Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Project to Turn Corpses into Compost

Georgia Lazaroni
Current Event 1

A Project to Turn Corpses into Compost

With urban cemeteries filling up, and cremation costly to the environment due to its release of greenhouse gases, Katrina Spade has proposed a new method of dealing with dead bodies; human composting. She, and other scientists, firmly believe it is possible to make new life out of human bodies, and has already worked in the case of animal remains. With our body already rich with nutrients, it would only take heat (about 140 degrees or higher), some moisture and a little bit of nitrogen, and wood chips to completely compost the body. There would be no smell, and it would only cost $2,500 per body; much less than normal burial procedures. The process would take place in what Ms. Spade calls an Urban Death facility, centered around a three story vault called ‘the core’. Her idea is after the body is composted, loved ones can take the remains and plant a garden or a tree. In this way, the method would not only be environmentally rewarding, but spiritually as well. Spade sees it helping those in the grieving process as connecting death to the cycle of nature; or a life after death. Although this process it certainly more natural than the American popularized cremation, it still faces of a lot of critique form prohibition by state law, to the ‘sickening’ nature of it. As for now, it is just an experiment, with much consideration needed from the medical and health community before human composting can be a reality.
This article is interesting in that it highlights a more environmentally sound method to the norm; burial and cremation. It addresses the issue of urban cemeteries filling up and the downfalls of cremation, which many of us may not have been aware of. In this day and age, it is important to explore new options for common place procedures and how we can improve them for the future. Everybody dies, so if we could ‘recycle’ the body, it would certainly benefit the Earth in the long run.
Overall, I felt this article did an excellent job contrasting the pros and cons of human decomposition. I didn’t feel it was bias in anyway, and expressed why or why not this process will become popular. One thing I did not find clear was the point where they described the process of decomposition, but later said the practice bodies were a cool 50 degrees, and nothing had changed in the bodies. The way the process was described was it would require at least 140 degrees for the bodies to decompose. Besides this one connection I missed, I felt the article was thoroughly interesting and descriptive.

Einhorn, Catrin. "A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

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