Cremation ignites global-warming, atmospheric conflagration

Wed, 2008-02-27 10:31Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

Cremation ignites global-warming, atmospheric conflagration

Efforts to live a sustainable lifestyle are ending in a cloud of smoke as more people choose cremation over conventional burial. And not just because of greenhouse emissions. Lead and mercury toxins are also part of the devil’s brew expelled in the flames.

The Cremation Association of North America says 56 per cent of bodies in Canada are now cremated annually compared with only 2.75 per cent 50 years ago. Cremation is typically seen as cheaper than burial, but environmental costs usually are not factored in.

Since it takes two to four hours at temperatures ranging from 1,400 and 2,100 F, or 760 and 1,150 C, the estimated energy required to cremate one body is roughly equal to the amount of fuel required to drive 4,800 miles, or 7,725 kilometers.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are spewed in large volume, along with carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, particulate matter, heavy metals, dioxins and furans.

There is also release of cadmium and lead from pacemakers and mercury from dental amalgams. Total mercury emissions from cremation in Canada for 2004 were between 240 and 907 pounds, or 109 and 411.6 kilograms.

Meanwhile, some funeral providers are providing natural burials – the body is not embalmed or cremated, but instead buried in a simple casket or shroud in protected green space.

There are no natural burial grounds yet in Canada, but there are over 200 in UK, and in the U.S. there are sites in South Carolina, Florida and New York. Groups in several other states including Colorado, California, Washington and Wisconsin are trying to establish green cemeteries that center on land preservation.

Previous Comments

I suppose it was inevitable that someone would do a study on this. Next they’ll be telling us that our corpses won’t rot because of all the preservatives we’ve consumed in our lifetimes!

Perhaps we should give consideration to having things like fillings, pacemakers, breast implants, and other add-ons removed before burial so they can be disposed of safely. It’s too bad we aren’t compostable.

Fern Mackenzie

Shouldn’t be too many pacemakers as they tend to explode in the cremation chamber, bad for the fire brick.

Seriously? Cremation? I suppose if you’re just looking for some incredibly minor environmental hazard to pontificate on… The average American puts 12,000 miles on EACH car, per year. So, the equivalent of a 4800 mile drive seems relatively insignificant from a fuel use standpoint.

Personally, I’m more concerned with the land use issues and ecological damage that comes with expanding cemeteries, which are just as bad as golf courses in terms of nutrient pollution. Natural burial is great, but if its a choice between yet another development project, which destroys habitat and the plants that capture greenhouse gas, or some extra CO2, which equates to a couple of months of gasoline… well, the term red-herring comes to mind.

Every little bit helps, eh? I had figured on cremation for the same reasons you cite – using land for cemeteries is not environmentally supportable. Does it have to be a choice between the lesser of two evils? Is there another alternative? Is there some way to recycle our bodies for useful, non-CO2-releasing purposes? There’s a challenge!
Fern Mackenzie

“Is there some way to recycle our bodies for useful, non-CO2-releasing purposes? There’s a challenge!”

Here’s an idea – instead of wasting valuable resources throwing eco-criminals in jail, as Doktor Suzuki advises, why don’t we turn them into something useful, like soap, or lamp shades?

As you say, every little bit helps when it comes to producing valuable carbon credits.

That is offensive.

Why do you hate the planet, VJ?

I see you’ve returned better than ever, Ethan. Good Lord…

Deadstock rendering plant Ethan. You can come back as bone meal fertilizer and protein booster for animal feed. Or glue! That’s a great one, reincarnated as the sticky part of hald a million PostIt notes.

This is rich. The Chicoms have a new coal fired generating station with zero pollution controls on it coming on-line every week. Every-single-week. The Beijing Olympics venues had to have state of the art air scrubbers installed on the air -intakes-, not the exhaust. Outdoor sport athletes are being issued fume masks to keep from crudding up their expensively over trained lungs.

Their rivers are running red with industrial chemicals. They are literally trucking potable water to lakeside cities because the lake water is hopelessly fouled with benzene and PCBs.

What are you guys worried about? Cremation!

You wanna leave the dead by the roadside like deer? Or how about we run them through the glue factory, or a nice cattle byproduct rendering plant, eh? That’d be GREAT! Grandma can live on as lipid base for makeup, maybe a nice lipstick or foundation cream. She’d be so proud.

Do you have any idea of the pollution controls on those crematoriums? Did you even consider looking up the regulations on them? Have you priced grave plots lately? My advice, eco-friendly or not start saving up now.

This is the kind of thing that gives the enviro movement the well deserved appellation “envirowhacko”. Surely you can find something to rail against that’s actually harmful?

At best, this is a sidebar and a minor distraction from the Main Event, which is what to do about AGW on a global scale. But we are being advised to change our lightbulbs, walk to the store, take the bus – all kinds of “little” things that can help make a difference: think globally, act locally. Believe it or not, there are some of us out here that consider the environment as the top priority in every decision. This is no different. I will certainly be leaving precise instructions to deal with my remains by the most low-impact means available.

