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Home > Feature Articles > Health and Well Being Strategies > Health Care Industry Sectors and Strategies

Living and Dying Green - Sequestering Options are Growing

Global warming, pollution and space considerations are fueling changes in funeral traditions around the world.

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Green Burial Movement

The funeral, cremation and cemetery business niches are being faced with current issues such as global warming, scarcity of land for traditional burials, and pollution from dental and casket metals.

The "green burial movement" is gaining both global visibility and innovation as the impacts of traditional methodologies are being questioned and re-engineered. The following story is from Australia, but is indicative of changes being verbalized in California as well as across the US and around the world.

There is life after death, according to an Australian scientist who is calling for an end to the practice of cremation around the world to help prevent further global warming.

Professor Roger Short from the University of Melbourne is the reproductive biologist who came up with the concept of lemon juice as a contraceptive and a means of preventing HIV in women. It is currently being trialled in Nigeria. He will be discussing his idea of environmentally friendly death at the World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) in Melbourne on Wednesday.

Earth to Earth -- With Less Pollution

"Think earth to earth," he said, "but not ashes to ashes or dust to dust".

Professor Short's proposal is that everyone should be buried upright in a cardboard cylinder, next to their favourite species of tree. This would allow the remains to enrich the growth.

"Not for nothing are trees known as the lungs of the world", he said. "A single tree over a hundred-year period absorbs over a metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2), so imagine the difference it could make if everyone was buried and had a tree planted in their memory".

"Photosynthesis in trees is the single most efficient way of sequestering CO2. Not only that, but they do what no other method of carbon minimisation can do, and that is to produce oxygen", he said.

Cultural Burial Traditions Start to Change

Professor Short's idea comes in the wake of China's policy of encouraging cremation due to lack of space and the Hindu practice in India of burning the body on a funeral pyre made of trees.

He said that in Australia during cremation, the average male produces over 50 kilograms of CO2 as the body is heated to 850 degrees centigrade for an hour and a half. "And that's not counting the carbon cost of the fuel, and the cost of the emissions involved in producing and burning the wooden coffin", he added.

Professor Short acknowledges that there are cultural sensitivities, legal issues and other obstacles that would have to be overcome for the idea to take hold. However, he said that time was short and this was a practical idea that allows each one of us to do our bit to combat climate change.

"Forget pushing up daisies", he said. "We should be pushing up forests instead. And what a wonderful way to go".

Professor Roger Short will be discussing his idea at a news briefing for the world's science journalists in Melbourne, along with a short presentation and time for questions.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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