This story is part of Fix’s Climate-Fiction Issue, which explores how fiction can create a better reality. Check out the full issue here, including the short stories in Fix’s first-ever climate-fiction contest, Imagine 2200.
The way humans live impacts the world. So does the way they die.
It isn’t death itself that creates an ecological nightmare, but rather the resource-intensive processes we’ve devised for dealing with the dead. On top of all the land that’s set aside for graveyards, building caskets requires around 30 million board feet of wood and 90,000 tons of steel each year (that’s more steel than you’ll find in the Golden Gate Bridge). Grave vaults guzzle up 1.6 million tons of concrete annually. And 800,000 gallons of toxic chemicals like formaldehyde go into embalming — chemicals that often wind up seeping into the ground. (Oh, and all these stats are for the U.S. alone.)
Cremation, which has edged out burial as the most popular option in the U.S., requires vast amounts of energy to maintain the 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit needed to incinerate a corpse, which can take two hours or more. In ... Read more