IMHO, we are ‘way too uptight about our bodies. By all means, treat the dead with respect, but the amount spent on funerals, lavish coffins, land for cemeteries and so on is obscene. Natural burials sound like the answer.

As for being an “envirowhacko”, I’m not the one who suggested lampshades, soap and lipstick. That’s pretty disgusting and in exceedingly poor taste. Pretty sad that people have to resort to that kind of imagery.

Fern Mackenzie

As opposed to the Algore “end of the world” imagery, Fern? As opposed to Dr. Suzuki’s suggestion that politicians who don’t agree with anthropogenic global warming be thrown in jail? (Which, given Dr. Suzuki’s youthful experience in Canadian internment camps for the Japanese, is particularly chilling. He knows what he’s talking about sending people to.)

Sometimes you’ve got to smack the mule with a 2x4 just to get its attention Fern.

Now that I have your’s, did you know that all those enviro-fiendly flourescent lightbulbs are made in China? That’s the place with the benzene choked waterways. Oh, and were you aware those compact fluorescents contain a healthy dose of unrecoverable mercury, probably even more than a cremated human body?

Here’s a thought. What if people we free to chose how they bury their dead relatives, and the rest of us minded our own business? Radical notion I know, but worth considering.

“What if people we (sic) free to chose how they bury their dead relatives”? Great – I’m all for it, as long as there is an environmentally safe alternative to cremation, and an economically reasonable alternative to the the over-the-top satin-lined solid-oak coffin with bronze handles (what a waste of materials!!!) But if you want to bury or burn your money, go ahead. I think people should have the information they need to make wise choices.

Which brings me to Suzuki. He is quite correct: the government has all the information it needs to craft policies that will reduce GHGs and put us on track for targets that Canada is legally required to achieve. Furthermore, they have solid evidence that these measures are necessary. Shouldn’t we hold them legally responsible for systematically dismantling all efforts to do so? This government is reneging on our commitments and making a mockery of our reputation in global affairs.

I can see it now: big Commission of Inquiry called 20 years hence to find out who is accountable for failing to respond when clear evidence was presented (and, yes – we DO have clear evidence, more every day), and nothing was done? As when those in charge began to get data on the likelihood of HIV in the blood supply as a factor in the spread of AIDS? Remember a little thing called the Krever Inquiry?

Oh never mind. I’m just an old mule anyway and I’m getting a headache from that two-by-four.

Fern Mackenzie

“Believe it or not, there are some of us out here that consider the environment as the top priority in every decision.”

Bullshit. If the environment were your top priority, then you’d realise that every minute you continue breathing, you are destroying the Earth. But you continue to go on breathing, consuming energy and resources, and breeding offspring to carry on your legacy of destruction.

Based on the material facts, the environment seems pretty low on your list of priorities – certainly lower than propagating your pathological sanctimony.

If the environment were really your top priority, and you actually believed in the twaddle you’re peddling, I think you know perfectly well what should be done about it. The fact that you don’t, says all that needs to be said.

“By all means, treat the dead with respect, but the amount spent on funerals, lavish coffins, land for cemeteries and so on is obscene.”

Well, then it’s a good thing it’s not your money. Besides, being buried isn’t “natural” to begin with, any more than wearing shoes or using a toothbrush. If you want “natural”, then I assume you’ll have your corpse left out for the buzzards.

“As for being an “envirowhacko”, I’m not the one who suggested lampshades, soap and lipstick.”

See what I mean? You’re just not willing to do whatever it takes. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

I’m planning to be buried at Glendale Memorial Nature Preserve in DeFuniak Springs, FL. My brother and best friend have already promised to pack my body in ice and haul me up there from Orlando. (Hopefully they’ll wait until after I pass on. Heh.) http://www.glendalenaturepreserve.org

The modern concept of natural burial began in the UK in 1993 and has since spread across the globe. According the Centre for Natural Burial, http://naturalburial.coop there are now several hundred natural burial grounds in the United Kingdom and half a dozen sites across the USA, with others planned in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and even China.

A natural burial allows you to use your funeral as a conservation tool to create, restore and protect urban green spaces.

The Centre for Natural Burial provides comprehensive resources supporting the development of natural burial and detailed information about natural burial sites around the world. With the Natural Burial Co-operative newsletter you can stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the rapidly growing trend of natural burial including, announcements of new and proposed natural burial sites, book reviews, interviews, stories and feature articles.

This is shocking news, many wanted cremation rather than burial because it is cheaper also it is easy process of putting dead into peace. But if this will affect much to the earth’s atmosphere, it would be better to just dump dead into cemeteries. New research has come out from the FDIC and Federal Reserve System that indicates that banning payday loans does more harm than good.  Georgia and North Carolina, both having banned payday lending, are home to higher bankruptcy rates, far more overdraft fees, and more complaints about banks than other states.  Who exactly runs the predatory debt traps? Payday lenders or the greedy suits that run the bailed out banks?