Poop in the Loop and Other Big Cities

Yves here. While this is a reader pet peeve, horse dumps are a bona fide issue in American cities. And aside from the aesthetic and potential health cost of horse dumps, it’s also a potential resource being squandered. The soil in Birmingham, Alabama isn’t all that hot; it’s red from iron deposits. Every year, my father would collect a load of “zoo doo” from the Birmingham Zoo to use in his vegetable garden.

By Stephen T. Ziliak, Professor of Economics at Roosevelt University and lead author of the critically acclaimed book, The Cult of Statistical Significance. His popular essay on “Haiku Economics” was featured in Who Reads Poetry: 50 Views from Poetry Magazine (University of Chicago Press, 2017; eds. Fred Sasaki and Don Share)

Bus stop near Michigan Ave and Congress
We’ve heard a lot about Goop in the Loop—Gwyneth Paltrow’s controversial “lifestyle” pop up here in Chicago. But is anyone curious about those big piles of “poop” in the Loop? Poop in Chicago, period, it’s popping up everywhere.

I’ve gathered some samples in an ethnographic vein. For the past few weeks, during afternoon walks, I’ve employed my (ahem) iPhone 5 to photograph the fresh and ancient piles. (I couldn’t help it: no joke, the shit is everywhere.) The photos included here are a representative selection from over a hundred I’ve taken in the South Loop and Grant Park area.

So far as one can surmise, most of the piles have not been squeezed out by runaway horses or John Wayne’s men. The Dave Matthews Band is, this time, seemingly innocent. No, this poop comes primarily from Chicago’s police horses – sitting, rotting, infecting and spreading for up to weeks at a time. Even Rahm Emmanuel – the city’s mayor – and Chief of Police Eddie Johnson will have to admit: that’s real horseshit.

Spirit Garden, Michigan Avenue
Regardless, why is there so much poop on the sidewalks of Chicago? Or New York, or San Francisco, or other big city?

An economist would say that since there is no price assigned to horse poop it (the economic “bad”) is oversupplied. People (police, in this case) behave as if there is zero price – zero cost – to their action. Thus the traffic jam which occurs when drivers gooseneck. (You really should stop.) Thus “Bubbly creek” in the Chicago River (ditto). Thus racism and sexism in the workplace (ditto). Thus texting while driving (ditto). Thus poop in the Loop, a tragedy of the commons. In common vernacular, it’s called “dumping” and “running”.

Still life with fast food bag on a Chicago Bears game day

View of pedestrian bridge near Michigan Avenue and Balbo
Our city is now a canvas, the aesthetic surface, of dump and run. Some areas, such as the sidewalks around Michigan Avenue and Balbo, are literally painted with poop.

Congress Parkway pedestrian bridge, near Michigan Avenue

Same vintage, all spread out, one week later

Big mistake, though the biggest costs are often unseen. According to The Practical Horseman, a professional’s magazine and official education partner to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, best practice horse manure management is essential. Hazards of unmanaged horse manure include:

 Spread of parasites and worms Manure often contains the eggs of roundworms and other internal parasites. These in turn can contaminate water, soil, and other animals.
 Dinner invitation to rats and other pests “Manure piles are prime breeding grounds for stable flies, face flies, houseflies and several other types. They can also become cozy burrowing sites for rats” (a major problem already).
 Damage to local soil and water quality Leeching. Nuf said.
 Damage to aesthetics, property, and society “The sight of a manure pile won’t do much for your property value or your relations with neighbors, and neither will the smell. A typical pile produces nasty byproducts like methane gas as the manure slowly molders inside it.”

Not to mention its spread by shoes, hands, strollers, and bicycle wheels. “Unless it’s properly managed, horse manure can pose risks to the environment and to health,” writes Carrie Swanson, coauthor of a technical paper on “Horse Manure Management

What to do? As my late college mentor Roy Gardner and Indiana University coauthors James Walker and Elinor Ostrom (who won the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on the commons) have shown, “While the tragedy of the commons is real, there are many instances where institutions develop to protect against overexploitation.” Sadly in Chicago and in most big cities Ostrom’s, Gardner’s, and Walker’s “voluntary, self-governed commons” – an institutional mix of self-imposed rewards and punishments – is scarcely visible on the horizon.

