Burial Eco-Death

Promession: Lose Your Life, Leave a Tree

Kim posted a couple weeks ago about promession, the process by which a body is embrittled in a bath of liquid nitrogen, crumpled using vibrations then sterilized by freeze drying, rendering a corpse into compost. Promession avoids the harsh chemicals and environmental pollutants of traditional burial and cremation, making it a green alternative while providing the requisite sanitization of death and emotional distance from simply dumping fresh bodies into the earth (the original “organic compost” method).

Today I discovered an animation depicting the process. I fear the multiple angle re-enactments of a tree growing out of a corpse’s pulverized chest may shift the intended “gee whiz!” effect closer to “oh dear god,” but it’s still an interesting infoplug, provided you’re not eating a delicious, ruby apple, or plan to, ever.

Burial Funeral Industry

Funeral Procession, er, I mean Promession

Container by Erik Geschke

“Natural burial is what we have been doing for millennia. People may be leery of this new fandangled technology.”

– Janet McCausland, Executive Director of the Toronto-based Natural Burial Association

Eco-this, eco-that. Seems everybody wants to “go green” these days—even in death. I say, why not? It’s the last good deed you can do for the planet after you shuffle off that mortal coil.

Eco-friendly burial practices are not necessarily a new phenomenon, but they are receiving more attention and interest these days as environmentally friendly practices of all kinds take hold. An article in the NY Times covered the topic about 4 years ago when they profiled the Fernwood Cemetary in northern California.

Take, for example, a recent article in The Walrus, a Canadian general interest publication akin to the U.S.-based Utne Reader. In the latest issue, writer James Glave, writes about the process of “promession”, which is actually a neologism used to describe the process of ecologically inclined disposal of bodies by way of freeze drying. In other words, the term may not have caught on yet, but the concept of freeze drying one’s remains to then be implanted into soil so that life may begin anew, is gaining purchase with the eco-friendly crowd.

On a more personal note, my experiences with freeze drying have primarily been with either Folger’s coffee or the disturbing (at the time) purchase of a freeze dried duckling my parents bought at a flea market back in the 1980s. Literally frozen in time, this little guy had been saved for posterity due to its cute factor—and the fact that it could be suspended in time, fuzz and all, in a perfect non-animated but life-like state—mesmerized and seduced my parents to purchase and display him in our living-room curio cabinet for years, where it remains to this day.