艰苦的努力,一个安全、离网型卫生设施的市场已初步形成。我希望这周的展览让他们的努力成果向前更进一步,使得世界各地的人们能真正用上这些厕所。

 

        这些厕所都在试图解决一个同样的问题,但它们采取了不同的方式(上面的视频解释了每种厕所的特别之处)。其中一些使用太阳能,这样它们就能离网运行。

 

        其他的则自己发电,比如克兰菲尔德纳米膜厕所。打开或关闭它的马桶盖,这会触发一个将液体从固体中分离的螺旋装置。一个气化炉会将固体物质转化成灰分和热能,用来为厕所运行提供动力。

 

        下一代厕所的一大主题是将粪便转化为有用东西的能力。艾科森(EcoSan)能提取出干净的水,它足够安全可以用来洗手。杜克大学的社区处理系统所产生的水,可以用来冲厕所或补充肥料。南佛罗里达大学的NEWgenerator甚至可以收集甲烷气体用于烹饪或取暖。

 

        另一个相同的特点是把粪便燃烧殆尽(如果你正在吃东西,那么我向你道歉,但描述这个实在没有巧妙的方式)。Janicki Firelight将屎尿脱水,将其变成无菌的灰和水。

 

        你可能已经猜到了,这些厕所比一般的厕所要复杂得多。看看这个用来运行一间公共厕所的控制面板:

 

        不过这些厕所用起来与其他厕所差不太多。神奇的事都发生在幕后。

 

        我知道大部分人不会将厕所做的事形容为神奇,但我认为在这种情况下确实神奇。想想看:厕所在过去一个多世纪就没怎么变过。如果你能回到19世纪中叶,你会发现抽水马桶和你家里的马桶用起来基本一样。如果你住的地方使用的是坑式厕所,那么厕所设计保持不变的时间就更长了。

 

        我将在北京看到的这些厕所,或许某一天会取代一项和我们在一起很久的技术,而且将在这个过程中挽救数百万条生命。这不仅仅是工程学上的一项杰出成就,而且是一个现代的奇迹。

 

        Why the world deserves a better toilet

 

        I’m about to travel halfway around the world to look at a toilet.

 

        If you’re a long-time reader of TGN, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. There are few things I love talking about more. Sanitation is one of the most important issues we work on. I even drank water made from human feces a couple years ago.

 

        That’s why I’m so excited to visit Beijing, China this week for the Reinvented Toilet Expo, where some of the most high-tech toilets in the world will be on display.

 

        The toilets I’ll see in Beijing aren’t just fascinating gadgets – they have the potential to save millions of lives. More than half of the world’s population uses unsafe sanitation facilities. Even in places where people have access to toilets or pit latrines, their waste isn’t disposed of safely. The pathogens from the waste finds their way into the local water supply and makes people sick.

 

        The diseases caused by contaminated water kill more than 500,000 children under five every year. Those who survive are often too sick to go to school. It’s no exaggeration to say that poor sanitation holds back whole communities and entire nations.

 

        If you live in a level 3 or 4 country, you can thank your sewer system for keeping you safe. Sewers have historically been the best way to make sure waste isn’t releasing harmful pathogens into the environment.

 

        But what if you didn’t need a sewer to keep people safe? What if your toilet could dispose of waste all on its own?

 

        This toilet might look like any other, but it’s actually a self-contained, waste-destroying peek at the future of sanitation. When I’m in China, I get to see this and several other amazing new inventions that could deliver on the promise of sewer-less toilets.

 

        Our foundation has invested a lot of money to develop a pipeline of next-generation sanitation solutions. In 2011, we launched the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Many of the solutions created for that challenge are now ready to license. A remarkable cohort of engineers, scientists, companies, and universities around the world has done the hard work of getting a safe, off-grid sanitation market ready for take-off. My hope is that this week’s showcase moves their hard work one step closer to being used by real people around the world.

 

        Each of these toilets seeks to solve the same problem, but they’ve all taken a different approach to get there. (The video above explains what specifically makes each toilet special.) Several run on solar power, so they can operate off-grid.

 

        Others generate their own power, like the Cranfield nanomembrane toilet. Opening or closing its lid moves a screw that separates liquids from solids. A gasifier converts the solids into ash and heat that is used to operate the toilet.

 

        A big theme for next-gen toilets is the ability to turn waste into something useful. The Ecosan extracts clean water, which is safe to use for hand-washing. The water created by Duke University’s neighborhood treatment system can be used to flush toilets or supplement fertilizer. The University of South Florida’s New Generator even collects methane gas for cooking or heating.

 

        Another common feature involves burning waste to get rid of it (I apologize if you’re eating right now, but there’s no delicate way to describe this). The Janicki Firelight dries out urine and feces, turning them into sterile ash and water.

 

        As you might have guessed, these toilets are a lot more complicated than your average toilet. Just look at the maintenance panel used to operate a public restroom:

 

        The user experience for each is more or less the same as any other toilet, though. Most of the magic happens behind the scenes.

 

        I know most people wouldn’t describe what toilets do as magical, but I think it’s true in this case. Think about it: the toilet hasn’t really changed in more than a century. If you could go back in time to the mid-1800s, you’d find flush toilets that work basically the same as the toilet in your home. And if you live somewhere with pit latrines, toilet design has stayed the same for even longer.

 

        The toilets I’ll see in Beijing might one day replace a piece of technology that’s been with us for ages – and they could save millions of lives in the process. That’s not just an amazing feat of engineering. It’s a modern miracle. 

 
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