An expensive and uncertain solution would be to install tax-financed “horse porta-potties”, one every third block, say. Like we had in the 19th century, only with a lot more cigar butts.

The manure, assuming it is actually deposited in the potty and is not diseased, could be stockpiled for composting. Trouble is, the typical 1,000 pound horse produces some 50 pounds of manure per day. (Per day, I repeat.) For one horse, according to Swanson’s data, that adds up to more than 8.5 tons of poop per year. Chicago employs horses daily by the dozens. That’s a lot of Sunday funny pages to read, not to mention porta-potties to build and maintain.

Meantime, on these same city streets, unscooped dog poop can fetch a $50.00 fine for each offense (compare at $250.00 in New York City and $320.00 in San Francisco: just saying Chicago.)

Luxe – an apartment building in Chicago’s fashionable West Loop – has found a fairly cheap and accurate solution for tracking unmanaged dog poop on Luxe property. At move-in time resident dogs are given a DNA “cheek swab”; essentially, a quick Q-tip in the mouth. Unmanaged dog poop can then be matched to the doggy’s owner.

A cheaper solution yet – though possibly subject to cheating by district line hopping – would be to assess progressive fines on officers who dump and run from unmanaged poop, whether on or off duty. Still, even that solution requires a clean-up method, such as City Hall hiring a full time pooper scooper. (Not a bad idea.

Finally, who wouldn’t love to see horses wearing cute little horsie diapers? Pink pony, Superman, perhaps a portrait of the man-child as a young golfer. (Not so cute.)

It’s changing-time, regardless. Over two years ago, a local resident’s video was broadcast by CBS Local. The video shows Chicago police officers at Jackson Park, shoveling manure from the back of a trailer and tossing it onto a random patch of grass, close to the street curb.

Among other negatives are spoiled views and photographs of what is arguably the greatest skyline in the nation. “Look, Mom: That’s Millennium Park, that’s the Art Institute, and this is a great big pile of poop.”

Parading police around the city on horseback appears at the end of the day to be purely symbolic, an example of what Thorstein Veblen, author of The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), called “invidious distinction” or (literally in this case) “conspicuous waste.” A pointless exercise of power. On top of gross and dangerous and inefficient, all this poop in the Loop is plain dumb. Still, ironically, to get to the right solution we’ll have to start by giving a poop.

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  1. The Rev Kev

    At least it is not as bad as “The Great Horse Manure Crisis of 1894” (http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/Great-Horse-Manure-Crisis-of-1894/). New York had their own problems back then (https://99percentinvisible.org/article/cities-paved-dung-urban-design-great-horse-manure-crisis-1894/) and it was only the introduction of autos that made most of the problem disappear. The only thing was that disease ridden horse dung was supplanted with lead from gasoline fumes building up in the environment.
    Turns out that pooping police horses are an international concern-

    1. nonsense factory

      There’s a good article on the history of using tetraethyl lead in gasoline (invented as an anti-knock additive in 1921); ethanol was originally added to gasoline (about 5-10% by volume) for the same antiknock purpose, but that mean giving market share to the farm-based ethanol industry, which Rockefeller didn’t like.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Would you believe that the same jerk who helped think up the bright idea of putting lead in gasoline – Charles F. Kettering – was also responsible for coming up with the bright idea of putting Freon in refrigerators & air-conditioners? Just to boot, he even developed the world’s first aerial missile back in 1918. Just imagine his environmental legacy but I believe that he died rich and honoured.

        1. Louis Fyne

          The question writers at UK comedy-quiz show QI mocked Kettering as literally the deadliest human in history.

