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TECH: The movement behind the poop emoji, or Why talking #2 should be less taboo

I never realized the poop emoji had such a history.

Then again, many could say the same thing about the work it takes to get the poop out of wastewater: I never realized it had such a history.

Fast Company recently recounted how emojis—the tiny graphics that have become staples of the instant-messaging and social-media experience—came into existence, specifically the long but fascinating road Google traveled to bring the poop to the US and how it became the means of expression it is today.

The poop and emojis like it had origins in Japan in 1999, and the story examines how the cartoon expressions help tell stories and convey thoughts in ways that words can’t. The push to include the poop in earliest emoji offerings was hard-fought, and judging on its prevalence today, the argument to do so was well-founded.

There’s another relevant connection we see. The poop or poop-no-anim or poop-with-eye expressions all relate well to the work of wastewater treatment:

Sometimes poop isn’t easy to talk about. It can be unpleasant, or uncomfortable, or in some circumstances inappropriate.

But it’s life. It’s natural. We all think about it, which is exactly why the poop exists in the first place. And whether we call it by its name or use a poop instead, the topic is worth discussing.

It’s about health, our environment, our infrastructure, our society. More than 2 billion people worldwide lack proper sanitation, and the result is disease, death, and much more. If we’re uncomfortable talking about it, or don’t understand the work it takes to keep our water clean, it makes personal responsibility harder to embrace.

Clean water doesn’t come easy. It never has. That’s why we’ll keep talking about it with humor, honesty, brevity, all to raise awareness of the work it takes to protect our health and environment.