Eight times a year a funeral director sets off by boat from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base carrying about two dozen plastic bags filled with unusual human remains. The powder he pours overboard is from corpses that have been “cremated”—not by fire, but by liquid.For the first time in the U.S. 2015 saw more people cremated than buried in the ground. It is not a fad but it is a reasoned choice by those who do not believe in burials that take up valuable property and a reasonable choice by those who find the average cost of a funeral shocking. Cremation usually costs less than a third of a burial, saves on some natural resources; and relieves the demand of valuable real estate (right now the most expensive land in the world is a cemetery plot close to the place where Marilyn Monroe is buried).
That’s how the University of California, Los Angeles, disposes of bodies donated to science: by dissolving the flesh off their bones. The bones are then ground to dust and scattered into the sea two miles offshore, forming white rings that slowly float away into the Pacific Ocean.
U.C.L.A. is the only place in California that liquefies the dead. But after five years and hundreds of bodies processed, Dean Fisher, director of the university’s Donated Body Program, hopes to change that. He has been working with state legislators on a bill allowing funeral homes to use this process, called alkaline hydrolysis. The state Senate has until September 15 to consider the legislation, which has already sailed through California’s lower house with a vote of 71 to 3. “The science says this technology is safe and has environmental benefits,” Fisher says. If California approves the new death rite, it would join a club that includes parts of Canada and several U.S. states: Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Wyoming.
The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and goes by names of biocremation, aquamation and resomation. It may well become the replacement for cremation by fire which we are seeing replace traditional burial in the earth. So what do you think about this?