Muck and Magic

A friend recently nudged me to return to this topic by sending across this link about human composting 

He is an organic veg grower and passionate about composting anything he can so of course this really appealed to him. I do mention this briefly in my book Outside the Box.  It has been happening for a while in the States. Oregon to be precise which is one of the States affectionately nicknamed Ecotopia for all the many positive initiatives to encourage sustainability and a light footfall on the earth.  As the Guardian reports it has now jumped to the East Coast – the sixth state to accept this. It will probably take longer to establish in middle America.

There is a move in the UK too to bring this method over here as you can see from the support given it by one of the celebrants organisations.

I think in another decade or so human composting may well be one of the most popular choices. This idea has taken some time to seed across the Atlantic and I am sure it will be the same here.  However  it answers the concern about shortage of space for burials and means that people know their body is positively contributing to the environment and supporting new life. Ashes cannot nourish growth, in fact they damage the pH of soil, but up until now those not wanting to be buried had few alternatives. At the moment of course it still seems rather sci-fi and strange to us.

It is interesting to remember though that it was only in March 1885 that the first cremation took place in the United Kingdom and at that point it too was considered outlandish and possibly sacrilegious. Indeed for Catholics it was forbidden until 1963 and there are still a number of key guidelines including not scattering or dividing the remains. There are still some theological concerns about the impact on the soul. Of course in other religious traditions such as Hinduism the practice of burning the bodies of the dead has continued unbroken over thousands of years. As always our burial practices are shaped both by our ideological priorities and the social and political environment in which we are living. The nature and availability of the ground we have to bury in strongly influences what practices are considered acceptable. 

So when might human composting arrive in the UK?  It is hard to say.  A petition to make human composting legal in the UK was rejected in November 2022.  Unlike the States we have to convince our parliament in London because the law would be implemented throughout the whole country. We cannot proceed county by county with this kind of legal change.