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Posts Tagged ‘Soylent Green’

Pierre Lachaise Cemetery, Paris

On the blog no topic is ever really dead, so no surprise at today’s resurrection of overpopulation of this planet by humans as issue du jour again.

A recent reference to Soylent Green as a menu item that would reduce burdens created by more mouths to feed on fewer resources brought recycling into the discussion. What the heck, heh?

As this article in today’s BBC points out, we’re quickly running out of room for storing all the empty containers we will all drop …

Resting beside our loved ones when the time comes is a reassuring notion for the living. Families pay thousands of pounds for land where generations can rest in peace together for eternity.

But in the UK at least, the ground is filling up.

Should I wish to, I could not be buried near to my relatives at Yardley Cemetery in south Birmingham. Space there ran out in 1962.

Similarly, I would struggle to find a place near another strand of my family in Halesowen. There is no room left underground there and other facilities at nearby Lye and Wollescote are expected to run out in the next four years.

What if I head south? I lived in Brighton once and a seaside burial sounds quite nice. But four of the seven cemeteries run by Brighton and Hove Council are already full, and of the three remaining, one is for Orthodox Jews only.

Yes, the days of great whopping tombs constructed over the illustrious dead are about done, and even the standard single 3’x7’x77″ plot is only a short term stopgap measure in some places.

Some countries use a “double decker” approach to avoid overcrowding.

In Germany, graves are reused after only 30 years, the existing remains usually being exhumed and cremated. In Australia and New Zealand, “dig and deepen” is carried out in urban areas as a matter of routine.

Tim Morris, chief executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, says it is time to change tack.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he says. “Re-use is common in lots of other countries, and was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. I’ve spent some time with some German gravediggers and there the limit is 30 years, but people aren’t happy with that, they want it lowered to 20.”

With my son buried between my father and my grandfather within feet of my great-grandparents, the idea of breaking up the family appalls me, but I do understand the need to free up space in areas more populated than the tiny town in Northern California where they lie. Even there the population of dead outnumbers the living by about 300%.

Those laid to rest in one spot in perpetuity add up over the centuries, after all, and even though the real estate per occupant may be no bigger than a broom closet acres can covered in just a couple of generations. Where habitation has been continuous for hundreds of generations … well … a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris gives a clue to what crowding looks like.

Cremation, of course, is not only an option but a societal dictate in some cultures. There’s no doubt it leaves more land available for the living, but it’s not everyone’s idea of an appropriate exit strategy.

With death being such a huge part of life, traditional methods of dealing with our dead are almost hardwired, and although some of us couldn’t care less what happens with our form once we shuck it those we leave behind usually react with strong feelings and attachments to one comforting protocol or another.

Even the realm of the dead is changing, however.

With space for the living growing more spare and precious and increasing concerns over our impact on our Earth, another method of dealing with the dead has been invented … and patented.

Promession may just be the way to go in future.

Promession is different from all other alternative burial methods because it is a gentle and clean process which uses vibration to reduce the body remains.

The method is based on three steps:

— Reducing the body of the deceased to a fine powder, thereby allowing subsequent decomposition to be aerobic. This is achieved by submerging the body in liquid nitrogen, making the remains so brittle that they shatter into a powder as the result of slight vibrations. The powder is then dried, reducing the deceased remains to around 30% of their original body weight.

— Removing and recycling metals within the powdered remains.

— Shallow-burying the powder in a biodegradable casket.

It is clear that to produce liquid nitrogen or LN2 on its own would be relatively costly, however this is offset by other factors when it is used to replace environmentally hazardous alternatives; Nitrogen is a by-product of the essential oxygen industry and for every 1 part oxygen, there are 4 parts of nitrogen produced; therefore the Promession method effectively recycles this waste product which otherwise is released back into the atmosphere.

Sweden, Great Britain and South Korea are already close to opening Promatoria (facilities for Promession-based funerals) that will fill the bill environmentally and legally.

The volume of remains left is about a third of the original body weight; the advantages include avoiding the release of pollutants into the atmosphere (for instance, mercury vapour from dental fillings) and the rapid decomposition of the remains (within 6 to 12 months of burial) and the return of the body to life’s cycle. Promession allows for families to be buried in the same plot without disturbing previous remains and meets the requirements of new European Union pollution laws.

