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“First clean water, now clean air” by Fin Moorhouse

Effective Altruism Forum (All audio)

Audio narrations from the Effective Altruism Forum, including curated posts and other great writing.



The excellent report from Rethink Priorities was my main source for this. Many of the substantial points I make are taken from it, though errors are my own. It’s worth reading! The authors are Gavriel Kleinwaks, Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, Jam Kraprayoon, and Josh Morrison.

Clean water

In the mid 19th century, London had a sewage problem. It relied on a patchwork of a few hundred sewers, of brick and wood, and hundreds of thousands of cesspits. The Thames — Londoners’ main source of drinking water — was near-opaque with waste. Here is Michael Faraday in an 1855 letter to The Times:

"Near the bridges the feculence rolled up in clouds so dense that they were visible at the surface even in water of this kind […] The smell was very bad, and common to the whole of the water. It was the same as that which now comes up from the gully holes in the streets. The whole river was for the time a real sewer […] If we neglect this subject, we cannot expect to do so with impunity; nor ought we to be surprised if, ere many years are over, a season give us sad proof of the folly of our carelessness."

Original article:


Narrated for the Effective Altruism Forum by TYPE III AUDIO.

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