Public urination is not often a topic of discussion for most people. In fact, any attempted debate on the subject seems to be an open-and-closed matter, concluded with a resounding “No.” Absolutely not, the public seems to have unanimously decided. No civilized person shall pee outside the confines of a designated waste-disposal arena without dire consequences. Police have come to view public urination as a matter of concern, a matter which falls under their jurisdiction, punishable by arrest, fine, or severe night-stick beating, depending on the mood of the officer.
However, I think it’s time we as a society reassess our attitudes towards urine. After all, urine is, for the most part, a near-odorless, sterile substance. Except in the case of urinary tract infection or certain other conditions, urine is a largely inoffensive matter. Historically, it has been remarkably useful. Ancient Romans once used theirs to bleach clothes and teeth (!), while Scots washed their wool in urine to keep it from shrinking. Gun powder was also developed from pee, as it is rich in explosive nitrogen. So why has modern society suddenly developed such an aversion to it?
The law implies that peeing is an indecent act, one that must only be performed under very specific circumstances (I.e. private room with a porcelain receptacle). But what could be more inhuman than forcing people to hold their liquid waste when nature calls? Anyone who has ever had to ride a bus with a full bladder can attest to the near-masochistic nature of the law. If dogs can pee wherever they want, why can’t we? The whole world is a potential toilet. The age-old riddle applies; if someone were to pee in the middle of a forest, and no one saw or heard, did it happen?
The answer is no. Or at least no one should care. At any rate, the drizzly Northwest weather would probably rinse away the evidence in a matter of minutes.
But peeing wherever you want is not just a matter of personal freedom – it is also an environmental concern. American families collectively use water in the billions of gallons each year, and an estimated 30% of that is used on the toilet. Given that the average person flushes an average of five times a day (and two of those times is estimated to be for urine’s ‘second cousin’), that means that a mind-boggling amount of water is being wasted, just to get rid of a little yellow water. If you relieved yourself outside every day for a month, you could save about 200 gallons of water, not to mention cut back on the use of harmful toilet cleaning products.
Another useful application of urine is one of utmost importance: personal safety. Farmers have long been using fox urine around the perimeter of their land to keep out rats, mice, rabbits, and other pests. The principle is that by sprinkling the urine of a predatory animal, the animals it preys on will smell the urine and avoid the land. Well, has there ever been a more predatory animal than humans? By peeing in and around the land you hold most dear, you are sending a strong message to raccoons, coyotes, and even bears: Get the heck out.
Not only does “peeing out of the box” relieve the overuse of water and keep away bears, it could actually do some good for the soil. Containing urea, an excellent source of nitrogen, urine is great as an accelerator for compost and is generally thought to be as good or better as commercial chemical fertilizers. So the next time you whizz on that shrub, you can feel proud of not only your namewriting abilities, but also about the valuable contribution you’re making to the environment.