The two-faced TV

Stormy Monday

Feces powers Rwandan prison

That’s another of those headlines I really didn’t expect to write when I got out of bed today. Yet there it is: Last month, a prison that holds 120,000 prisoners charged with genocide in the Rwandan massacres of 1994 was given an Ashden environmental award for its innovative “biogas” program — which produces energy from the prisoners’ waste. Normally, to heat the water and power elecricity for the prison, the administration spends about $1 million a year in wood-fuel costs. Using the prisoners’ feces has cut that cost by 60%. As Wired News reports:

“It’s turning a negative social situation in terms of the Rwandan genocide into something that can benefit local people in the local area,” said Corrina Cordon, spokeswoman for the Ashden Awards.

Gotta love the corporatespeak: Referring to the slaughter of nearly 1,000,000 Rwandas with machetes as “a negative social situation”? Ahem. This is not to detract from the ingenuity of the prison engineers, nor the decision to give them an award. As Martin Wright, an Ashden Awards judge who travelled to Rwanda to inspect the system, noted: “I’ve sniffed the residue and there is no smell at all.”

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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