Fatberg, Frankenburger and the power of disgust

Clearly our disgust impulse is no basis for ethical decisions, but as we’ve learned this week, acknowledging that doesn’t make the revulsion any easier to overcome.

Share

Gordon Haliwood, waste contracts supervisor for Thames Water was Captain Ahab and the ‘fatberg’ was his Moby Dick. Earlier this week, after three nights in the sewers, Haliwood and his crew finally dislodged this London bus-sized monstrosity from pipes under Kingston in Surrey. “We’ve never seen a single, congealed lump of lard this big clogging our sewers before,” he said.

In a story rich with revolting detail – the used wet wipes, the general ‘congealing’ - it was Haliwood’s word ‘lard’ that posed the most serious challenge to my gag reflex. The comparison to a food stuff was too much.

Fortunately, no one was seriously suggesting a fatberg feast. The suggestion that we chow down on this week’s second most revolting news item, however, couldn’t be more serious. The petri-dish grown meat, dubbed ‘Frankenburger’ could solve global hunger and drastically reduce the quantities of climate-changing gas released into the atmosphere. Yet so far the public’s considered reaction is best summed up as “Ew, gross.” Clearly this impulse is no basis for ethical decisions, but as we’ve learned this week, acknowledging that doesn’t make our revulsion any easier to overcome.

If there is no resisting the awesome power of disgust, it must instead be harnessed to motivate change. In this regard, and absolutely no other, Fatberg is a wonderful gift and its efficient destruction a wasted opportunity. At the very least, it should have been hoisted on to the back of a truck and paraded around the neighbouring streets, so the people of Kingston might be forced to confront this monster of their own creation.

Boris and the Goblin

While Thames Water battled Surrey’s subterranean monsters, above-ground, the London Mayor was fending off a “Gollum-like creature” of his own. You don’t have to be a Boris-hater to find the story of his torment at RideLondon 100 pleasing. Johnson was cycling along an arduous stretch when a man later identified as Bob Carter, 52 – cycled alongside him and began offering  such ‘encouragement’ as “Put your back into it, you fat bastard”. An unrepentant Carter later insisted he was only concerned for the “sickly” Mayor.

Amid a complicated debate about a particularly nasty sort of online abuse, it’s comforting to note that some still prefer the nostalgic pleasures of cheeking a public figure face-to-face. Boris obviously saw the funny side and has dubbed Carter ‘the Norwich Goblin’. I call that even.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Wages are on the rise (so long as you skew the figures)

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce

Jane Merrick
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal