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Rose George  

Author, A Life Removed, The Big Necessity, Ninety Percent of Everything

As the author of The Big Necessity, The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, British journalist Rose George brought a global perspective to toileting practices and behaviors on a world-wide basis. Her book describes the cultural, bacteriological and psychological landscape of this rarely explored topic, citing examples from London to Johannesburg to Mumbai to Moscow. The Economist judged the book to be the best science publication of 2008, while The New York Times called it "always articulate and persuasive," and "an extraordinary book."

Publisher's Weekly said, "With irreverence and pungent detail, George breaks the embarrassed silence over the economic, political, social and environmental problems of human waste disposal… an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior."

George's previous book, A Life Removed: Hunting for Refuge in the Modern World, focuses on the realities of life as a refugee in Liberia. The book was longlisted for the Lettre Ulysses reportage prize and the Glasgow Herald said, "George's exploration of what it means, in practical terms, to be a refugee in some of the most harsh areas of the world is truly compelling."

George began writing in 1994, as an intern at The Nation magazine in New York. Later, she became senior editor and writer at COLORS magazine, the bilingual "global magazine about local cultures" published in 80 countries. Since 1999 she has been a freelance journalist, contributing to The New York Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Economist and many other publications. She has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo, on topics ranging from Saddam Hussein's birthday party to the alternative world cup soccer final in Bhutan.

Her latest book is "Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car and Food on Your Plate." Sharply informative and entertaining, Ninety Percent of Everything reveals the workings and perils of an unseen world that holds the key to our economy, our environment, and our very civilization.

Speech Topics


The Big Necessity

No one gives much thought to sanitation—until it’s not working. As author of the book The Big Necessity, Rose George takes audiences on a fascinating journey through its evolution (did you know that high heeled shoes date back to the time when chamber pots were emptied into the streets?)to the public health issues we still face today. George shows how even advanced technology doesn’t always meet basic needs, and explores how discussions on the importance of clean drinking water and the eradication of infectious diseases euphemistically address how to handle human waste. From the depths of the world's oldest surviving urban sewers in to Japan's robo-toilet revolution, George leads an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior.

Ninety Percent of Everything

On ship-tracking websites, the waters are black with dots. Each dot is a ship; each ship is laden with boxes; each box is laden with goods. In postindustrial economies, we no longer produce but buy. We buy, so we must ship. Without shipping there would be no clothes, food, paper, or fuel. Without all those dots, the world would not work.

Freight shipping has been no less revolutionary than the printing press or the Internet, yet it is all but invisible. Away from public scrutiny, shipping revels in suspect practices, dubious operators, and a shady system of “flags of convenience.” Infesting our waters, poisoning our air, and a prime culprit of acoustic pollution, shipping is environmentally indefensible. And then there are the pirates.

Rose George, acclaimed chronicler of what we would rather ignore, sails from Rotterdam to Suez to Singapore on ships the length of football fields and the height of Niagara Falls; she patrols the Indian Ocean with an anti-piracy task force; she joins seafaring chaplains, and investigates fishing trawlers and the harm they are inflicting on endangered whales. Sharply informative and entertaining, Ninety Percent of Everything reveals the workings and perils of an unseen world that holds the key to our economy, our environment, and our very civilization.

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