Green Nova Scotia Burial
We can rise up rooted, like trees.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Greetings, my name is Dawn Carson. I'm raising funds for the development of green burial preserves in Nova Scotia, I like to call it Green Nova Scotia. One day this will be the only way to be buried in Nova Scotia - Canada - Worldwide.... 2nd only to body composting, but that's another story.
The money will be used for the development of sacred green burial preserves in Nova Scotia. Currently, there are 3 sites being considered - Tatamagouche and the South Shore. The funding is needed to proceed with the development of the land-water table testing, access for site development, plot planning and other start-up costs associated with the green burial development process.
Green Burial is a natural alternative to resource-intensive conventional burial and cremation. The deceased is laid to rest in the earth with only biodegradable materials. To accomplish this, it is recommended that the body is not cremated, embalmed or placed in a vault, but rather be buried in a shroud or a simple casket.
Choosing a natural burial means choosing a low impact burial. Green burial is less toxic and reduces energy and resource consumption. The land is therefore protected from development and green space is naturally preserved.
Burial shrouds, 5 meters of fabric used to replace a coffin for natural burial and reduce decomposition time, return nutrients to the soil efficiently.
Green caskets are easily biodegradable, don’t add toxins to the earth as they decompose, and are produced in a way that's carbon-neutral.
Cremation figures represent approximately 70% of burial preference. Consider that a cremator(retort) needs to operate at 760-1150C for 75 minutes per cremation and it's easy to see how much energy is required. In fact, a cremator uses about 285 kiloWatt hours of gas and 15kWh of electricity on average per cremation - roughly the same domestic energy demands as a single person for an entire month. Mercury pollution (from dental fillings) and the formaldehyde resin (from veneer chipboard coffins) produce greenhouse gas emissions. All things considered, cremation has a significant carbon footprint, and carbon taxes are applied in some places in North America.
From an environmental perspective, it's actually better to fade away than burn out. Much better, in death, to compost down as nature intended.
The planet and I would deeply appreciate your support in developing Green Burial Preserves in Nova Scotia.
Decomposition & Green ~ TED talk with Katrina Spade
Forest Bathing ~ how green spaces benefit
Vatican City ~ information for Catholics
The Science of Green Burial ~ how it works
More Canadians choosing green funerals The National ~ CBC radio interview
For more information: Death Matters ~Green Burial Society of Canada
Since the launch of the Green Burial Nova Scotia awareness campaign through the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, we have had 4 more landowners come forward expressing an interest in working with the GBNS to develop green burial cemeteries and conservation areas. More than ever we need your support to develop the plans and the land for green burial in Nova Scotia. Please offer a donation.
What's happening in other places? Why are people turning to 'green burials'? click the link below to find out.
Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and the founder of The Order of The Good Death, a group of funeral industry professionals, academics and artists exploring ways to better prepare for the end. Trying to find a more natural and sustainable way to bury our loved ones. But to get there, she says: we need to rethink how we view death altogether.
RAZ: Did people used to have a healthier attitude about death, like, a long time ago?
DOUGHTY: I would say absolutely. Yeah. I mean, you know, I'm not really in the position to rank people on their (laughter) - or rank cultures or time periods on their levels of acceptance. But I will say even if you want to look at 150 years ago in America when someone died, they died at home. The family took care of the body. They were prepared and waked in the home. Some neighbour built a wooden coffin, and the person was carried on the family's shoulders to be buried. And it was entirely interactive and entirely family-based. And in that 150-year time to where we are now, we've completely outsourced every part of the dying and death process. And of course, it's going to affect our culture. It's going to affect how we see death and how comfortable we are with death. But I think people are starting to realize that maybe that's not the best system.
DOUGHTY: In America, our death traditions have come to be chemical embalming followed by burial at your local cemetery or, more recently, cremation. It's a multibillion-dollar industry, and its economic model is based on the principle of protection, sanitation and beautification of the corpse. Whether they mean to or not, the funeral industry promotes this idea of human exceptionalism. It doesn't matter what it takes, how much it costs, how bad it is for the environment. We're going to do it because humans are worth it. It ignores the fact that death can be in an emotionally messy and complex affair. And that there is beauty in decay, beauty in the natural return to the earth from whence we came. We'll start with a dead body. The funeral industry will protect your dead body by offering to sell your family a casket made of hardwood or metal with a rubber sealant.
At the cemetery, on the day of burial, that casket will be lowered into a large concrete or metal vault. When you choose burial at the cemetery, your dead body is not coming anywhere near the dirt that surrounds it. Next, the industry will sanitize your body through embalming, the chemical preservation of the dead. Embalming is a cheat code providing the illusion that death and then decay are not the natural end for all organic life on this planet. Finally, the industry will beautify the corpse. They'll put it in makeup. They'll put it in a suit. They'll inject dyes so the person looks a little more alive, just resting. Now if this system of beautification, sanitation and protection doesn't appeal to you, you are not alone. There is a whole wave of people - funeral directors, designers, environmentalists - trying to come up with a more eco-friendly way of death. There's no question that our current methods of death are not particularly sustainable what with the waste of resources and our reliance on chemicals.
