Back into the humus… from the roots to the treetops:

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Back into the humus… from the roots to the treetops(1):

The light bulb was not invented by improving the candle. It is by releasing an unnatural system that we will reintegrate the Humus.

In order for men and nature to freely join hands one day, let us have the courage to face reality. However, the funeral lobbies have recently put on a costume that is both seductive and meaningless: the costume of  » greenwashing « . Greenwashing is like a coat of paint that hides the cracks in a decaying building: it shines and sells… 

In Belgian cemeteries, the green revolution consists in no longer using glyphosate to get rid of weeds. Everything is fine, Madame la Marquise, everything is fine, everything is fine! A meadow now covers the pathways, the spaces between the monuments are grassed and the horizontal parts of many graves are adorned with flowers(2). However, it is necessary, it is necessary that one says to you: the flowers are jewels that one alchemizes… They are one of the most polluting crops(3). As for the coffins, we deplore a small thing, an incident, a stupidity: against pollution, they do not even act as a beacon! Whether they are eco-caskets, made of wicker, sugar cane, cardboard, fair trade, woven, wool or swapped for a shirt, it makes no difference: at a depth of two meters, even biodegradable materials do not decompose! And if ever a flower grows above a grave, it is not thanks to the body of the deceased but in spite of it

In Wallonia, no worries seem to be floating in the sky of the local authorities. Our politicians, urged on by Mr. « Cemeteries », Xavier Deflorenne, seem to be singing over and over again Everything is fine, Madame la Marquise, everything is fine, everything is fine! Cemeteries are greener and Wallonia has even allowed the use of cardboard, wicker or untreated wooden coffins, or even just shrouds. 

However, it is necessary, it is necessary that we tell you, we deplore a small thing, an incident, a stupidity: Putrécine and Cadavérine are always in order. Due to the lack of space and the fear of spreading diseases, the burial of the deceased is done at a minimum depth of two meters. There is neither ideal humidity, nor air, nor a good carbon/nitrogen ratio for the humusers to live, all those micro-organisms in the very first centimeters of the soil capable of harmoniously recycling the mortal remains. 

For the politicians, there are only two problems: the pollution due to glyphosate and the heavy workload of the gravediggers who receive in their face the putrefaction juices retained by the watertight sheaths, when they proceed to the exhumations. Mr. Cemeteries has two solutions. The first is the return to the world before: without glyphosate and with « permeable » coffins. Thus the top looks ecological and the bottom is just a pile of bones. Everything is fine, Madame la Marquise, everything is fine, everything is fine! But you have to, We have to tell you: as long as we bury our dear dead, their bodies will always be in putrefaction, the water tables around the cemeteries will always suffer from chemical pollution due to drugs, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and others with which the bodies are currently gorged. The second solution is to encourage the use of crematoria. Everything is fine, Madame la Marquise! 

Let’s remember the desire to embellish death: it has led to greenwashing initiatives that will perhaps open doors and minds towards a more promising future… 

One such offering is the mushroom suit of South Korean scientist Jae Rhim Lee(4): she relied on the proven ability of mushrooms to split the molecular chains of organic matter and toxic substances. 

The problem is that none of them will ever live or survive without proper air burial! 

In the same vein, a Dutch start-up, Loop(5), proposes a « living coffin » made of mushroom mycelium. But let’s not fool ourselves: this coffin must be buried(6), despite what the photos on the site seem to promise. As for the mushroom suit, it is impossible — even for the modest sum of 1495€ — for our mycelium friends to do their work in the absence of air and, by the way, of humidity… at the bottom of a grave! 

Another invention, coming from Italy, is the « Capsula Mundi(7) « . It is a kind of biodegradable plastic egg in which the body of the deceased is inserted in a fetal position. The capsule is buried and a tree is planted above it. Proponents of this idea argue that the capsule decomposes « by itself » underground in the same way as the body. However, all this is only science fiction, nothing decomposes six feet underground! Once again, if the tree manages to grow, it is not thanks to the human remains but rather in spite of them

What is happening at the crematoria? Here, green washing often takes the form of biodegradable urns. Unfortunately, at the urn stage, the « damage » is already done: toxic fumes dance over the heads of families living near crematoria(8). Among the « ecological » proposals, there are wooded remembrance plots: the bereaved families choose a tree at the foot of which they bury the biodegradable urn or spread the ashes of their loved one. The assignment of the tree costs a whopping 1000€… for five years(9). Families are under the impression that the ashes make the tree grow, when in fact the tree grows not because of the ashes but in spite of them. More smoke and mirrors! 

These ideas, despite their practical absurdity, have a great interest: they show us that ecological concern makes many hearts beat and agitates many minds. They are proof that more and more of us want to grow trees and no longer want to pollute once life has left us. 

We are also witnessing the emergence of new so-called « eco-responsible » proposals. One of them is promession. This is a process developed in Sweden which consists of immersing the body of the deceased in liquid nitrogen at ‑196oC. The body is then weakened to such an extent that it only needs to be shaken to crumble. This process has the advantage of allowing the recovery of dental amalgams (and prostheses) and avoiding the diffusion of carcinogenic mercury in the air. The organic material is freeze-dried and compressed(10) to be buried at 60 cm or more, i.e. out of reach of the humus. 

