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  • When I say "funeral" this is probably what you think of, right?

  • The cemetery, the casket, the gorgeous floral arrangements.

  • Vin Diesel stylishly going two buttons undone on the dress shirt.

  • But what if I told you that other than Dominic Toretto's effortless style, this was probably the worst way you could dispose of a body?

  • This traditional casket-in-the-ground method most of us are used to is what journalist Mark Harris calls a "modern burial."

  • And that is the chemical embalming of the remains,

  • the burial of the body or the placement of the body into a metal casket,

  • and then the placing of that casket and embalmed body in the bottom of the grave that we call the burial vault.

  • So that's pretty much the American way of death.

  • Aside from being a great name for a novel, the American way of death actually turns out to be pretty terrible.

  • The average cost of modern burial runs on average from $10,000 to $12,000.

  • Although you can talk to families who will tell you they paid a lot more than that.

  • In many cases, a lot more.

  • This KISS casket alone will set you back seven grand.

  • No word on if the amps are included though.

  • The funeral industry has also been known to engage in predatory business practices, like selling vulnerable families add-ons and services that they don't need.

  • They've also been the subject of a number of class action lawsuits, including one for conspiring to fix the prices of caskets at artificially high prices.

  • "Modern" burials are also incredibly wasteful.

  • The average grave site takes up 32 square feet of land in a cemetery.

  • And that's just space.

  • It uses a staggering amount of resources as well.

  • Every year we divert enough concrete to the production of those burial vaults to lay two-lane highway halfway across the country. And every year we divert enough metal for those metal caskets to completely rebuild the Golden Gate bridge.

  • The average ten-acre cemetery contains enough coffin wood to construct more than 40 homes, and contains enough toxic formalin, which is the main compound of embalming fluids, to fill a backyard swimming pool.

  • Which almost sounds kind of fun, right?

  • Grill up some hotdogs, toss some diving rings in for the kids to fetch.

  • Not so fast.

  • Formalin, which is the formaldehyde-based preservative solution embalmers use, is incredibly toxic.

  • OSHA deems it a dangerous carcinogen and strictly regulates its use, and the EPA treats it as a hazardous waste.

  • Embalmers experience higher levels of brain, colon, and prostate cancer as well as leukemia.

  • To embalm a typical body requires 3 pounds of this formalin solution and sends 120 gallons of untreated "funeral waste" directly into the sewage system,

  • including blood, fecal matter, organ fluid, and carcinogenic chemicals,

  • as well as whatever unknown diseases the body contains.

  • OK cool, so modern funerals suck.

  • But what are the other options?

  • Well, let's start with cremation.

  • Countries all across the world cremate bodies.

  • In Great Britain, 75% of people get cremated, in Switzerland it's 85%, and in Japan that number is almost 100%.

  • Two years ago, for the first time in this country's history, more Americans were cremated than buried and then pretty soon we're going to hit 50% of Americans being cremated.

  • For 1 thing, it's a lot cheaper.

  • A typical cremation costs around $1,400 compared to the $10,000 to $12,000 price tag we mentioned earlier.

  • Again, a little more for that sweet KISS casket.

  • Cremating a body also requires much less space, since there doesn't need to be a grave.

  • And it doesn't require a swimming pool full of formaldehyde either. Sorry kids.

  • You can also do all sorts of fun stuff with your ashes like put them in fireworks, spread them in a national park, or even turn them into a reef.

  • But is it actually any better for the environment?

  • Cremation does use some resources. So you're heating a body for two hours up to 1,800 degrees. You're using natural gas or electricity. You're releasing pollutants into the atmosphere, most significantly mercury.

  • So it sounds like cremation is better, although it's far from perfect.

  • Is there no way to do this without hurting the environment?

  • Swedish scientists asked that same question and developed something called promession.

  • It's a process where you freeze a corpse in liquid nitrogen;

  • rapidly vibrate the body so it breaks into millions of tiny particles in just a few minutes;

  • then freeze dry the particles and remove the harmful metals leftover from your dental fillings.

  • You're left with a fine dust which actually looks very similar to cremated remains.

  • It solves most of the problems of modern burial and cremation but unfortunately hasn't been approved for human beings yet.

  • Another option is alkaline hydrolysis, where a body is put into a chamber which is then filled with water and lye, pressurized, and heated up to about 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The body tissue is broken down in a process that's similar to natural decomposition, and dissolved to nothing but a skeleton in about 12 hours.

  • Damn, spooky.

  • It's more environmentally friendly since there's zero toxic emissions and it has about one-tenth of the carbon footprint as a cremation.

  • All that said, the simplest option might be natural burial.

  • A number of natural cemeteries have sprung up across the country where unembalmed bodies are buried in biodegradable containers, or sometimes nothing at all, and allowed to decompose naturally.

  • It's inexpensive, natural, and can actually help preserve and restore vulnerable land and wildlife.

  • Not to mention, it's how humans have done it for most of recorded history.

  • No matter what the method, though, it's clear that we have to reform the way that we bury the dead.

  • In less than a quarter-century, 76 million people in America alone will get to the average life expectancy of 78 years.

  • If all those people were buried in traditional graves, we'd need a cemetery the size of Las Vegas to accommodate their bodies.

  • The point is, we're all gonna die.

  • The question is, what are we gonna do with all the bodies?

When I say "funeral" this is probably what you think of, right?

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B2 US Vox burial casket body cemetery average

We need to change how we bury the dead

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