Death: The Sustainable Options
So, you’re dead now.
You wanted to be remembered as the thoughtful progressive, eco-warrior, 100% vegan leather, Instagram model type you aspired to be rather than the shameful post-all-night-bender-kebab-eating FOMO-suffering paranoid type that you were.
You didn’t want to run the risk of awkwardly discovering there was an afterlife after all, and embarrassingly having to introduce yourself to everyone as the person whose cremated greenhouse emissions were responsible for killing the world’s last polar bear. Then there’s the added risk of bumping into the bear itself.
Further to that; you didn’t want to identify as one of those “mainstream” types in case you also had to face all your trendy friends’ post mortem.
So, you picked an environmentally friendly burial option.
Good for you! I see it’s working out nicely; you’ve got Wi-Fi, science blogs to read, plenty of historical figures to chat to and no polar bears present by your hand. Now, where did you put that never-ending packet of Tim Tams?
For the rest of us slowly expiring beings, can we borrow the menu you picked from?
Let’s see here, Option 1: is to let your body rot. In the absence of cheaper more sustainable alternatives to the classics we can still embrace our ancestor’s attitudes to death. Natural burials are still in the ground but there’s none of this “make her look peaceful with chemicals” or “make sure the other dead people know he’s wealthy by putting some of the help in there with him” phaff. Bodies are buried in a shroud of biodegradable material to allow the breakdown of tissue, then the nutrient rich fluid soaks into the soil and fertilises the surrounding wildlife.
Specific types of shrouds have been invented that are threaded with a breed of mushroom spores that thrive on decay, so as your body decomposes you feed the mushrooms and creates your own ecosystem in an accelerated process. You can have your own circle of life.
Option 2: a new process gaining support that is a more environmentally sound alternative to cremation: resomation. It uses heated water and potassium hydroxide to liquefy your body into sterile nutrient soup that can safely be put back into the ecosystem, but leaves the bones, fillings and any implants untouched. This option lets you grind your bones down, so you can keep gathering dust in your mum’s place.
Option 3: If you’re really into the idea of giving yourself back to the natural cycles, or if your mum won’t stand for your army of dust-bunnies, you can go a step further. As a compliment to Option 2, a company in Georgia turns bone dust and concrete into Eternal Reefs that are placed in ocean reef restoration projects. Imagine front row seats to watch Finding Nemo at IMAX on repeat for the rest of eternity.
Option 4: There must be something about marine life that makes people think of dead things, because a marine biologist in Sweden invented Promession as another (really cool) technique for eco-burial. It’s essentially freeze-drying a body in liquid nitrogen, breaking the brittle body apart until all the water is evaporated in a special vacuum chamber, and then putting the powdered remains in a shallow grave where they become compost.
With all these great ideas to help the environment our existence has largely detracted from, it’s any wonder people are still throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at cryonics, mummification and space ejections. Would you rather the entire universe thinks of you as rich space trash, or help give life to a rain forest? (Keep in mind that I am not asking if space is cool – it’s the best – I’m asking if you are cool).