Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Beauty of Sewers

When I looked at the Internet this evening I didn't expect to find a story on the theft of manhole covers in Manhattan. Oh, was I wrong. There are roughly 23,000 stories on the theft of manhole covers as of today. Given time there will likely be 23,000 more.

My primary concern here is not, as must be thought by most readers, that of fascist Islam and Left dhimmi fascism; my concern is for Human decency and peoples' opportunity to live free of unwarranted oppression, which I see as mostly stemming in our time from the two aforementioned ideologies. Unwarranted oppression isn't simply the fascism of the Left and the Muslim hordes they use as proxies: it is also Romantic reaction, eg philobarbarism and povertarianism. So, on occasion, this being one, I put together a post on public health to show just what our beautiful Modernity gives us and what we will lose if we allow our lives to be ruined by the fascists who claim that cities are alienating, that one should "move back to Nature," that we should be "authentic," and the usual string of pagan Blood and Soil ecologist misanthropy. Imagine life without sewers. No? Then go to a city without them, pick your favorite Third World megalopolis. What does Islam have to offer that's better than sewers? What does the Left offer that's better than clean water? These poisoners of the people's minds are a filthy disgrace. Modernity gives us sewers. I love sewers. In fact, I love them so much that I want a doormat of a sewer cover for my front door.

Here's a bit from the first story to pop up, a bit from wikipedia:

Manhole cover theft is the phenomenon of manhole covers being stolen, usually for resale as scrap. Long considered to be a childish prank in the United States, this type of theft is often expensive to municipalities, and dangerous to their residents.

It first became a serious problem in India and China, where missing manhole covers have caused eight deaths so far. Hundreds of manhole covers are stolen in the city of Bangalore, India every month. In Newham, East London, nearly 200 grates and covers were stolen.

In the city of Calcutta, India more than 10,000 manhole covers were taken in two months. These were replaced with concrete covers, but these were also stolen, this time for the iron rods inside them. The thieves were believed to be buying lottery tickets with the money.

Missing covers and grates may cause disappearances, deaths, and damage to vehicles. According to China's Xinhua news agency, about "240,000 manhole and street-drain covers were stolen in Beijing in 2004."


I risked death one afternoon when I got a bedsheet, a role of tape, and a block of black rubbing wax and went onto the street to get a print of a manhole cover in Yaffo, Israel of a "Palestinian Mandate" manhole cover. The original is a lovely piece of work. for more images of manhole covers, click here to see Ruavista's collection of photos.

Ruavista text below.

Manhole covers are among the urban landscape's most lasting features. They are made of extremely durable materials since their placement exposes them to wear. They have also endured because unlike gas street lamps, manhole covers remain useful and, more than 100 years after their installation, continue to fulfil their function perfectly.

Traditional manholes covers are round and decorated with geometric designs. They often bear inscriptions. The round shape requires less space than a square and makes handling easier. Once removed, the cover can be transported by rolling. Decorations serve as identification. In English-speaking countries, manhole covers were embossed and those covering telephone networks bore hexagonal designs. Designs also provide a non-slip surface on the sidewalk or roadway. Manhole covers offer living testimony to the industrial artistry of the second half of the 19th century as many of the covers still seen today on the sidewalks of European and North American cities date from that period. London, capital of the world's first industrialized country, is undoubtedly the most beautiful open-air museum. The variety and beauty of manhole cover designs are unparalleled. Many covers date from the second half of 19th century, when electric, gas and telephone service became available in the city. Subterranean galleries were necessary to install the infrastructure underground and access for maintenance had to be provided.

Drainage work began in 1847 but manhole covers were not installed for several years. Authorities initially rejected the system for fear that they would allow deadly gases to escape. (Before the manhole cover system was adopted, maintenance could only be performed after making holes in the galleries and sealing them when the work was completed.)



