Dust to Dust (to Compost).
I saw something really interesting in the latest issue of The Ecologist, which came this morning. Apparently some folks in Sweden are working on a new, eco-friendly way of dealing with dead bodies. It's called promession. This means cooling the body in liquid nitrogen to a point where it is so brittle that when it is vibrated it turns to dust. The water is then evaporated out of it and any metal (like mercury from fillings) removed and what is left goes into a three-feet square, biodegradable box, which can be buried in a very shallow grave where it can decompose aerobically and become part of the topsoil within 6-12 months.
Sounds like a great idea.
I read more about it on the Internet. They have been trying it out with dead pigs, and it works a treat. So very soon it will be possible to do it with humans. But I couldn't find the answer to the main question I wanted to ask. Which was: in that case, do I really need a grave at all?
Whenever we have talked about funeral options, Sky has always said "Please just chuck me on the compost heap." He thinks it is awful that human beings, unlike other creatures, deny their bodies to the topsoil.
Obviously, since most of us these days live in cities, it would not be practical for everyone simply to lie wherever they fell, and there aren't enough vultures and carrion crows for us to have 'sky funerals', so burial or burning have always been our main methods of disposal. That is recycling too, of course, but in the case of traditional burial it is a much longer-term kind, since bodies way down in the subsoil rot anaerobically and very slowly, (which can create pollution problems with groundwater) and cremation increases carbon pollution.
With this new promession technology, if all that is left of us is a box of dry powder which will decompose easily when put in the soil, would it not be possible to do exactly what Sky is asking for and either mix it in with compost or use it as mulch in an orchard or field? I think that would be even better than having a shallow grave in a woodland burial site.
A town council in the Midlands is considering adopting the new technology when it is ready, and they invite questions on their website, so I submitted mine today.
I'll let you know what they say.