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Green funerals: Can funerals be more sustainable?

Green funerals: Can funerals be more sustainable?

By 2060, we will bury 100 million people each year. There is less and less space for it. How do we make our rituals sustainable without offending people?

All over the world, we have less and less space to bury our loved ones. This is bad news for the environment. Withdrawing a lot of money to ensure that you end up in a traditional cemetery in the long run is the norm in many countries. There are commercial or Colombian tombs where urns are kept. It has become a kind of final resting place A status symbol. This is partly because there is less and less space to place the tombs.

Necro-blingThis is also called extravagance during funerals. And the irony of it may be satisfying to eminent communities. But if you look at the whole picture and think about the marketing of funeral rites, you get a different story. This story is about the limits of our planet and limited resources. How much of that should we spend on the dead?

By 2040, we will be burying an estimated 80 million people annually. By 2060, this number will rise to 102 million every year. Each of these corpses will either be cremated, disappear underground, or end up in a burial vault until they decompose completely. Each of these “transformations” costs us energy, space, time and resources.

Reuse coffins

In India, people bury their dead On the piles of fire. We’ve grown accustomed to this view while covering the pandemic. However, for cremation, we need a huge amount of wood and charcoal. It is not only the countries of the South that use limited raw materials as a means of cremation. In the global north too, we rely on such raw materials, in our case natural gas, for cremation.

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If we simply bury the bodies in it gas rich soil, then it will degrade relatively quickly. However, we currently use concrete tombstones in many countries. Reusing coffins is not entirely uncommon in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, or Australia. In principle, those countries should expand the area of ​​cemeteries indefinitely.

Mass graves

Of course, this discussion goes beyond how we deal, at least physically, with the remains of our loved ones. Often times, cultures are judged by their amount They have financial resources to honor their dead. During the pandemic we have seen a lot of people all over the world embarrassing criticism About Covid-19 deaths and how they were “inappropriately” buried, without respectful rituals. It shows that the way we treat our dead and how much respect we show them has an emotional impact on those we leave behind.

Consider, for example, the cruel way in which oppressed peoples were buried in the past. the mass cremation During the Holocaust, for example, their bodies were reduced to a substance to be disposed of. There are still different generations on different continents, from Africa and the Middle East to South America Searching for loved ones in mass graves.

In other words, the way we treat our dead must be related Social Justice. If we want to do this, we have to balance three important principles.

green cemeteries

First and foremost, sustainability is important. Any form of burial should have minimal environmental impact. If the crematorium or cemetery is not organized properly, it can be very contaminated. After all, objects are emitters of greenhouse gases and heavy metals that accumulate in human remains.

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To this day, there is no generally accepted framework funeral footprints To measure. There is no clear way to reduce that footprint. But we cannot deny that we have dead landscapeWhich consists of tombs and tombs that bring greenery to the city significantly Contributes to the storage of carbon dioxide.

If we do it the right way Biodiversity From cemeteries, these sites will become serene and even healing spaces – places to be silent and one with nature. Scientists are now looking for new technologies and designs so that we can continue.”Greener ‘burned’ could be. An example is the cracking of bodies using alkaline hydrolysis.

green cemeteries“Since then it has been established all over the world. There are places where a tree can be planted on a grave. Then such a tree would replace the headstone, where the stone would have to be extracted and moved from one side of the world to another, just to commemorate someone. It will not provide These kinds of green solutions only make a limited contribution to making cemeteries more sustainable if they do not provide an answer to tens of thousands Residents of big cities who die every year.

Buried as a civil right

The second principle relates to affordability. When we celebrate the memory of the deceased, it should be possible for every budget. Families should not rely on their income only to be able to say goodbye to their loved ones with respect. There are already states that offer free burial or cremation services as part of their local tax system. It might be a good idea to include respectful treatment of the dead in civil law. Third, we take cultural diversity into account. Any initiative that seeks to bury the dead in an environmentally conscious and affordable manner must take into account the way people from different cultures treat their dead.

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Some rituals are described asunsustainable“Or even polluting the environment, but it is justified from a theological point of view. But perhaps there is room for compromise that takes these sensitivities into account. We may not find acceptance in the reuse of graves. Certain forms of green graves A more sustainable option, compared to another hectare full of concrete tombstones.

Global population growth is linked to climate change. So in every aspect of our lives – our deaths – we will have to adapt to consume less. The dead rich will also have to do their part, for example by choosing something other than the tombstone.

This article originally appeared on IPS Partner Conversation.