          I wish I could remember which episode it was—-it was one when Stephen Fry was still presenting.

          1. Hayek's Heelbiter

            Alas, I’m afraid that honor would actually have to go to Ed Bernays, who in 1929 convinced women that it was cool to smoke in public, tipping the scales in his favor.

            From: http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/topic/smokings-death-toll/

            Globally, tobacco use killed 100 million people in the 20th century, much more than all deaths in World Wars I and II combined. Tobacco-related deaths will number around 1 billion in the 21st century if current smoking patterns continue. Among middle-aged persons, tobacco use is estimated to be the most important risk factor for premature death in men and the second most important risk factor in women (following high blood pressure) in 2010–2025.

            Ps. This is the on screen date below POST COMMENT button and my handle.

            January 8, 4181 at 3:15 pm

            You have no idea how delighted I am to have another two centuries added to my lifespan!

  2. John A

    This has been one of my pet gripes for years. Gradually dog owners have been ‘shamed’ into scooping up poop, but never a word is said about horse manure. As a child, I remember when a horse drawn cart, be it milkman, rag and bone man or similar would leave behind manure, housewives would run out to collect it to use on their gardens. These days, most of those gardens are concreted over for car drives and the only horses are police horses and occasional tourist type novelty horses. Plus, on the edge of towns, stables for horse and pony riders who are quick to complain about any car that drives too fast, but never stop to pick up any poop.
    Once, while sunbathing next to a fast flowing but shallow river in south of France, a group of pony trekkers came by to ford the river. More than one of the horses shat straight into the water and the dung was swept downstream where plenty of families with small children were paddling. Again, no rider made the slightest motion to even acknowledge this. Extremely offputting, to say the least. At least in France there is some revenge in the ready availability of horse meat that I regularly eat both because it is lean and delicious, but also a chance to get a bit of my own back.

    1. cocomaan

      Anyone wealthy enough to own a horse in 2017 thinks their s*** don’t stank.

      It’s a matter of looking down on the plebes from the back of a high horse.

      1. Wukchumni

        We were at the annual NPS backcountry packers dinner/party @ Sequoia NP a few years ago, and they had an auction, and about the only item that didn’t sell was a 4 year old gelding, a nice rider, etc. that couldn’t entice a bid of $100, which is probably what a horse was worth in the days before cars, in back then dollar worth, which would be closer to $3,000 in today’s terms. And then I was offered a horse by a local rancher for free, and I demurred and she said “you know they make good eating, too.”.

        It’s the $3-5k a year expenditure on feed and vet bills, etc. that makes them so unattractive, and they can’t sit on your lap, like one of my cats is doing now.

        A friend has a backhoe and one of the jobs he hates-but pays the bills, is burying a dead horse, as our soil is laden with rocks underfoot, and it might take a few tries to find a suitable place, and then you have to grab Mr Ed and plop him down and cover him up.

        Lets just say, an expired goldfish is an easier burial, at sea.

  3. ambrit

    Forgotten here, or perhaps just not considered is the real value horses add to policing abilities on streets, especially in crowd situations. Horses are large. A mounted policeman or woman, can intimidate and ‘bulldog’ unruly people with ease. Consider it an “organic” force multiplier for police.
    As for the “Sanitation Workers” needed to scoop up the offending piles, well, that would be a source of employment, no? Thus, the “Drown it in a Bathtub” crowd can proudly say that they have gone ‘organic’ in their methodologies.

