Then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity

|

Here's one crunchy idea I can give it up for: green burials. Greensprings Natural Cemetery, the first burial place of its kind in New York State and one of a handful around the nation, opened in May and has been doing stiff business since. Associated Press gives the details:

At Greensprings, where a plot costs $500 plus a $350 fee to dig the grave, bodies cannot be embalmed or otherwise chemically preserved. They must be buried in biodegradable caskets without linings or metal ornamentation. The cemetery suggests locally harvested woods, wicker or cloth shrouds. Concrete or steel burial vaults are not allowed. Nor are standing monuments, upright tombstones or statues.

Only flat, natural fieldstones are permitted as grave markers (they can be engraved). Shrubs or trees are preferred.

Plenty of greeny sanctimony at work here, including one woman who chides her fellow Americans for refusing to admit that "death is about change" (which seems to me like criticizing people for using the euphemism "used cars" when they're really talking about "pre-owned vehicles"). But Greensprings does more than just beat the average cost of a funeral in the USA, which the Federal Trade Commission estimates at about $6,000. I don't need James Earl Jones to convince me I'd rather have my lifeless husk providing some useful fertilizer than gassing up in an airtight compartment. (Not that I'll care when it happens.) Greensprings' site says there aren't any serious health risks involved in having non-embalmed bodies decomposing in the ground: Was that just an urban myth?

It's strange that there hasn't historically been a feasible choice between cremation and having your corpse dolled up and rejuiced in the most unheimlich manner imaginable. Maybe you're an aficionado of the incorrupt bodies of the saints. (If so, you'll definitely want to take a trip to the Saint Charbel monastery; I can attest that the celebrated "sweat and blood secretion phenomenon" is exactly as savory as it sounds.) But think about it: After Christ has returned to harrow hell and your glorified body is rejoined with your eternal soul, are you really going to miss the embalming fluid? Beyond the obvious fiscal, environmental, and spiritual issues, embalming gives the zombies one more advantage over us: Slowing the rate of decomposition just means more undead cannibals we'll have to fight when the time comes.

Read about how the Institute for Justice and the Funeral Consumers Alliance helped an independent casket maker beat the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors.

Enjoy the details of 17th-century burial practices in John Donne's great poem "The Relique."

And if you've never read The Loved One, do yourself a favor.

NEXT: Whose House? Cheney's House!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Greensprings’ site says there aren’t any serious health risks involved in having non-embalmed bodies decomposing in the ground

    Why should there be? In plague days, the unembalmed bodies of plague victims were buried in the ground without making the soil become infectious. So long as you’re not tossing corpses into the drinking-water supply you shouldn’t have a problem.

  2. So long as you’re not tossing corpses into the drinking-water supply you shouldn’t have a problem.

    There goes my Sunday afternoon hobby…

  3. Actually it’s embalmed bodies which represent the greater health risk. Embalming fluid contains several carcinogens and has been known to leech from cemeteries into nearby watersheds.

  4. I think they should offer Tibetan-style sky burial. They could call it the vulture service.

  5. I’ve always thought a Viking funeral would be cool.

  6. Mmmmm, Soylent Green.

  7. I knew it, I just knew it! The funeral lobby really is a front for the international zombie conspiracy! Bastards – selling us out to the undead for a stack of cash…

  8. I’m having my corpse embalmed with gasoline, then shot out of a cannon. Hopefully into a nursing home or something.

  9. So which produces more CO2, chargrilling the body or good old fashioned corpse rotting (whether it’s done au naturelle or with the chemical additives)? Just curious.

    Don’t matter for me, I’m going to have the freezer churning away 24/7 until such a time that they can stick my brain and vocal cords into a horse.

  10. Recall how old newspapers in trash dumps don’t degrade for years?
    Compost heaps, on the other hand, seem to produce a useful product in a single season.
    So why are there no professionally-run compost heaps that could use the various organic chemicals shredded human corpses could provide?
    I mean think about it. What leaks from cemeteries, whether embalming fluid or pure guts and shit, it is Santorum going downstream. Yuk.
    Why haven’t we long ago gotten over this sentimentality concerning bodies?
    Souls are the essence of “green.” No worries about them. Let them flit where they will.
    But corpses to the industrial compost heap.
    How hard is that?