It is yet to be seen if Promession will catch on, but I suspect some will sign up to have liquid nitrogen with their obsequies. It is more palatable than ending up on a cracker.

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Wiki imageFor those of us living on islands surrounded by miles and miles of water, as these clearly are, the tragic shark attacks of the past weeks convey a resonance that goes deeper than the horror of the deaths.

With the Indian Ocean on our doorstep we’re used to seeing the sea almost every hour of every day, but we’re looking at it a bit differently for now, contemplating what lies beneath the barrier between air and water, and from many angles.

For sure, sharks are scary and we’re keeping our kids to the shallows, but many are also considering what the seas may still promise when these children are adults. With part of the reaction to the recent shark attacks amounting to a virtual war, a petition is circulating advising caution.

In response to a government statement by Mr St Ange, director of Seychelles Toursim (sic) Board who said “We need to find the beast and get it out of our waters,”

We would like to highlight the following misconceptions implied within this statement1. Sharks are not beasts they are ancient fish highly specialized and adapted to hunting in aquatic environments.2.Sharks have for centuries lived, reproduced and hunted in the oceans travelling (sic) thousands of miles each year, therefore, the notion of a land based species i’ll adapted to the aquatic environment owning the seas is a little ridiculous. 3. By “get it out” do you mean remove humanly to another location or as some reports have stated begin a shark hunt?
As we are sure you understand culls of species without knowledge of their impact can destroy ecosystems and be tragically detrimental to other species reliant upon them.

Tourism relies on the ocean and any widespread shark culling will have a widespread negative effect on the reefs and the reasons people travel to your beautiful islands.

With an estimated 100 million sharks killed by humans every year, shark populations are crashing in oceans all over the world, some species depleted by over 90%, so the idea of a massive cull does not sit well with everyone.

Many governments and the UN have acknowledged the need for shark fisheries management, but little progress has been made due to their low economic value, the small volumes of products produced and sharks’ poor public image.

That “poor public image” thing hasn’t been helped by the deaths of two young men calmly taking to our beautiful waters. Seychelles depends on two industries for financial security: tourism and fishing. With the world’s second largest tuna processing plant here fish are a very big deal.

Located in the Seychelles International Trade Zone, IOT is the second largest tuna processing and canning plant in the world. In the year ending 31 March 2009, IOT processed almost 66,000 metric tonnes of tuna and sold 4.6 million statistical cases of tuna cans, mostly to the UK, French and Italian markets.

That’s a whole lotta dead fish, folks, and doesn’t even begin to take into account the bycatch that never makes it as far as the factory.

This article published in Australia this morning illustrates many of the issues surrounding the tuna industry.

It will come as a surprise to some that eating fish is bad for the environment. In the past, fish was seen as a healthy and sustainable food option with few ethical implications.

But we know now that fishing fleets are completely dependent on fossil fuels, and have to travel longer and longer distances to find fish in commercial quantities. We also know seafood stocks are crashing at an alarming rate.

The methods we use to improve catch rates harm habitats and kill other species we never meant to eat in the first place.

Unfortunately, farming fish does not solve these problems.

The best solution to this growing problem is to eat only those fish you know to be harvested sustainably.

The issues, of course, are not only local, not limited to the local economy, happy tourists or putting tuna in tins.

Nope.

The issue is a global human population at close to seven billion and growing daily which puts paid to any idea of sustainability over the long haul.

Shark-free seas and cupboards full of tinned tuna may actually sound okay to some, but when the oceans die we’ll go with them.

There is, however, the option put on film way back in 1973:

In the year 2022, the population has grown to forty million people in New York City alone. Most housing is dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless fill the streets and line the fire escapes and stairways of buildings. Food as we know it in present times is a rare and expensive commodity. Most of the world’s population survives on processed rations produced by the massive Soylent Corporation, including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, which are advertised as “high-energy vegetable concentrates.” The newest product is Soylent Green, a small green wafer which is advertised as being produced from “high-energy plankton.” It is much more nutritious and palatable than the red and yellow varieties, but, like most other food, it is in short supply, which often leads to food riots.

For any who may not know where this goes, we’ll skip to the last line of “Soylent Green” …

“Soylent Green is PEOPLE!”

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