Happy Earth Day 2021!
World ‘leaders’ are meeting today and tomorrow for US President Biden’s ‘Leaders Summit on Climate‘. And there are several other ‘summits’ taking place to discuss this topic throughout the coming months, including the UK-hosted COP26 in Glasgow in November, which was postponed from last year due to COVID-19.
I’m reasonably convinced that any ‘action’ proposed by these high-profile activities will be just as limp-wristed as all the other ‘initiatives’ implemented in recent decades (to me, the number ’26’ itself speaks volumes: leaders talk and talk, and absolutely nothing happens).
It’s down to each and every one of us.
When you’re typing, your computer is using electricity. When you press send it goes through the network and it takes electricity to run the network. And it’s going to end up being stored on the cloud somewhere, and those data centres use a lot of electricity.
We don’t think about it because we can’t see the smoke coming out of our computers, but the carbon footprint of IT is huge and growing.
[…] cutting the waste out of our lives is good for our wellbeing and good for the environment. Every time we take a small step towards changing our behaviour, be that sending fewer emails or carrying a reusable coffee cup, we need to treat it as a reminder to ourselves and others that we care even more about the really big carbon decisions.Professor Mike Berners-Lee, author, researcher
— and brother of Tim, inventor of the World Wide Web
In a recent blog post (‘Think before you thank?‘), I mulled over the urgent need to change our behaviour to at least try to deal with the burgeoning problem of climate change. This is something that we simply must do, despite the many delusional morons who continue to claim there isn’t a problem and that it’s all a government conspiracy (to me, those people just sound like those nutcases who shout, “the Earth is flat!”, or, “the Moon landings were faked!”). That post was about the relatively trivial matter of carbon emissions due to sending emails. There are many other things we can each consider doing; for instance, even though I used to enjoy travelling abroad, some years ago I vowed never to fly again on the grounds that that was an effective way to reduce my own carbon footprint.
I recently entered my seventh decade in this mortal realm, and my mind has turned to making arrangements for when I leave it. When I’ve thought about this in the past, my vision has been of having a natural burial in some tranquil woodland, with the dwarf horse chestnut tree I grew from a conker and have tended for a third of a century planted on my resting place (after I’m gone, I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel obliged to look after it, and maybe have it die and then feel bad about that).
A short while ago I learned that some folks who are very dear to me have made arrangements to have their remains cremated after they shuffle off this mortal coil. I find that thought horrifying. Our way of life is killing us. And it’s even doing that after we’re dead.
The Cremation Association of North America says 56 per cent of bodies in Canada are now cremated annually compared with only 2.75 per cent 50 years ago. Cremation is typically seen as cheaper than burial, but environmental costs usually are not factored in.
Since it takes two to four hours at temperatures ranging from 1,400 and 2,100 F, or 760 and 1,150 C, the estimated energy required to cremate one body is roughly equal to the amount of fuel required to drive 4,800 miles, or 7,725 kilometers.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide are spewed in large volume, along with carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, particulate matter, heavy metals, dioxins and furans.
There is also release of cadmium and lead from pacemakers and mercury from dental amalgams. Total mercury emissions from cremation in Canada for 2004 were between 240 and 907 pounds, or 109 and 411.6 kilograms.Source: Desmog
Dying ain’t cheap. The Money Advice Service, to which the gov.uk website pointed me, says, “On average, the cost for a burial is £4,383, whilst the average cost for a cremation is £3,290“. Ow. It’s easy to see why cremations are on the rise. But when considering ‘cost’, one has to consider not just the out-of-pocket fees, which are considerable, but the externalities, too. Making arrangements to get cremated is like adding a road trip from Madrid to Moscow — and back again — to your bucket list.
The good news, from my point of view at least, is that natural burials can cost less than being interred in a traditional cemetery. And, according to the Good Funeral Guide, I shouldn’t be put off by some thoughts that might otherwise deter me: “If you like to source your goods locally, and entertain intuitive misgivings about willow coffins from Poland or bamboo from China, you may be relieved to find that their carbon footprint is often no greater than that some of our home-grown ones.”
The Natural Death Centre website features a list of natural burial grounds in the UK. I’ve made contact with a couple of the nearest with a view to reserving my final resting place. I hope you’ll consider doing likewise.
Don’t lay me in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wallPam Ayres
Where the dust of ancient bones has spread a dryness over all,
Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold
Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.
There kindly and affectionately, plant a native tree,
To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.
The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way,
To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.
To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done,
I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the sun.