  11. “Then worms shall try that long-preserved virginity”

    You’ve seen my penis, haven’t you?
    … bigger than a red wriggler… smaller than a night crawler.

  12. “Dust thou are, and to dust thou return”

  13. And your quaint honour turn to dust,
    And into ashes all my lust.
    The grave’s a fine and private place,
    But none I think do there embrace.”

  14. My plan is to donate my cadaver to a medical school for dissection. Might as well deliver one last science lesson on the way out.

  15. thoreau,
    If we could stop treating bodies like plastic Jesii, I’m thinking there would be a huge surplus of medical school cadavers.
    That’s why I’m trying to get ahead of the curve here and recommending the old compost heap.
    Either that or bodies for ethanol?!
    Methanol?
    Santorumol?

  16. I’m going to be cremated, my ashes tilled into a vegetable garden and then everyone can EAT ME!

  17. Too bad Zorastrianism was overthrown by Islam. I think they were the first to vultures.

  18. Speaking of zombies, no one should be without The FBMG, Inc. Zombie Loadout Kit.

  19. I want my descendants to eat my brains after I die. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good kuru outbreak going down.

  20. I like how they discourage any markers other than trees or shrubs. I get the sense that part of this comes a feeling held by some on the Left that humanity is a scourge on the Earth that should be expunged without a trace, along with any spark of ego.

  21. Just dump my body into the Mississippi. It’s free and the catfish get a decent meal.

  22. I like how they discourage any markers other than trees or shrubs. I get the sense that part of this comes a feeling held by some on the Left that humanity is a scourge on the Earth that should be expunged without a trace, along with any spark of ego.

    Can left vs. right politics really be expressed by a choice in burial services? If you’d prefer to simply add fertilizer to the ground rather than having a bronze casket and marble marker, are you on the road to communism?

  23. Jews have been using biodegradable coffins (made completely of wood, with wood nails) for years. It’s about time you goyim catch up!

  24. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a good kuru outbreak going down.”

    Is there such a thing as a “good” kuru outbreak.

  25. mediageek,
    If you’re gonna be picky, why didn’t you ask Herrick how, as a non-breeder, he has descendents.

  26. Nor are standing monuments, upright tombstones or statues.

    Why not? Standing your carved rock upright wouldn’t decrease its greenitude, would it?

  27. I like this idea. The western tradition of hermetically sealing a corpse into a metal box has always struck me as morbid in the extreme.

  28. My mother has always discussed having her cremated ashes mixed with oil paint. The paint would of course be used to create a portrait of her.

  29. you could donate your corpse to the body farm in east tennessee where they dump it in the woods, wrap it in garbage bags, leave it in the trunk of a car, etc. etc. all in the effort to enhance forensic science.

    i remember there was a woman who had her body sent to the farm and then when she was just a skeleton, her bones would be sent to an art school to help the art students better understand and consequently draw/paint the human body.

  30. A friend of mine who is a priest told me years ago that the morticians’ lobby is very strong and virtually uncontested because so few people know about it. They are the ones who get politicians to write zoning laws and regulations that force us to use sealed vaults and embalming (significantly driving up the morticians’ profits). In many places, only Orthodox Jews and a few others with explicit and long-standing traditions about burials that preclude such modernities get to have “green” burials.

  31. While I’m really fond of the “immortality by way of not dying” plan, this sounds both very sensible and actually kinda nice.

    I might have someone slip a non-biodegradable note saying “He wasn’t a hippie, he just liked the idea” in a pocket, though. 😀

  32. For the reference of future archaeologists, that is!

  33. Eric the…,
    H&R will be here for future archeologists, so just have your body tossed on the shredder, to be spewed onto the compost heap.
    Get with it, man. Hurry up.

  34. I would LOVE to have a good Viking funeral, but the environmental-impact fees associated with burning a ship on the water are just murder.

  35. Should we feed the server squirrels human bodies? Maybe they’ll run faster that way.

  36. I’m not really going to worry about what happens after I pass away. As I once read “Society hates a rotting corpse.” I figure once I go it’s your problem.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.