Ever think of why we don't compost ourselves when we go for the big reward? Sounds a little off, right?
Well, I don't think composting ourselves and growing food out of it would be appealing, but there is a purpose for all compost and perhaps there is a more environmental way than the common burial. Now I know this is a touchy subject that will skirt on religious beliefs, but with all due respect, let's leave religion out and look at this with an open mind.
It is morbid thinking of composting humans, but let's take a look at a common burial and you can decide which is more morbid. Once deceased, we prepare the body by removing the blood and filling with a preservative. The formaldehyde is injected only so we can view the body at a ceremony before the body starts to decompose. A lot of people may not know this, but you can elect to not be embalmed. If we do get embalmed, why don't we drain the embalming fluid after the ceremony and recycle it? After all it is a preservative, so it won't go bad. By embalming we are just asking for toxins in our water system.
In addition to preserving the body we use an enormous amount of resources to make coffins to bury ourselves, not to mention the exorbitant cost to the families of the deceased. The average cost of a burial is $6,000 to $8,000. We take wood (often exotic and endangered trees), metal, cement, and sealers and put together a vault to lock the body in and bury in the ground. The caskets are buried in a cement vault to prevent the ground from sinking in as decomposition progresses. It is unknown how long this system stays together underground or if it ever breaks down. Also, it is unknown how this toxic time capsule contributes to pollution. This technology is surely impressive if you are a Pharaoh, but in today's world I think we know better. Here are some statistics of what we bury along with our dead in one year in the United States.
- 30 million board feet of wood
- 90,272 tons of steel caskets
- 14,000 tons of steel vaults
- 2,700 tons of copper and bronze
- 1,636,000 tons of cement
- 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid (formaldehyde)
Maybe sending our loved ones off to the compost pile is a bit morbid and is probably as farfetched as launching bodies into outer space like Spock, but we could bury ourselves in a way that we would be contributing to the environment in a positive way.
Perhaps an inoculation of healthy bacteria and fungus to help aid in the digestion of our bodies would be advisable. On a recent Ted Talk, Jae Rhim Lee introduces her spandex like mushroom suit that is inoculated with mushroom spores to help aid the decomposition process. By positively selecting the organisms we want to use we can control how things are broken down and returned to the earth. Sounds crazy, but I think it is smart and responsible.
I wonder how many houses for the homeless we could have built with all the materials that we buried? Or how many people we could have fed with the extra money we saved by electing not to get the coffin made from exotic wood? Not to mention how we could have positively impacted our environment by burying people in a way that we would contribute to soil and plant growth.
I know when I die, I would like to be put to rest in a way that would represent my life and not contribute to pollution or exhaust our resources.