DOUGHTY: Even cremation, which is usually considered the environmentally friendly option, uses per cremation the natural gas equivalent of a 500-mile car trip.
RAZ: So it seems like, over several years of being in this industry, you've come to the conclusion that the way we handle bodies at least in the U.S. and in Western countries isn't just misguided, but it's not environmentally sustainable.
DOUGHTY: Yeah. And so if someone is more environmentally minded during their life, they're going to want a chance to actually go back to the earth. And we now call it natural or green burial. But for thousands of years of human history, they just called it burial...
DOUGHTY: ...Because that's what it was. They didn't have all these bells and whistles and protective devices we have now. So a natural burial is simply a hole that's actually much shallower than in a conventional cemetery because all of the good decaying mechanisms are in that topsoil. And then you're in just a simple cotton shroud, or you can have a casket that's very decomposable, like a wicker casket, for instance, or a seagrass casket. And you go underneath the ground. And sometimes you can have a headstone. Sometimes not, but it's really just - it couldn't be any more simple.
RAZ: It seems like what you're talking about isn't just a method of being buried. LIke a philosophical outlook, that we're just another animal. We're going to die. And there's a cycle here, we might as well be part of that cycle. We might as well become food for other creatures and nutrients.
DOUGHTY: Yeah, exactly. Like, I've taken more than my fair share...
DOUGHTY: ...Of things that have hurt the earth. And why am I going to continue to hurt the earth when I die? Even just - even if it's symbolic, why am I not saying, I care about stewardship? And something that I'm very excited about is something called conservation burial. And what that is is a bit like natural burial-plus in the sense that it's land that might be developed on otherwise. But once you bury a few bodies there, they can't develop on it. And so a lot of the money for your burial goes to longterm stewardship of this land. And beyond that, they're reintroducing native plants to the land. It becomes a place that's comfortable for - you know, to walk your dog or to come do yoga or meditate. It becomes this communal atmosphere again in the way that.
RAZ: So instead of these manicured lawn-type cemeteries, you would just find a natural area. And as people get buried there naturally, it becomes protected conservation land.
DOUGHTY: There's hope in conservation cemeteries. They offer a dedicated green space in both urban and rural areas. They offer a chance to reintroduce native plants and animals to a region. They offer public trails, places for spiritual practice, places for classes and events, places where nature and mourning meet. Most importantly, they offer us, once again, a chance to just decompose in a hole in the ground. The soil, let me tell you, has missed us.
RAZ: You actually do some of these conservation burials outside of LA in Joshua Tree?
DOUGHTY: Yeah. And I've stood there as someone buried their mother. And they just hand-fill the grave, and the person just disappears into the desert. And you can see them working out their grief as they are shovelling the dirt. I think it's almost kind of a metaphor. The body's under there decomposing, and it's messy and it's wild as your grief is and as it should be. It's supposed to be messy and wild and difficult and a journey. You're not supposed to trap your emotions in a box underground and don't let anything touch it. You're supposed to feel your feelings because that's the only way through death. And I think to accept that that's what's going to happen to your body also helps you accept that that's what's going to happen in your mind and your grief process.
DOUGHTY: People are so afraid to be interested in death. They don't want to seem morbid, but death is the natural end to every single person's life. If you're not going to be interested in death - if that's not the universal experience, what is?
My idea has been to take a field, start at one end, and plant a tree with each burial: consult a forestry expert to ascertain varieties and placement: place a small plack at the base of (or on) each tree with the person's name and perhaps another few words or dates. Keep it non-denominational (no noticeable religious symbols). Have you thought about who would oversee this? Fencing? Cost of digging the grave, etc.? I know of a cemetery owner near Prospect who is interested in setting aside part of his land for this purpose. He already has the set-up. Get in touch with me to discuss, if you want,.
Am I correct that currently there are only 2 designated green burial sites in NS?
Dawn, Are you familiar with this green burial ground on the North Mountain of NS's Annapolis Valley? http://thechronicleherald.ca/community/annapolis-valley/1232313-green-burials-leave-small-footprint
Good luck with this campaign! Thrilled to see the movement growing. Cassandra www.deathcaring.ca
Can you "message" me through FB? https://www.facebook.com/jane.schlosberg.5 Can you tell me more about yourself? Where do you live? Have you been part of other organizations that have similar aims? Who will oversee this cemetery? Supply the backhoe, mower, etc.?
Hi Jane; Love your ideas. Please send me you email so we may connect further.
Green Bathing ~ Why forests are important for the living. The dead may help. http://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/