  4. Amfortas the Hippie

    as a lifelong organic farmer, I love horse-sh*t above all other manures.
    where i live it’s relatively hard to get, as our local horse-people don’t stable their horses.(ie: the poop is scattered all over the fields.)
    chicken manure is too “hot”(large proportion of nitrogen and ammonia), goose poop is wonderful, but is also scattered due to husbandry practices. Cow manure is abundant and free at the 3 feed lots, but is contaminated by “persistent herbicides” and/or the crap they feed the confined cows(one feedlot uses stale bread and old fritos; the manure from that operation prevents the growth of even sticker-burs for at least 15 years(thankfully, I had the foresight not to spread this around, being suspicious of it’s consistency and greasiness.)>
    The world is currently undergoing a terrible loss of topsoil…largely due to industrial “farming” practices. Manure is an essential ingredient in repairing that damage.
    it is a terrible shame that good manure is so wasted…it’s even worse, and shows our disconnection from nature, that an article like this can have so many nodding in agreement.
    when my boys were little, and expressed disgust at the necessary involvement with manure that a farm entails, I’d tell them that “poop is dirt that ain’t done cooking yet”.
    we would do well to overcome our aversion to rationally dealing with excrement.
    (and, yes. I am an advocate of composting toilets and an unrepentant evangelist for “sewer gas”(methane=” natural gas”, which is a marketing term for fossilised poop gas)

    1. a different chris

      Thanks. People should also note that what comes out of the rear end of a horse is different in kind, not just degree from humans/dogs etc. They don’t eat meat. They don’t have a cows/goats ability to churn things up into nothingness, but they still do a pretty impressive job of breaking down what they eat.

      And police horses are highly unlikely to have parasites, et al. They aren’t wild Mustangs, you know?

      I’m not saying the lack of shoveling is not a problem that needs to be addressed. But the other hysterics….

      1. ArcadiaMommy

        Horse poop doesn’t bother me. I come across a lot more dog poop (super gross) than horse poop. Horses are a great tool for peaceful law enforcement tactics IMO. The cops have to keep their emotions, etc under control when they are with their horse – doesn’t this sound positive? My father regularly rode horses as part of his daily patrol because the horses could get to places that a police car can’t get to. My sense is also that horses are similar to other pets in that they have a calming influence on people around them in crowd control situations. My boys love seeing the mounted officers in old town because they get to pet the horses and talk to the officers about what the horses like to do. Yes the manure needs to be dealt with but what city doesn’t have a composting program that the horse poop can go to? That’s the real problem.

      2. Synoia

        And police horses are highly unlikely to have parasites, et al

        True. The parasites run for office.

          1. wilroncanada

            The parasites are in the saddles, not under them.
            The Parisites are in France.
            And horse feed is often contaminated with drugs, and/or herbicides, according to organic gardening friends.
            On the other hand, our goat manure was fantastic.

    2. jefemt

      We had a local guy making organic soil amendment, with horse manure. Unfortunately, he got hold of some poop that had residual broad-based herbicides used on the alfalfa and hay feed, and the hopeful aspiring gardeners in the Valley were shocked and devastated to see their raised beds become death-beds. He bought everyone replacement soil, which put him out of business. Sad and ironic-
      We are what we eat- be aware of what the animals have been ingesting if you go for the poop with high hopes and expectations. Grass-fed free range goats, alpacas, llamas, and chickens are generally safer bets.

    3. MtnLife

      I try to avoid horse manure if I can. Undesirable seeds pass through horses unmolested. Not an issue if used on larger perennials but a total pain if you are trying to grow micro greens. I prefer rabbit, chicken, and sheep. I layer my coop with wood shavings (from my woodworking business) and wood chips (from my arborist work). Decomposing wood products leach nitrogen and since chicken manure has a little too much the composted product ends up as well balanced ‘black gold’. Rabbit and sheep manure doesn’t need to be composted and tend to have lower amounts of undesirable seeds. Chicken manure is practically seed free.

      I like composting toilets and digesters as well. When I get around to building the home that I want I would really like to run a vermicomposting setup.