2 Following the second major Cholera outbreak, in 1847, the Government was propelled into the introduction of the 'Public Health Act, 1848'. This Act created a General Board of Health (Edwin Chadwick was one of its three members). During its five years existence, the Board was empowered to provide sewerage systems for the water-borne collection of domestic wates. A Medical Officer of Health could also be appointed. Despite the patent need for public health schemes, the vested interests of landowners and others formed a vociferous lobby against the granting of the necessary powers to any public body. When the Board of Health was abolished, the 'Times' concluded that "the English People would prefer to take the chance of Cholera, rather than be bullied into health". The same newspaper called the 1848 Act "a reckless invasion of property and liberty". Even so, the Act was only mandatory in towns where the death rate was greater than 22 per thousand of population or where 10% of ratepayers petitioned for its adoption. After the demise of the Board of Health, the Privy Council was made responsible for public health (1858) and John Simon was appointed as Medical Officer.

A Glimpse Into London's Early Sewers
Reprinted from Cleaner magazine

Sewer means "seaward" in Old English. London's sewers were open ditches sloped
slightly to drain human wastes toward the River Thames, and ultimately into
the sea. Sewer ditches quickly filled with garbage and human wastes, which
overflowed onto streets, into houses and marketplaces throughout London.
By the late 1500s, King Henry VIII wrote an edict which made each
householder responsible for clearing the sewer passing by their dwelling.
The King also created a special Commission of Sewers to enforce these
rules. However, no money was provided to pay its members. Therefore, the
Commission was not installed until 1622, when it was decided that fines for
non-compliance could be used to fund its activities....

By the early 18th Century nearly every residence had a cesspit beneath
the floors. In the best of homes the nauseating stench permeated the most
elegant parlor. Indoor odors were often worse than of the garbage- and manure-
filled streets. While noxious fumes were ignored by most people, it was fear
of "night air" laden with coal smoke and sulfurous industrial fogs which
alarmed the City dweller....

By the early 18th Century nearly every residence had a cesspit beneath
the floors. In the best of homes the nauseating stench permeated the most
elegant parlor. Indoor odors were often worse than of the garbage- and manure-
filled streets....

Doors and windows of homes and factories were sealed shut at sunset to
protect occupants form entry of the feared "night air." Entire families and
crews of workers died of mysterious "asphyxiation" during the night. Doctors
had no explanation for lingering illnesses and these sudden "miasmas"
occurring in the City. Vivid descriptions of horrible deaths were routinely
reported at Commission hearings and in the London tabloids.
Most fatalities and injuries described were consistent with asphyxiation
by hydrogen sulfide or oxygen deficiency or methane explosions.

Draining London's Sewage Swamp

The streets of London lie 30 feet below the surface of the Thames at high tide. The city housed more than two million people in crowded conditions and the situation was deteriorating daily. Epidemics of cholera, typhus, "consumption" and other undefined maladies plagued the City over at least four centuries. Edwin Chadwick, a sanitary reformer of the era, struggled with upper class apathy toward these horrible conditions. Chadwick explored sewers, questioned slum dwellers, and turned out hundreds of reports to the Commission. He experimented with the benefits of obtaining pure water from lakes and reservoirs, rather than the fetid Thames. His Public Health Act ultimately reversed the tide of death. He chastised residents of London for defying the Law of Moses, often pointing out that it "forbade even an open camp be defiled with human ordure, and expressly ordained that it should be deposited at a distance and immediately covered with soil." He attacked the greed of homeowners stating: "Early in the progress of these investigations, the proposed system of cleansing, by removal of the ordure in suspension in waste, was objected to on the grounds of supposed loss of money received for manure." ... Meanwhile, engineers were hard at work devising a system of drainage which would carry the wastes of 2 million people out of the area, in compliance with Mosaic law. Commissioners allowed experimentation with the "soil-pan or watercloset principle" and the "tubular mode of drainage" in cities and hamlets throughout England. Though Sir Thomas Crapper had not perfected his invention, the Commission had received hundreds of less functional designs for its consideration. The "water closet" concept was, as yet, unwieldy. A complete system of "tubular drains" were yet to be constructed to "carry immediately away ass solid or semi-solid matter," as the Commissioned envisioned. In 1858 "The Great Stink," from the backed up Thames, caused thousands to flee the City, while Parliament remained in session. Windows of the parliament building were draped with curtains soaked in chloride of lime, to prevent closing of the Government. Upper class residents fled the city or drenched sheets with perfumes to mask the odor from the outside....

Sewers are beautiful. There are those who try to waste my time talking about greenhouse gasses and organic food. Spare me. Talk to me about sewers.

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