HUMUS SAPIENS: THE LOOP IS (RE)CYCLED

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If the end of life (or of the cycle) calls for a rebirth, like the ouroboros or the eternal beginning, then the question arises: what to do with our own organic body, with the human being after death? Let’s take the time to think about it before it’s too late. 

The rite and the celebration around the dead is part of the living and is practiced in an ancestral way, we speak moreover of civilization from the moment when the men began to bury their dead. If the journey to the heavens is a common reference, part of the imagination, modern funeral practices offer us two ways to get there: burial and cremation. This last one concretizes this celestial vision, because the combustion of the organism involves its transformation into gas, spinning right towards the stars. The force is with us! The principle is simple, the body is preserved in order to show the deceased during the ceremony. The ashes are recovered after the coffin has passed through the flames. This first step is identical to the burial technique, but the coffin is buried in the ground, often at a depth of more than one and a half meters, which leads to the putrefaction of the organic matter in the absence of aerobic micro-organisms, resulting in the liquefaction and percolation of these toxic residues deep into the ground. The various organisms in the upper layers of the soil (30cm) harbor life that decomposes and feeds on death. 

However, our common funeral practices, anchored in the unconscious, demonstrate an ecological nonsense, as well as the « all to the sewer » or the « all to the garbage » (waste, incineration of household organic waste, etc.). 

An innovative technique inspired by the art of composting is however in full germination and reconciles both the spiritual and the integration of man in nature. This return to the earth, which seems inevitable and natural when you think about it, has a multitude of ecosystemic benefits and goes by the sweet name of humusation. But what is this new hope of reincarnation? 

The etymology of the word « humus » comes from Greek and means « earth » or « on the ground » according to Curtius (1st century AD). The Latin root of the word humus, like homo (man), is identical. Composting being the domestic technique of transformation of organic matter into humus, everything is linked: man is the earth, man is the humus. Humusation is therefore the technique of transforming human beings into humus. Of course, it is not a question of placing your mother-in-law in the compost at the bottom of the garden… Let’s take a closer look at its technical functioning. 

A good composting practitioner ensures that the three basic rules are respected: a balanced carbon/nitrogen or dry matter/wet matter ratio, the presence of oxygen and the moisture content. In practice, to humiliate, it is enough to apply these conditions that promote an ideal decomposition of the body. The « recipe » consists of creating a « monument » of organic matter placed on the ground, a bed of about fifty centimeters of moistened wood shavings on which the remains are placed in their shroud. The funeral ceremony can take place and the eventual bouquets of flowers will embellish the mattress. Afterwards, the whole will be covered with 2 m³ of shredded material and a stele is affixed. No need for a coffin, which drastically reduces costs! The energy necessary for this metamorphosis is deployed by micro-organisms and other decomposers. We let the magic of nature act, in the arms of Morpheus. 

Composting, in optimal conditions, with a natural increase in temperature, combined with a rest phase (1 year of composting minimum), allows a perfect hygienization and a purification of the material. Mineral residues such as bones and possible gold teeth, or synthetic prostheses, will be recovered after a screening of the mature compost. The recovered compost will be spread at the foot of a tree in a « forest garden » that will become a living, evolving and emotionally charged place of recollection. 

The current legal framework prevents the practice of humusation. It is necessary, as a matter of priority, to define the technical conditions of humusation in the form of a draft law to try to obtain legal recognition for this new practice of the future, while at the same time informing about the current conditions of burial and cremation. To this end, a public utility foundation, named Métamorphose, which has received royal approval, was created at the initiative of Francis Busigny. A petition has also been opened to put pressure on our local representatives and to demonstrate the citizen interest in humusation(1). It is time to claim the right to be humused. 

« A SMALL STEP FOR MAN, BUT A BIG STEP FOR HUMANITY 

We can easily imagine a model where a quality compost, resulting from various recognized and adapted composting techniques, would be used for the regeneration of agricultural soils and their fertilization, in a perspective of general common interest. Beyond feeding forests, humusation could feed vegetable or cereal plants. Fortunately, step by step, from the legal framework to the technical aspect, the brakes are breaking down and new simple and logical practices are becoming widespread. A variety of techniques such as vermicomposting, micro-organisms, larvae rearing, mushroom cultivation, dry toilets… and humusation contribute to increase the proportion of organic matter recycling in a way that is consistent with the environment and humanity. Reconciling with death remains essential to approach the subject and make it acceptable in our imaginations. 

There is still a lot to learn and to experiment in order to live better with the living. Many preconceived ideas need to be overcome and understood. So, let’s not be afraid of words and recycle ourselves! 

Bertrand Vanbelle

Notes et références
  1. Pour en savoir plus sur la fondation d’utilité publique « Métamorphose » et rendre l’humusation légale en signant la pétition en ligne : www.humusation.org.
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