Now, sometimes I can just be plum naive about the world.
For example, it wouldn’t occur to me that the answer to the question: “Just how bad is traditional burial?” would be anything other than, “Well, gosh, you know, factually embalming and traditional burial can be pretty bad, guys.”
Formaldehyde (used to embalm bodies) causes cancer. This is a fact. We waste a large amount of resources (wood, steel, and concrete) on traditional burial. This is a fact.
As National Geographic says:
“American funerals are responsible each year for the felling of 30 million board feet of casket wood (some of which comes from tropical hardwoods), 90,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete for burial vaults, and 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid. Even cremation is an environmental horror story, with the incineration process emitting many a noxious substance, including dioxin, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and climate-changing carbon dioxide.”
There is a funeral industry website called Connecting Directors. If you’re a mortician-type you can sign up and have death industry articles delivered to your email every morning. This week they posted an article called “Just How Bad is Traditional Burial?” … and then I read the comments and wanted to gouge my eyes out and feed them to sky burial vultures.
Vernon Rams said:
“I have always spoke out about the “FAD” of green burial. It was started by outsiders who like to call our Profession an Industry-rather than a “Profession” (Use your dictionary). If these folks want to be serious and be taken seriously-they need to go to school, like we all did. Hearing so called “Industry Guru’s” use terms like “Grinding up of bones”…And “It is like having a MRI” is an example of how far off-they truly are. One looks into the background of these “Professors of LOOK AT ME”- and finds everything they have claimed-even about themselves-is a lie and un-founded. Then, they scorn you-for looking into their claims-and call you a “Stalker”. Did they really think- after ALGORE’S claims of The Sky Is Falling and Global Warming panic- were all REBUKED by scientists-even the ones hired for the movie-falling on their swords.”
“ALGORE (sic) is LYING about “FAD” green burial!” He goes on to say that owners of funeral homes aren’t getting requests for green burials. This strikes me as likely true, because:
1) If you were getting green burial requests would you tell this guy (risking a global warming-is-a-hoax rant)?
2) The funeral industry has done a very good job of masking the option. I get stories all the time of families who were told it’s illegal not to embalm a body or not to have a vault/casket.
Alexandra Mosca said:
“Haven’t heard one person–family or funeral director–express the slightest interest in “green burials.” Just another buzzword for the times.”
BT Hathaway said:
“Funerals and burials have little if anything to do with science! Fundamentally they are a religious/spiritual expression which by definition is separate from scientific measurement. So why in the world is Scientific American butting their nose into religious practice and trying to tell the world that it is wrong?”
This continues comment after comment. Until one little glimmer of hope at the end.
Gholdsworth (signed in using yahoo):
“There is little point in bickering over what you think is the ‘right’ thing. Isn’t it about what the families want? Since 1986 Natural Burial Grounds have gone from zero to over 220 in the UK. This ‘fad’ seems to be accelerating. As for embalming, countries like Sweden and Japan don’t practice it and the country that invented it, The Netherlands, will no longer permit it. Its about time we had some honesty here – embalming is more for the industry than the families being served. If the chemicals were as friendly as some make out why are most manufacturers bringing out ‘green’ embalming fluids? My final word has to be about vaults. You do realise that the entire world outside the USA (yes, there is one) thinks its bizzare to say the least to have them at all. Its like you are doing everything possible to prevent a body returning to the earth (and wasting millions of tons of concrete each year). This practice is just about making more money. And if the families knew how putrid decomposition is in a sealed container they would want something simpler.”
I swear this last comment wasn’t me on a fake Yahoo account. But bless this person for speaking up in the shark tank.
If the funeral industry wants to save these particular practices they should be arguing for their value to our society. Not just blindly attacking those who promote natural or green burial, natural decomposition, and any new methods of body disposal.
While there are many brilliant, forward-thinking morticians, open to new types of body disposal and rituals, many are… well… not. It is up to the public and culture (that means you, the internet!) to demand change, because these morticians, well intentioned as they may be, aren’t going to just wake up one morning on the innovative side of the bed.