Charles Cowling

 

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

 

Back in the day, it was a given of the natural order that the decomposition of our remains made us part of the food chain. In the last few decades, the negative environmental impact of burial and cremation has become an ethical issue. Although there’s increasing scepticism towards scientific claims about man-made global warming, one can still want to reduce air, soil and water pollution, with its adverse affects on our health and that of wildlife. 

Embalming chemicals; hardwood coffins; concrete vaults; quarried headstones; marble mausoleums; processional motorcades; non-organic flowers and refreshments: all on the bad list. 

Cardboard coffins and biodegradable urns; planting a tree to mark a resting place; new crematoria chimneys that reduce emissions; removal of mercury-amalgam fillings before cremation; car-sharing and locally-sourced refreshments: all on the good list. 

While dictating the menu of the buffet and the material of headstones might seem too finger-wagging, there’s a case for reducing toxins by replacing embalming formaldehyde with glutaraldehyde, which is less poisonous, and designing ‘clean’ smokestacks. 

That’s the beauty of technological evolution. Sophisticated Man’s primal survival instinct remains intact, He devises solutions to problems that arise. People argue over the best course of action, or the urgency of action, but the doomsayers are invariably silenced. 

Nuclear fuel and GM food polarise opinion when proposed as the sustainable answer to the world’s needs. Some see wind farms as an answer while others see them as useless energy generators that guzzle fossil fuel in their construction, slice up birds and damage tourism as eco-eyesores. 

In his new book, Watermelons (so-titled because they’re green on the outside and red on the inside), James Delingpole discusses the Climategate scandal in which tax payer-funded scientists manipulated research in the most unscientific ways to make man-made warming claims stand up. Their lies, cover-ups, distortions and exaggerations, claims Delingpole, have caused mass hysteria resulting in liberties curtailed and trillions of pounds squandered. 

What’s your take on the green movement’s influence on the funeral industry? Necessary initiatives welcomed by today’s consumers? Or overdone and greeted with apathy or scepticism?    

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Richard RawlinsonRu CallenderJonathancharlesVale Recent comment authors

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Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Ru, it’s great that a green ‘DIY’ funeral has deep social, aesthetic and indeed spiritual dimensions as well as environmental benefits. Given the choice, say, between a big, marble memorial and a tree, many would agree the latter is beautiful on many levels as well as benign. But others would feel a cultural affinity with the former. My only gripe with the green movement is when they focus more on small, individual energy savings, which don’t seem to make much difference, rather than let us consume in greener ways with the help of science and technology. I dislike people saying,… Read more »

Ru Callender
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For us, a green funeral has come to mean more about the social aspects than the environmental, which are just everyday modern commonsense actions; reducing chemical use, sourcing sustainable products etc. For us, it means a whole mindset, an involvement in the process that might best be summed up in the acronym DIY. I think Charles assertion that the green funeral movement is governed by aesthetic and pastoral ideals is partly true, if a little reductive. It is quite a sophisticated response to our shifting religious needs, a search for better meaning through practical doings. It is also possible to… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Vale, I of course agree the environment is an issue for scientists and indeed economists. This is why some people focus on proposing solutions such as nuclear fuel replacing fossil fuel rather than the Greenpeace crowd focussing on the forward-to-the-Middle-Ages alternative. Some greens seem misanthropic, making today’s humans the enemy of the planet and future generations and expecting them to stop consuming instead of finding scientific solutions where we can sustainably enjoy the benefits of modern living – and in so doing sustain the economy as well as the planet. Noone is saying don’t trust scientists. Some have clearly lied… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

We only go through all this palaver with coffins, vehicles, crematoria, burial grounds, mortuaries, registrars, uniforms, ceremonies, vol-au-vents and huge lumps of imported stone for one foolish reason: we’re squeamish about corpses. Let them rot where they drop (or move them conveniently to the side of the road at most) for the animals and insects to make good use of, and the question becomes redundant. The ‘green movement’ can make better use of its time; we’re going to have to do a hell of a lot more than slightly reduce the amount of poisons we pour into the environment if… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Laying bait, me? Fair reply, Vale!

Vale
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Vale

Come, Richard, lay bait like Delingpole and you can hardly be surprised when someone rises to it. I rather enjoy his writing when he is not being too silly, but he is, to my mind, lightweight. Certainly not a trustworthy source on climate matters any more than, say, Jeremy Hunt is on News International. There are always dark, illiberal forces at play in Delingpole’s world that he fearlessly takes on, exposes, attacks, but I think they are mostly shadows. These forces hardly challenge the established order (though of course it is helpful to make people feel under threat), the rich… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

HI Vale, why does it not surprise me you have little empathy with a small state libertarian who doesn’t blame everything on big business and finds some PC trends to be hogwash? But Delingpole and the Warmergate debate aside, can you comment on whether or not the funeral industry’s effects on the environment are as significant as some claim, or if this is exaggerated? Are we being poisoned by mercury particles from crematoria smokestacks? Are Hindu pyres in India resulting in deforestation? Will a switch from formaldehyde to glutaraldehyde in the embalming process help clean up our rivers? Is technology… Read more »

Vale
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Vale

Delingpole. Good grief.