Friday, May 11, 2007

Hitting the Links - Green Funerals

For the first time in my life I have "summer hours." This means I get Friday afternoons off from the long weekend in May to some time in August. I've decided to try and use this time to create posts that are a collection of links on some subject or theme. I figured a lot of people would use this free time to go golfing but since I suck at golf (except at the Tiger Woods video games on which I rock) this is my thing. I make no promises as to whether or not I consistently produce this feature - I'll try.


This post and collection of links all started a few days ago when I was reading something or other about comic books and wanted to see what Jeff Parker was up to, since I like what he’s doing these days. Well his post reminded me that CBC did a feature about Green Funerals and the Ottawa X-Press apparently ran a cover story on it as well. I was also intrigued by my friend Matthew’s Facebook status update – he wanted to start a Green Funeral Service for Ottawa.

And seriously, that’s not such a bad idea. I mean, nothing involves a huge price increase like claiming something is environmentally friendly – try to buy a bucket or shoes sometime and you’ll see what I mean.

So, anyway, like all other aspects of the environmental movement there’s an organization for Green Death. They call themselves the Green Burial Council. I only ask, why does everything involving greenies require a fucking council?

If you don’t want to deal with consensus based decision making structures (trust me it will require you to hasten your funeral plans or at least start wishing for a quick death) you can just read the Natural Death Handbook and plan a DIY Funeral.

I’ve always considered cremation to be the way to go but apparently the temperatures involved release green-house-gases. And things like tooth fillings release mercury into the atmosphere. Burial isn’t all that much better because modern day caskets have latex paint and metal hinges while graveyards actually take up a lot of space. So the theory is to dig a hole and chuck as many people in it as possible then plant a tree on top. You can look up a few Canadian options at Natural Burial or read the AARP Bulletin on green burials. Alternatively you could donate your body to science and let them use you to measure decomposition although there are unintended side effects for air travel when the buzzards show up.

I’ve also found a lot of links about green burials here. Just skip the highschool lame emo poetry about gaia and hit the links.

I know personally I’m not too keen on the idea of mass graves as being environmentally friendly, although the idea of planting an apple tree over me is appealing. I’m known for making some of the best apple pies around (seriously) and could pass down the recipe. Then you could eat my soul in delicious pie form. But my point here was that the idea of many people in a hole they paid for is actually quite old. Go to a church in Europe sometime. They all have mausoleums and crypts where the wealthy members were laid out in shelves or sarcophagi while the paupers were chucked on the floor to rot. Sure, no trees grew but the gold found in these graves was essential to the economy. It was a different kind of giving back.

In this day and age we’re not too keen on mausoleums and whatnot, but more for the fact that they take up a lot of space. They increase tourism thus emit more green-house-gases into the atmosphere from all the planes and cars used to reach the destination. They use entirely too many resources to create, robbing us of trees and ruining other locations to get at precious stones. While they may have been wonders of the world they certainly aren’t a green option whether or not they can accommodate many people. Or they could just lead to this.

I do think there are other green options available if, like me, you don’t want the last memory your family has of you to be a dirty hippy chucking you into a hole as tree fodder. There’s always burial at sea. This is a practice that’s been going on for a long time and was probably green ahead of it’s time. Especially when sail was the main form of transport. It’s still available today but you’d have to get to Newfoundland, get a sail boat, and probably not have any fillings because the mercury levels in tuna is already getting dangerous for pregnant women. Also, you run the risk of that scene from Papillon occurring, which is a bit unpleasant for the other people involved.

There’s Tibentan Sky Burial, but there’s travel involved in that as well unless you think crows and seagulls will do the job. Again, this would have to be far enough away from airports to ensure you don’t interfere with flightpaths.

You could always go for cryogenics like the much reported urban legend regarding Walt Disney, however, you’ll need a lot of cash to keep you plugged in. Also, you’d need to ensure the power generation was carbon neutral. But you could always go the natural route and start looking for a glacier to fall into. It’s happened in Canada before and if they find you, you could be on display at the British Museum. But again, you have to get there and unless you plan on walking that involves green-house-gases.

I guess the only alternative is the swamp or bog. Again, you could end up in the British Museum so continued maintenance cost isn’t a worry, although you should be warned of the dangers of swamp burial.


Matthew Clarke said...

Sweet! Nice article. I'm stoked about the burial-at-sea idea now!!! Davy Jones' Casket. I'd make sure they dressed me up in a pirate outfit first... add sharks. oh boy.

But no seriously, the key to commercial success is the sentimental angle. The green burial needs to be encapsulate a moving metaphor AND be enviro.

It's just really hard to turn the idea of your naturally rotting loved one into a cathartic/comforting metaphor... It's a toughy. "Returning your body to the earth from whence it came." is pretty good, you just need to get people over the imagery of worms-in-the-eyesockets... ew.

joncormier said...

Just don't use the "wormwood" in the title and you should be fine.

Umar said...

The Parsis in Mumbai had the best idea. Leave the body of the deceased out for the vultures to eat it. Then pesticides came along and killed all of the vultures.

So... what better way to kill two birds with one stone (or rather, kill one bird, and save a LOT of others) - reduce emissions by letting vultures eat the dead, while simultaneously creating a great reason to reduce pesticide use and implement integrated pest management systems. Win-win! Except for the cemetary and pesticide businesses, they lose. Boo-hoo.