What's interesting about this is the rationale for composting human bodies is cast almost exclusively in environmental terms. It reminds me of Robert Nelson's book "The New Holy Wars" in which he argues that the leading secular religion in America is environmentalism. That the environmentalists now have their own burial traditions fits squarely with Nelson's thesis.
- Hindus perform Antyesti which is a funeral rite which generally concludes with the cremation of the body of the deceased. Similar to Hindus, Sikhs are also cremated.
- Jews wash, purify, and dress the body (done by a group of people called a chevra kadisha) and then the Kevura, or burial, happens.
- Similar to Judaism, Islamic funerals involve the bathing and shrouding of the body followed by a burial.
It was only a matter of time before the environmentalists developed their own burial ritual. The only difference is – as the Sierra Club notes in a blog post – you can use the remains of your now decomposing loved one as soil for your garden (no, I'm not joking).
Human composting—also known as natural organic reduction (NOR)—has emerged as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional methods of burial and cremation, which tend to be environmentally destructive and pricey. During the NOR process, a corpse’s remains—not unlike your banana peels and coffee grounds—are broken down in a cylinder alongside organic materials like wood chips and straw. Meaning that within months, your loved one can become soil for your garden. In May 2019, Washington became the first state to legalize NOR. Despite its enthusiastic acceptance within the green funeral community, human composting has attracted its share of controversy.
This story reminds me of Season 2 Episode 11 of Life (highly underrated show IMO) where Charlie Crews and Dani Reese investigate the murder of Frank Dunlop who was found buried upright with flowers planted around his body.
It also reminds me of Season 2 Episode 6 of Hannibal, but I'll leave looking that up as an exercise for the reader (if there are any).