Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The UTNE Reader has an interesting article about composting bodies for burial that includes a deep freeze and a lot of shaking to shatter the frozen body into a million little pieces!

It uses The Walrus Magazine, an independent press that Utne awarded a prize to in 2009, as the source of the article.
The Walrus is interesting, too. Check that out if you have time.

Here is the bulk of the article.
"The Walrus reports on a new technique that may, it seems, be the greenest of them all. The process, called promession, sounds like a kind of high-tech version of composting (one that avoids all the arduous turning and, uh, odor-releasing of the down-home method). It was developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, who is planning to open the world’s first promatorium in Jönköping, Sweden, sometime next year. James Glave (for The Walrus) explains:

"'Think of the operation as a kind of corpse disassembly line. The dearly departed are first supercooled in liquid nitrogen to about minus 196°C, then shattered into very small pieces on a vibration table. “We wanted to make the body unrecognizable without using any kind of an instrument that you would see in a kitchen or garage,” [Wiigh-Mäsak] explains.'

"Next a vacuum is used to evaporate moisture while a metal separator, traditionally used by the food processing industry to remove stray foreign objects from meat products, shuffles aside fillings, crowns, titanium hips, and so on. (You can put that sandwich down now.) Finally, the vaguely pink crumbs are deposited in a large box made of corn or potato starch.

"Surviving family members bury the box in shallow topsoil and plant a tree or shrub on top. With the exception of perhaps a few broken remnants of plastic pacemaker, in a matter of months nothing is left but memories and some lush greenery."

And, yesterday, I had a conversation with my Iranian friend about burials there. Did you know that they only use coffins to carry the dead to the burial site. Once there, they lift the body from the box with a sheet and lower it into the hole using the ends of the sheet. The body is turned toward Mecca and the face is exposed from the sheet (and slapped, checking one last time for any sign of life). Then, a rock is placed over the head and the hole is filled with dirt. No wonder the middle east has so much oil!

By the way, may the lovely Neda rest in peace. To me, her death was a symbol of all the unnecessary deaths from unnecessary wars and from necessary ones. No matter the argument(s) between nations or leaders or between citizens and authority, shooting a gun at another person is always one beautiful soul killing another.

Here is a tribute to her that includes footage of her death. May this horrible act help us wake up to the reality of gun violence...especially when states use it on their own people.

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