What are our options after death?
The baby boom was the greatest explosion of births in history. It follows that someday soon we’ll see the greatest explosion of deaths in history, and we aren’t ready for it. Cemeteries are full and news ones aren’t being created. Also, burying bodies in the ground is bad for the environment. Burning them, it turns out, is even worse, which rules out cremation, the most popular means of disposal at present.
What are the alternatives? There are many, and more coming all the time: green burial (a wild and shallow grave); alkaline hydrolysis (good enough for Desmond Tutu); the mushroom solution (a coffin of flesh-eating fungus); composting (it’s not just for coffee grounds); body donation (back to the classroom!), sky burial, sea burial, space burial, and many more.
Just as boomers changed the world as they came into their own, first as teenagers and then as adults, they will re-invent it again on their way out, upending a billion-dollar deathcare industry and all of our social norms around dying, death, funerals, and the disposal of our earthly remains.
About the author
Ian Sutton has been a journalist for over 55 years. He has worked as a radio news director, and a reporter at major Canadian newspapers, including The Toronto Star, as well as national magazines. He specialized in environmental, disability, aging, and health-care issues. Born in Smith Falls, Ontario, he now lives in Nova Scotia with his wife, their son and his partner.