Death That Chills

Public Funeral Parlor Recycles Energy from Cremations for Air Conditioners
Mo Yan-chih, Taipei Times (October 7, 2009)

Last August John wrote about crematoriums in England capturing the heat generated during cremations and recycling it to warm the building. The Taipei Second Funeral Parlor in Taiwan is taking a similar approach, this time transforming the heat into electricity and using it to run its newly installed air conditioners.

These kinds of stories can’t help but be quirky (I’m looking at you, cow dung cremations). We’ve got death and its taboos with understandable, squeamish backlash — or as Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung remarks, “I admire the city government for having such a creative idea, but for family members, it is just creepy to have air conditioning generated from burning bodies.”

Thank you, Mr. Chuang.

But here we also have wonderfully inventive ideas that challenge our cultural norms and promote environmentally sound solutions. …Or is that all a bunch of greenwash hogwash, an eco-spin meant to shut up opposition and all their silly, impractical emotions in favor of efficiency and science? Though the article doesn’t say, I wonder whether recycled cremation heat is cheaper than other sources. While you wouldn’t think offending, much less traumatizing, the already bereaved would be a line crossed lightly, when that line is the bottom line, people are definitely willing to go there.

Personally I find it a little weird, but I’m not opposed to it, either. I just question the real motivation behind these developments — not to mention where such things lead. Need I remind that Soylent Green is people?

Okay, kidding. Sort of. Maybe, hope so. Nonetheless, if any death studies students out there are looking for a thesis topic, this would be an interesting area to explore.

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