Green Burials – Back to Nature?

As I get older I naturally think more of my own death, and mindful of the attitude Memento Mori (Remember You Will Die) strive to ensure I live out all my dreams.

Thinking about death I also reflect on my own funeral. I have attended both funerals of my own parents in the last few years and most recently an uncle. All these funerals were Christian burials – two internments and one cremation.

I do not believe in God – or I believe this is what I believe anyway!

My father did not believe either yet his final farewell was within the setting of a Christian service. This is traditional in the United Kingdom – familiar and comforting. My father did leave a will but it said nothing about his funeral wishes. I went then with the traditional arrangement. To arrange something secular might not have been something he would have approved of, perhaps also difficult for me to arrange and difficult for those in attendance to deal with. Perhaps.

Back to nature

I have many years considered that I would like a secular burial – to be laid to rest underneath a tree in non-consecrated ground. I have indicated this in my own will.

It is something I am able to do because The Natural Death Centre, an organisation established in 1991, set themselves up to provide alternative responses to religious funereal ceremonies. And one of their means to this end is the setting up of Burial Grounds throughout the UK – this page on their own website explains this in more detail.

I am sharing this here as I have just read a beautiful blog post in Scientific American ‘My Dead Mother, the Tree That Never Was: The Psychology of “Green Burial Practices” by Jesse Bering.

I write this blog post not sure how it will be received. In Britain in general we do not like to talk about death so by extension to write and read about it in blogs but I feel and believe we should discuss it more than we do, whilst not morbidly obsessing over it, and I hope this post resonates with at least some of you reading this.

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Feel the power – Solar power








Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett was on the BBC’s graveyard political show This Week first broadcast last week March 18 arguing against nuclear power in the wake of the Japan Fukushima Nuclear plant disaster and still potential meltdown – with host Andrew Neil studio regular Michael Portillo and Labour MP and current regular guest Jacqui Smith.

The case for it was reprised – energy security and reducing the carbon foot-print – not being over-dependent on Oil and the despotic regimes responsible for much of its output and being clean and green.

Naturally arguing against nuclear power or at least to pause and re-consider its safety and security before commissioning any new reactors the alternatives were considered – and the alternatives discussed were wind, carbon capture & storage of existing fossil fuels, finally tidal power,  but not solar power – it was listed in her preamble but not mentioned at all in the ensuing studio discussion.

Studio Discussion

I wondered about this – perhaps the science was still not advanced enough – or perhaps too expensive to be commercially viable.  I do not profess an expertise in this area and thought it was something I should explore further.

And what should arrive in my Inbox a few days later in the latest weekly Email from Scientific American but a guest blog article by Ramez Nam titled ‘Smaller, cheaper, faster: Does Moore’s law apply to solar cells?’.

You should read the article yourself as it will explain it far better than I ever could but its brief thrust is that solar power could provide not just some of all our energy needs – not even all our energy needs so much as beyond all our energy needs!  We would be overwhelmed by the surplus it could produce. And the science is there and commercially it is getting ever  cheaper ever more viable – if not viable just yet – a decade or so over the horizon perhaps.

And in respect of the energy production and consumption cycle so much greener and safer – no terrifying radioactive waste produced needing to be stored for millennia thereafter. And no nation would or could have a monopoly on it.

Why then is solar power so overlooked and why are so many countries continuing to go nuclear?  I am not going to ask why governments and political parties are not able to look beyond the horizon of the next election cycle – I am not that naive! – but cannot but wonder that had a solar bomb been developed in the last century as part of the Manhattan Project rather than a nuclear one that solar energy would now be in all our homes.

War leading science, the proverbial tail wagging the dog.

The New York Times – Pay Up…

On Thursday I received an Email from the New York Times or more specifically its publisher announcing that from March 28 I would have to pay to read its content beyond an allowed 20 articles per month.

I have already experienced this with the Financial Times where I am now similarly restricted to how much of their content I can read per month.

I am not unsympathetic – they are a business not a charity, their writers and other contributors need to be paid and I understand that ad-supported content can only support an online journal so far.  But I am also a consumer on a budget with the ostensibly no brainer decision of choosing between content I can get for free and similar content for a fee.

Why would I and any other consumer pay for content in this context?

Bush House home of The BBC World Service

State taxation funded media such as the BBC in the UK is a huge provider of free and trusted online content – when presented with such content the idea that many readers will get out their credit cards and go in search of similar content from a private competitor is stretching credulity.

What can they provide that is value added?  Perhaps specialized content?

But even here specialists are still competing with other specialists that provide similar content for free – New Scientist use to offer a lot of their content for free now they restrict what can be seen – I used to pay for their print journal so was not averse to paying for it in digital form – that is until I happened across Scientific American which offers me similar content for free.  So I never did subscribe to the New Scientist nor have I yet to have paid a penny for the FT and am doubtful I will be paying a cent for the New York Times either.

As well as a reader of content I am also a producer with this blog and all of it is available to read for free for any of you that should happen to stumble upon it, this one blog in a sea of blogs – certainly as an unknown writer I am in no position to charge for others to read this content – this blog would be even less read than it is now.

If then a journal is well known, well respected, well loved can it expect that its readers will pay to read its content?  For the New York Times would I pay to read the articles of writers I admire such as Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd.

I think the payment structure has to be pretty micro – this in itself is still a reasonable business proposition – content is much cheaper to produce online and the potential readership much larger so even small payments would soon add up.

I wonder even a model practiced by some software providers with donate ware – you can read the content for free but if you liked what you read you can make a donation of whatever size on the content page.

So content costs but will it pay?  You can watch this space – but at what price?!