Another divagation is aquamation(11), also called « alkaline hydrolysis » or « bio-creation ». It has been patented in the United States for the treatment of bones and animal waste. Nice reference! The body is immersed for several hours in a kind of pressure pot that contains an alkaline solution. This « cooking » produces a brownish liquid. The bones are crushed in the same way as for cremation. The brown soup is thrown down the drain because it is utopian to believe that it could be used as fertilizer for crops. This method is strangely reminiscent of the Mafia’s methods of disposing of bodies by dipping them in a bathtub filled with caustic soda… However, it offers an advantage: it consumes less energy than incineration. 

In Belgium neither aquamation nor promession is legal. Moreover, they have never been the subject of citizen petitions and have never been supported by any democratic process. These processes are not the stuff of dreams. Cui prodest ? To the schedules of the crematoria which need to be unclogged because they have been specially requested recently to avoid any risk of contagion. 

Aquamation is interesting for crematoria because they could introduce it at low cost and make their facilities for receiving relatives, catering, bone crushing, etc. profitable. All they would have to do is add a room to perform the aquamation and make it look like everything is fine, Madame Marquise… in the crematoria. 

Let’s finish our little tour of the funeral industry with Recompose(12). This is the technique that is closest to Humusation, in an extremely « high tech » version. The body of the deceased is placed in a rotating cylinder, equipped with a kneading hook and filled with vegetable matter, into which humid air at 50°C is continuously injected. The process takes about a month. Beware, the resulting compost is not stable, the carbon in the body has undergone a kind of slow combustion and has partly volatilized into CO2. However, the purpose of humusation is to rebuild humus and put carbon back into the soil surface. 

Apart from Recompose, all these new techniques coming out of the human imagination have no echo in the animal world. This is just rhetoric designed to flatter the wallets of those concerned and does not in any way call upon the living forces that Nature has put in place to regenerate itself. 

Let’s stay positive. We can clearly see that some people are trying to improve the situation and that there is a real interest in ecological practices. 

Today, in Belgium, we are still faced with this Cornelian choice: to pollute the air and water or to pollute the earth and water. The only way to change things is to stop cremating and burying bodies and to humiliate them. 

Recompose brings a beautiful ray of hope. With its legalization in the United States, it should logically lead our politicians to grant, without further delay, the authorization and the public financing of scientific tests, in Wallonia or in Brussels, for the humusation of some remains of consenting humans in order to validate the « process » of the Metamorphosis Foundation(13) which allows to obtain about 1.5 m³ of healthy and fertile humus per humus body. The authors of this « process » are convinced that they will obtain exceptional results: the humus from a single corpse will be able to make the space self-fertile to grow a hundred trees; humusation will reduce the overall ecological footprint of a lifetime by 5% instead of increasing it by another 5 to 10% with current practices. 

We no longer want to choose between the grave and the oven. Let’s free ourselves from this diktat and follow our heart which only asks to adopt the idea of diplomacy with the living and to reconnect ourselves to the intelligence of nature. Let’s get wet! 

What’s next? See you in the next issue… 

Sandrine Wilson, ambassador for humusation 

Barbara Previtali
Notes et références
  1. Suite de l’article Le « juste retour à la Source » pour les Vivants après la mort ? publié dans Kairos no49 du mois d’avril 2021.
  2. Dans le même état d’esprit, fleurissent en France des « cimetières nature » , notamment à Souché près de Niort : https://www.comitam-obseques.com/ sepulture/cimetiere/concession-funeraire/les-cimetieres-ecologiques.html
  3. https://www.dela.be/fr/organisation-de-funerailles/pendant-les-obseques/ enterrement-ecologique
  4. Bien expliqué dans la TED conférence : https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_ lee_my_mushroom_burial_suit?language=fr et https://www.humusation.org/ oeuf-urne-bio-costume-champignons/
  5. https://www.loop-of-life.com/
  6. « The wooden handles can be removed before burial ». Burial, c’est bien « enterrement ». Lien : https://www.loop-of-life.com/product
  7. https://www.capsulamundi.it/en/ et http://www.buzzecolo.com/30835/ capsula-mundi/
  8. https://santecool.net/mercure-dentaire-le-scandale-qui-valait-au-bas-mot-82millions-deuros/
  9. https://98181425–91af-41ae-8ae3-85facca5db33.filesusr.com/ugd/ ccce7d_7f3537d696a74da19539f747f3e89064.pdf
  10. https://www.lassurance-obseques.fr/guide-obseques/promession-modefuneraire/
  11. https://aquamationinfo.com/, https://www.caminteresse.fr/economiesociete/cest-quoi-laquamation-1189645/ et https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_la-resomation-l-alternative-ecolo-a-la-cremation?
  12. https://recompose.life/our-model/#the-process
  13. La Fondation Métamorphose pour mourir puis donner la vie : https://www. humusation.org/membres-fondateurs/
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