I have been concerned for sometime about the environmental cost of disposing of my body when the time should arise. In Australia, cremation rates are increasing. According to some sources, there is a 50/50 split nationally between burial and cremation. In urban areas, cremations now make up over 65% of funerals and this figure is growing.
Both burial and cremation can release pollutants into the environment – into the air for cremations and into the water-table for burials. One of the reasons cremation is growing in popularity is that it is cheaper. Space limitations in urban areas make the small burial plot reasonably expensive. However, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to cremations is also a concern. Thankfully in my part of the world, we now have a choice of a ‘green’ burial, where you can choose to be buried in a shallow grave in a woodland cemetery, with the body placed either in an environmentally-friendly cardboard box or wrapped in a shroud. Apparently, shallow graves allow for the body to be broken down through composting (ie. letting the micro-organisms do their thing), rather than the long slow process of anaerobic decomposition in a much deeper grave. Is this too much information?
I can’t help thinking though, that the woodland grave might be only for those who can afford it because space limitations will still be a problem, leading to higher prices for this service.
In the good old days (ie. 19th century), you were often buried where you fell or in small church yards in plain wooden boxes. Mercury contamination from dental fillings wasn’t a problem because dentistry wasn’t big in that day and age. Of course, being buried where you fall is not really practical or legal in the 21st Century.
The romantic in me thinks it would be kind of interesting if the dead me could be left out for the wild animals to dispose of, but the pragmatic me thinks that perhaps it is unwise to encourage a taste for human flesh by our carnivorous birds and animals. I must confess that the idea of being eaten by a crocodile is a little repellent, but being eaten by a shark post-mortem would be acceptable. How is that for species-ism? But the absolute pinnacle for me would be a sky burial.
Sky burials (Jhator) are practiced in Tibet. A body is left out on a mountain top for the birds Some erroneously believe that the practice enables the soul to be carried away by the birds. Buddhists believe in the trans-migration of the soul upon death. But the sky-burial as practiced in Tibet, has nothing to do with the transport of the soul. The body left behind after death is just a body, the soul having already departed. In Tibet, a sky burial is a practical option. Tibet is above the tree-line so there is no timber for cremation. The ground is mostly rock and so too hard for burial. Nevertheless, Tibetan Buddhists consider Jhator an act of generosity and compassion by the deceased in providing sustenance for another living being. Such generosity and compassion for all beings are important virtues in Buddhism. This final act of kindness appeals to me. Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of flying in the tin can. But if I could fly with the birds, that would be a different story.
Marilyn from Serendipity posted this song today. Marilyn co-writes with a number of her friends. Check out Serendipity here. I think Marilyn’s song choice is particularly appropriate for this post so I am going to borrow her idea.
This is also my response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt — Migration. Click on the link, if you want to join in the fun.
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