Nigel and Bruce: the night-soil collectors

How can I to communicate the choices we have to climate-change-action-skeptics. This blog is practice working towards a story telling approach I would like to use more widely.

The year was 1859. The place a poor back street in London. Nigel and Bruce two night-soil collectors, contemplating their future, following the “Great Stink of London”.

Once upon a time there were two night-soil collectors. Both of their fathers had spent their lives collecting night-soil as had their fathers before them. But times were changing. Recently the Thames had became a chess-pit full of sewage, dead animals and waste. It stunk so much that Parliament had been closed. What’s worst, the recent cholera and typhoid epidemics were being blamed on dirty water. Contamination from chess-pits. There was talk of building a huge city wide sewage system, rendering their job obsolete. How would they earn a living if no-one needed night-soil collectors to clean up?

Nigel was concerned but he was reassured, his friend, who could read, told him that the new’s paper commentators said it was just too expensive, no one could afford to build a sewer system over the whole of London. And this thing about bacteria in water causing disease, “That’s just a theory” said his doctor. And, of course, no-one would stop people cheating and just dumping waste in the streets. We would always use the common land for waste, always had. His job was safe, even if his wife thought he smelt gross.

Bob wasn’t so sure. The Toffs were furious they could not boat on the river, and that they had had to  close Parliament. They will act. Bob thought hard. He’d noticed his friend the the brick layer had plenty of work. And Bob’s wife liked the smell of bricks and soil. He decided to became Bob the Bricky, and over time; especially, when the big London sewer projects were being built, he prospered. And his wife was happy with that.

Nigel did not prosper, and his family life became increasingly unpleasant. Like his smell.

We have the choice Nigel and Bob had. Will we chose to prosper, or to decline. Build a sustainable New Zealand or not. Our choice.

Kia Toa, Kia Ngakaunui

10 Amazing Facts About Cholera and The Great Stink of London

Re-Smelling London’s Great Stink Of 1858

(I don’t know the copyright on this picture: if here is a problem please ask me to take it down)>


About sustainabilityandbeauty

My passion is telling the stories of possibility, seeking a sustainable and beautiful future. My training is in science, chemistry, environmental science and teaching.
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