"A Project to Turn Corpses into Compost" is the headline on an article published in the Science section of the New York Times on April 13, 2015. It describes the work of Katrina Spade, a woman who studied sustainable agriculture and "has designed a building for human composting that aims to marry the efficiency of this biological process with the ritual and symbolism that mourners crave." She has founded the nonprofit Urban Death Project, which has an informative website. The Urban Death Project is working with Western Carolina University's Forensic Osteology Research Station (FOReSt) "to further study the composting process as a safe and effective way of caring for the deceased."
A personal note:
Years ago my husband dismissed any talk of final arrangements. "Just throw me on the compost pile!" he'd say, as he turned and dismissed the topic. Was he serious? If so, I worried about the idea, thinking 1) I might be arrested, and 2) my mother taught me NOT to include meat in a compost pile because of smell. Later, as we learned about "green" or natural burials, we became supportive of that concept, though my husband still objected to the idea of taking up space in perpetuity. While visiting a German village where some of his ancestors had lived, we learned that cemetery plots there are re-used after enough years have passed, thus recyling the spaces. A good idea, he thinks.
I'm glad that new research in being done on the composting idea.
Ever since I watched a 15-minute TED Talk by Jae Rhim Lee (July 2001 "Mushroom Burial Suit"), I've been inspired that new options are coming. I recently met Jae Rhim Lee at the March 28th FCAEM meeting. She spoke to us briefly about her Infinity Burial Project, and introduced us to a man who has volunteered to be the first to use her techniques; he and his family were present. Jae Rhim Lee is passionate about reducing the toxins in our bodies so that we aren't poisoning the earth as we decompose; mushrooms help achieve this goal.
I applaud these women for their bold initiatives, and their persistence in following through to test their proposed methods.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog" are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.