This week as we discussed death rights and burial procedures, I reflected on my own squeamishness around death. I've been blessed to not lose anybody close to me throughout my life, and the last time I think I truly reflected on the mortality of myself and those around me resulted in me having a mental breakdown at age seven. As I learned, this attitude is reflected widely throughout western nations. Death is the inevitable conclusion of life, but the shroud of death as a taboo topic hangs in the air.
Over 50% of Americans are buried using conventional burying methods, where they are pumped full of embalming fluid, put in a casket, and buried in a concrete burial liner to prevent decomposition of the body. This leads to millions of tons of concret and millions of gallons of embalming fluid being buried each year, which contribute to climate change. Embalming fluid is a carcinogen, which when leaked into the soil can harm plant life. In addition, while it does prevent aerobic respiration of decomposing bacteria, over a course of months after burial anaerobic bacteria will decompose the body, leading to a buildup of methane, a strong greenhouse gas. Cremation isn't much better, using 28 gallons of fuel to burn a body, producing 540 pounds of carbon dioxide per body.
I envision a future where people more freely talk about death, and where they can communicate with their families how they would like their death rites to be conducted. The choice is of course yours, but if we can talk more freely about death, then we may feel more comfortable exploring other burial options like natural burial which don't harm the environment. Death is a part of life, and we all return to the soil someday. Maybe it's time we do it on our own terms without harming the Earth we share. #Unleashvalues.