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        aye. I forgot about rabbits.
        we raised them back home, but have yet to incorporate them out here.(one can do only so much)
        same with earthworm farming.
        good stuff.
        on the “persistent herbicides”. my boys and their buddies and i wheelbarrowed about 3 tons of rotted cow manure into the back garden at the house in town, and i was anticipating wonders come spring.
        But the tomatoes looked just like 2-4-D had been applied.
        (there was no chance of that)…and I couldn’t figure it out.
        Then i stumbled on the Mother Earth article about these substances, rooted around on the web, and even called the EPA when I determined that my symptoms matched.
        EPA guy was sympathetic, but ultimately unhelpful. the test for these chems in soil is “proprietary”, and costs a fortune, and EPA can only act when a sufficient number of Us file formal complaints.
        I handed out that info to every gardener I know,lol.
        and I also prevailed upon the owner of the feed store about the damage these chems were doing…he was horrified, having grown up composting for momma’s garden…and stopped carrying them.
        interestingly, in that manure, bermuda(“coastal”) grass grew like gangbusters.

        the only city in my county has a composting program at the landfill for yard waste and such…even sent a guy to get certified(at some expense). It’s low N and rather stick-filled, but I use it for a substrate, and top it off with compost(and leaves and coffee grounds and cheese rinds and moldy bread and buttermilk and old sour cream and out of date yogurt…)
        next year is our first full garden since we moved back out here.
        we’ll see what happens.
        this year, my half-as$ed attempts(busy finishing the house, and all) were all undone by a grasshopper explosion. even ate the garlic, right down into the ground.
        the fruit trees were only saved from them, ironically, by allowing/encouraging the grass to grow up tall around them…hiding them.
        boys and i ate quite a few fried hoppers(with butter and brown sugar) but wife put her foot down at actually making meals from them,lol.(apparently, they’re quite healthy)
        I’m ready for them this year, having acquired 2 dozen guinneas and an armory of Nosema Locustae.
        (and a few new hopper recipes)

    4. denmc

      I agree with every word of your comment Amfortas. Well rotted horse manure to me is worth more than gold, for what it gives to enrich the soil and the produce that we grow in it. We are indeed so out of touch with nature, virtually all of us. ‘The Spell of the Sensuous’ by David Abram, is not the easiest of reads, but I think describes very well what has happened to us. We are so disconnected that we are are still careering down the road, as fast if not faster to ecological disaster, even though what is likely to happen over the rest of this century is plain to see. Nakedcapitalism is for one thing a wonderful resource to connect with what is happening to our planet and what we are doing dreadfully wrong. And a brilliant platform for offering possible solutions too.Thank you all.

      Surely if horse poop that big of a problem in cities then it can be collected and used for energy generation, or at least properly and safely composted? It does depend how the horse has been kept and what it has been fed etc. I would have thought dog and cat poop is a much bigger problem as far as being a disease risk, especially as small children are more likely to find it.

      Here in Mid Wales the poop problem as far as human health is concerned is connected with dogs and therefore their owners, mainly in the towns. In the hills it’s sheep droppings that we walk through. Sheep generally have cleaner poop that cows, that’s for sure. As for horses some might be clean and some riddled with parasites, so it’s helpful to know it’s source.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The problem is that distribution costs. You can tell me horse poop is worth a lot to you, but what are you prepared to pay for it? I can pretty much guarantee that it is less than what it would cost to collect, store, and get it to you.

        1. denmc

          I can certainly see that has become over a long period of time the case in most places, especially cities. So your point is absolutely correct. Here is more space to store horse manure and I’m not meaning in big stables, but with single horse owners. Land is relatively not so much at a premium, incomes are low and not budged since 2008. So storage is not a problem and neither is finding someone who has horse manure to give away. I’d pay the mileage to pick it up any time and pay if I had to no doubt about that. I know it’s worth. This makes me realize how fortunate we are in this neck of the woods. Thank you for reminding me.

          The sheep farmers here reply on EU subsidies and yes most voted for brexit. There’s the wind, but little more to provide incomes. Ah, but there is the new diversification for small hill farmers that’s grown in the last two years.That is pheasant and partridge rearing, 20,000 at a time on average, most be shot by tourists, many from abroad paying silly money. I’m told 9 million birds in total in mid Wales last year, it all being organized by one company that was set up in this area two years ago.

