Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
What can underground pipes tell us about human eating habits and the spread or containment of disease, such as COVID-19? Why are sewers spitting out plastic and trash into waterways around the world? How are clogs getting gnarlier and more numerous? Jessica Leigh Hester leads readers through the past, present, and future of the system humans have created to deal with our own waste and argues that sewers can be seen as a mirror to the world above at a time when our behaviors are drastically reshaping the environment for the worse.
Sifting through the muck offers a fresh way to approach questions about urbanization, public health, infrastructure, ecology, sustainability, and consumerism- and what we value. Without understanding sewers, any attempt to steward the future is incomplete.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.