National Geographic : 2017 Aug
PHOTO: PARI DUKOVIC THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED FOR LENGTH AND CLARITY. | FROM THE EDITOR | SANITATION Susan Goldberg: So let’s have a con- versation about poop. Matt Damon: Great. With the group’s name being Water.org, if we ever solve the access-to-clean-water side of water and sanitation, I wonder if the name would become [deleted].org... SG: I can’t print that! That’s pretty funny though. Seriously: In trying to report and photograph the story on sanitation that is in this issue [see page 94], it became clear that this is a hard thing to talk about for a lot of people. MD: Yes. If you talk about something like cancer or AIDS, even if you’re talking about the developing world, people in the developed world totally relate. We all have people who’ve battled one of those diseases, and it’s instantly relatable. But something like this just isn’t. Maybe we’ll have stories of grand- parents or great-grandparents who were going to the outhouse, but this is a prob- lem that largely has been solved in the developed world. We can’t really relate to something like open defecation, which is a huge issue in the developing world. SG: That’s even hard for some people to say aloud. One of the things we really try to do in our story is to show the impact of the lack of sanitation; maybe then you can get people to rally around. MD: It’s hard to get people to compre- hend the enormity of the problem—that 2.4 billion people lack adequate access to sanitation. More people have a cell phone than a toilet. You lose a kid under the age of five every 90 seconds because of lack of access to clean water and sani- tation. Those two really go hand in hand. SG: So what do you do? MD: The first hurdle to clear is to get people to understand that it’s an issue, and then the second is to try to make it easier to talk about. We can use humor. We had an idea of shooting a PSA [public service announcement] at some fabu- lous Hollywood celebrity’s house and I’d TALKING TOILETS WITH MATT DAMON He’s a famous, award-winning actor, producer, and screenwriter. But Matt Damon, 46, also is co-founder of Water.org, a nonprofit that promotes access to safe water and sanitation. I interviewed him in Washington, D.C., as he prepared to address leaders at the World Bank.