          In the intensive pheasant and partridge rearing pens the poop is said to be a potential problem. When it gets dry and dusty it’s not good for the lungs and there are concerns with contamination of the soil below the pens. It is providing an extra and stable income to many local farmers though, whilst the craze lasts! It is crazy, but is only reflecting our world.

  5. Amfortas the Hippie

    and yes, i am aware of the,perhaps, perceived absurdity of penning a passionate pangyric for the potential of poop.
    I squat steadfastly on principal.

  6. Wukchumni

    Seeing a black bear in the High Sierra is often just happenstance, you could miss one by a minute, or even 10 seconds, and typically once sighted, the bruin doesn’t linger long, and beats an exit. I’d say my average encounter is no longer than 5 seconds typically.

    The best evidence is of course a pile of poop, and you don’t eat where you shit, so quite often you’ll see a pile on the trail, and if you think about it, for an animal, either dispensing #1 or #2 is a great way to send a message, like when you forgot to clean the cat litter box and it’s overflowing, so the moggies went to plan B, that sort of thing.

    The coolest scat is when a bear has been denning for a month or so, and the first missive comes out looking like a can of soup, quite distinctive.

    Well, I walked about 250 miles this summer, including a lot of off-trail, and I saw hardly any piles, as if da bears went on vacation. (no jokes about the fledgling Chicago gridiron team here, please)

    How bad was the news about bears?

    Around Labor Day, i’m hanging out with 4 other friends that also own cabins in the NP-which we’ve all spent quite a bit of time at, and one of em’ thrusts a smartphone in my face, with a week old pile of bear scat, and says “That’s the closest you’ll get to a bear this year” as none of us had seen one up to that point. (i’ve seen 6 since, all of the sudden there they were!)

  7. SubjectivObject

    Among the downsides unlisted by the featured equestrian is acclimation to and encouragement of same by disaffected humans
    Witness San Diego of late
    Yet another example of the protected class literally dumping their schitt on the rest of us.

  8. Carolinian

    In Charleston, SC, with many tourist carriages, the horses were eventually required to wear horse diapers. I don’t live there but I assume that’s still the case.

    And one can only imagine what it was like in the 19th century when all transportation involved horses. It is said that the smell of London due to this as well as poor sewage systems and unzoned factories was horrific.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Yes, that was one of the big arguments for cars, that they’d greatly improve the quality of city life. My father hated New York City, and I think that comes from visiting it as a child when the streets still had a lot of horse shit in them. Even into the 1930s, horses were still used for a lot of deliveries. My mother remembers seeing milk delivered by horse drawn cart, which the horse knowing where he was supposed to stop.

  9. Wukchumni

    We’ve really gotten away from riding horses, there must be a few hundred in town here and I hardly see a human astride their backside.

    When was the last time any of you rode one?

    For me, sometime in the early 80’s

    They strike me as giant pets that need big yards. All of the maintained trails in Sequoia NP are perfect for stock, but aside from NPS mule trains delivering and picking up @ various locations in the backcountry where 3 or 4 trail crews of 5 to 6 people are at, you almost never see private parties on horse, i’ve only seen a handful.

    1. ArcadiaMommy

      Riding horses is strenuous. Keeping horses is hard work. Barn, truck, trailer, vet, farrier, feed, equipment… all super expensive. Look at the average citizen, the effort and expense required to keep a horse is beyond their means.
      Horses aren’t like pets. They are pets and they need a lot of love and attention. I wish my dogs were as well behaved as the average horse.

      1. The Rev Kev

        They’re also expensive to keep when you add up their feed bills. You would not want to know how much it costs to feed the horses that we have here (no, we are not rich). Having said that, for some reason I always find countryside more appealing when you have a few horses grazing away. It’s almost a rhythm of nature thing and is relaxing to watch. Plus foals are adorable.

