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.

Thoughts and comments welcome.  Can’t find the Comments Section?  Keep scrolling.

Kind Regards











25 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. This is so interesting, because I have been having similar thoughts to you – though I knew nothing of sky burials. Green burial is looking the most attractive option to me at the moment, and if anything, cheaper – just – than traditional burial in a box. There are two sites for green burial in my area, one urban, one rural. Lots to think about it our remaining years! I

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  2. I have given this subject some thought as I decided a long time ago that I didn’t wish to be buried in a cemetery. The site of graves nobody ever visits is sad and the idea that your grave could be dug up after your lease is up bothers me. Having no children or grandchildren and only one relative in the state where I live I don’t see the point of taking up space like that. Cremation was my preferred option but I had not considered the environmental issues with it. I have read that there is at least one place in Tasmania where you can have a green burial and this is something I’d also consider. I don’t think the Sweeney Todd option is one we would consider in a civilised country.

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  3. Have you heard of “Green Cremation”? Instead of flame, the body is placed in a chamber at about 300F and under high pressure, in a solution of a hydroxide in water, which chemically reduces the remains to a sterile solution (returned to the earth) and mineral remains, which are placed in an urn. It is almost emission free and any mercury is contained and recycled during the process, because it does not vaporize. There is one company in Smith Falls, ON in Canada, and in Australia, there is a company called Aquamation Int. but I do not know the details. I think the big issue is not price, but the loved ones getting used to the idea of their departed being “dissolved”; to me, regular flame cremation and green cremation are both chemical reactions, and the family gets an urn with remains in both cases, so I would not have a problem choosing the environmentally friendly one.

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  4. As a child our neighbours were from the Zoroastrian community. I recall being told the body is placed in the Tower of Silence and left on a platform for vultures. The thought of this terrified me! Interesting to read your thoughts, Tracy.

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  5. Yes, Zoroastrians have the tradition of leaving their dead in the Tower of Silence to be eaten by vultures which is probably like sky burial. They believe a dead body is unclean and should be disposed of thus.

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