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The Manure Crisis of 1894

In the late nineteenth century, cities exploded with people. At the time, the predominant mode of transport was horses. Authorities were trying to figure out what to do with vast amounts of manure. Horses excrete around thirty pounds of feces daily. With tens of thousands of horses in the cities, the growing piles of waste were unsustainable.

The manure was often buried or transported to vacant lots. But the workers couldn't keep up. Sometimes the piles towered as high as thirty feet in the air. The Times newspaper warned, “In fifty years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

At the first international urban planning conference in 1898, the delegates agreed that society was ensnared in a severe waste management crisis. Analysts from around the globe debated the manure problem but had no viable solution. For some, the future looked bleak.

But while the authorities ominously debated the future, a solution to this problem was already underway. An American mechanic, Henry Ford, would solve the cities’ manure problem with the rollout of the automobile. As horses were increasingly replaced by cars, the feces crisis was resolved.

Many times, current problems will be solved by innovations that we haven't yet seen. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean that it isn't underway. Have confidence in the goodwill and ingenuity of humanity. God hasn't failed us yet.

-J.D. King

J.D. King is a blogger, speaker, and an emerging thought leader. He is the author of Shift: Leading in Transition, Why You’ve Been Duped into Believing that the World is Getting Worse, and other nonfiction works.

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