In the spirit of planning ahead, I have been considering what should happen to my body after death.
For many years I have been opposed to the idea of being buried after I die, mainly because it is a waste of space and because the death industry has made it ruinously expensive. Cremation seemed like a logical alternative but the energy required to burn a body successfully is very high and again that seems a waste.
But there are not too many other options allowed in British Columbia.
A decade or two ago I wrote a short story about a Zoroastrian couple in Vancouver and learned a great deal about excarnation. They build dakhma — Towers of Silence — on top of which the body is placed and exposed to the elements and the animals. I quite like that idea, but I’m pretty sure the authorities here would be unhappy and even Zoroastrians have given up the practice.
For a long time I have considered burial at sea to be a reasonably decent ecological solution. But Canadian government regulations make this complicated, expensive, and heavily discouraged.
So, it was with great interest that I read this week an article about body composting which is currently legal in Washington State and Colorado, and will be legal in Oregon next year. The body is placed in an insulated wooden box
“lined with waterproof roofing material and packed with wood chips and straw. Two large spool wheels on either end allow it to be rolled across the floor, providing the oxygenation, agitation and absorption required for a body to compost … After about three months, the vessel is opened and the “soil” is filtered for medical devices like prosthetics, pacemakers or joint replacements. The remaining large bones are then pulverized and returned to the vessel for another three months of composting … In six months, the body, wood chips and straw will transform into enough soil to fill the bed of a pickup truck. Family members can keep the soil to spread in their yards.”
At least 85 people have already been “composted” in this way in Washington, and I seriously think this is something we should press for here in BC. Perhaps the Greens could lead the charge on this.