Saying that people are choosing the a cell phone over an outhouse is not the same as saying they’re choosing a cell phone over an indoor toilet. Maybe that’s the choice they’d make, if they had it—I don’t know! But as Kelly’s own account acknowledges, they don’t actually have that choice, and certainly not at anything like the same cost.
Indoor plumbing requires either electricity to pump the water, and a nearby well to pump it from, or a connection to a public system with enough pressure to force the water high enough to flush your toilet. That’s a lot of power, not a trickle charge off of a small solar cell; I believe my great grandparents used a gasoline generator when they installed indoor plumbing in the mid-thirties. Gasoline generators are fairly expensive, as is the gasoline to run them, and I gather that they were only able to do it because their newly married son (my grandfather) saved up to help pay the installation cost, and then paid them rent that covered the cost of the fuel. Most farmers, I am told, waited until rural electrification brought them grid power.Mark also pointed out just how important these elements of infrastructure were in transforming American society. It's humbling to think about just how much effort was required to actually do all of these things (and concerning that infrastructure moves much slower today).
However, I am hoping that the shift to an information based economy will have other benefits. In some sense, there is a possibility that information, stored as pixels, could be something of real value (think of books or television programs) yet require very little resources to create. In that sense maybe we could end up being happier (overall) while using less resources.
That being said, I have also used an outhouse and have absolutely no interest in giving up my indoor plumbing. I am not even all that happy camping, unless there is a rest area in the middle of the campground with flush toilets (essential) and showers (highly desierable).