  10. Tomonthebeach

    What is more annoying; horseshit on the sidewalks of life which are avoidable, or bullshit in the politics of life which is not?

  11. elissa3

    Maybe the core question should be whether or not horses have a place in modern urban environments. As a former horse owner/rider I doubt that horses are particularly comfortable in a noisy, somewhat polluted setting where they must trod on asphalt or other hard surface. Police can use bikes or mopeds to get around quickly in places where cars are not possible.

    1. Synoia

      Best said with a cockney accent.

      It ain’t the hard, hard, unting
      that hurts the horses hooves,
      But the hammer, hammer, hammer
      on the hard hard road

      Asphalt has some give. Stone and concrete do not.

  12. Wukchumni

    For what it’s worth dept:

    In my experience, when a race horse took a dump in the post parade with rider up before the race, they always seemed to perform better.

  13. heresy101

    Everyone is missing the obvious solutions for this problem!

    The government is re-instituting debtor’s prison’s for the poor who can’t pay the costly fines that make them loose their jobs and end up in prison.

    As one who ran the Week-Ender Work Furlough Program (mostly DUI) 20 years ago, it would be easy enough to set up a program for those that would end up in jail to be the human pooper-scooper under the eye of the police on horses. Credit them at the minimum wage, maybe higher, to work off their fines. At least this way there would be less need for jails and prisons for those that can’t pay.

  14. JamesG

    In my native city of New York there is an occasional kerfuffle in the press about possibly making the Central Park horses that pull tourists’ carriages “wear diapers.” The ignoramuses writing for the papers make idiots of themselves ridiculing the possibility.

    In Lexington Virginia where I now live there’s a horse-drawn carriage in which tourists are driven by local sites of interest. The horse is equipped with a leather “poop catcher.” Problem solved. Not a diaper.

  15. McKillop

    Where does the feces and urine of dogs end up? Where the euphemistically named litter of cats? Where the 3:a.m. disposal of babies’ disposable diapers? Or our own flushed waste?
    For years I have been inundated with warnings of chemicals re-combined to present us with poison. I’ve also seen men and women who have disposed of themselves -last agents in a long line- on city sidewalks to beg. One man I saw took up room from Toronto’s most pricey real-estate (South-west corner of Bay St. and Queen, during rush hour) . He was covered in filthy castoff clothing but presented no great obstacle to those fellow citizens who skirted around him.
    Cleaning up horse feces seems to be a reasonable and reasonably easy task. Cleaning up the other problems also seems reasonable for citizens of good will.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is the economists’ “assume a can opener” fallacy. Did you miss the stats in the article on how much a typical horse dumps in a year, and how it would require more horse Port-a-Pottties than you’d think to hold them?

      As for dog urine, in cities, building owners hose down the sidewalks a couple of times a week as part of maintenance. They’d do it anyhow, but I assume they do it more often due to dog urine, since a city like NYC would get ripe in the summer during a dry spell if the sidewalks weren’t hosed down.

      1. McKillop

        Is your reply addressed to my comment? If so, I can only answer by writing:
        The horses deposit 8.5 pounds per evacuation, 50 pounds a day: the yearly total needn’t be cleaned up only annually. A record of horse patrols must be kept, making it easier to have crews with vacuum machines scoop the poop. It’s done a parks for geese and garbage.
        The people who either cause the problem or benefit from the solution should pay. I believe that a state or county or country should clean up after themselves. And not by dumping waste and poison into watersystems or landfillsites or warming sites aand soup kitchens.
        If the waste is not removed it is because, I’d think, no one in authority wants to pay the cost. If other problems are allowed to remain unaddressed, I’d consider the cause to be similar.
        Is “good will’ the can opener? Or is the problem nothing more than a pet peeve?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          This is yet more “assume a can opener”.

          Police horses have a large range and will go where the need is. Pray tell how are your horse poop collectors supposed to find where the horses have dumped? Until it is cleaned up, it is a public nuisance.

          By contrast, with geese, only particular areas are cleaned up. And I can tell you that most geese landing spots are NOT cleaned up, so you acting as if this practice is normal or common is a misrepresentation.

  16. Jean

    Millions of dog owners conscientiously pick up and embalm their pets’ feces in plastic bags that are tied shut and then end up as methane bombs in landfills.

    Here in San Francisco the ongoing problem is human feces in doorways, stairwells and other public places. What we wouldn’t give for a little horseshit.

    Golden Gate Park, once dozens of square miles of sand dunes, was made fertile by decades of manure dumping and leaf mulching.

  17. 3.14e-9

    In medieval times, manure was a status symbol. Literally, the richer you were, the more shit you owned.

    Manure was so highly valued as a fertilizer that property owners fought over whose side of the road the droppings of a passing horse or oxen fell on. Lords of estates had more manure, because they had more livestock, but if they ran out, they took it from the peasants. Without adequate manure for their own plots, the peasants either ate lower-quality food or starved.

    If manure were that highly prized today, commodities trading might have a new category. Imagine “dung futures.” Maybe the banksters would even go out in the streets themselves and shovel up shit instead of shoveling it out.

    1. Oregoncharles

      there is such a thing; I talked with somebody who traded in it – actually, I think, finding buyers for the actual manure. Yes, it’s quite valuable. When I talked with her, she was a graduate student in environmental studies. Figured she might as well know what she was doing.

  18. Oregoncharles

    Urban horse manure was the foundation of French Intensive gardening, which fed the city of Paris for hundreds of years. Remember the “street sweepers” in old movies, guys that patrolled with a broom, a shovel, and a large bin on wheels? What do you think they were picking up?

    Basic environmentalism: pollution is a resource in the wrong place.

    I see a discussion, further up, of the cost of getting it to where it’s valued. In this case, that’s the cost of cleaning the streets. For a parallel example, I’ve purchased tons of composted yard waste, a lot of it the leaves they collect off the streets. Actually, I and others collect the leaves directly, too, since they’re arranged in handy piles.

    1. 3.14e-9

      Reading your comment made me recall a tour I had years ago of a mushroom plant, near Chattanooga IIRC. The owner was proudly describing how he trucked in manure from a Kentucky thoroughbred farm that had bred a Triple Crown winner, or something like that. They bring in the bedding, straw mixed with manure, and put it through some kind of sterilization process.

      I just did a search to see if I could find anything about it, and found this story about getting rid of manure at Churchill Downs, which stables 1,400 horses a year. They experimented with bagging and selling it, with no luck, and then drew interest from mushroom growers. Now they sell it to businesses in Lexington that then send it by tractor trailer loads to Tennessee.


      According to the Chicago Police website, they have 32 horses. That’s a far cry from Churchill Downs, but it’s still tons of manure. (I wonder how they dispose of the stable bedding.)

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Too bad so many cities are too densely built for this. It might work in London, which has many small parks. Or if more apartment buildings would allow for rooftop gardens.

      1. Oregoncharles

        The Paris gardens were in a ring – a greenbelt, if you will – around the city. Of course, the hay and oats had to go in, too, so there was a constant traffic both ways.

        That ring would be much further out, now. The only city with a real prospect of urban farming is Detroit, and maybe others that are shrinking. Mostly, it’s a job for the suburbs. I don’t know where the greenbelt starts around New York – must be pretty far out. I’m used to much smaller cities.

        That said, the amount of poop police and carriage horses produce should be pretty manageable. What are they doing with the manure from the stables? The real problem seems to be that they aren’t bothering to pick it up. Police arrogance, again?

        1. Oregoncharles

          This is the reason that we may revive horse farming, but electric vehicles will make more sense in the city.

  19. vidimi

    I’d gladly trade the dogshit problem in paris for Chicago’s horseshit problem. dogshit may be smaller, but is far more disgusting, poses a greater threat to your shoes and, by extension, your floors and carpets, and is more abundant.

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