Thursday, August 12, 2010

'Aquamation': What's in a name?

aquamation green cremation

'Creepy' Alkaline Hydrolysis

The news was a-buzz today (at least in Australia) with the story of a new green disposition alternative- Aquamation.  No longer will families have only burial and cremation to choose from.  This new method keeps the mercury from amalgam dental fillings from polluting the atmosphere, and has a very low carbon footprint.  

This is quite an innovation!  The process?  Well, no - the process was developed some time ago at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and has been used there for years.  True, it was a great innovation at the time, called Resomation, or worse, Alkaline Hydrolysis!, it has made little headway so far, despite its obvious environmental benefits and green bona-fides.  The process, though approved by moral arbiters, was considered unpleasant to think about, and prone to being made fun of in the press as 'sending your loved one down the drain'.  In a culture fixated on being 'natural' it looked too much like a creepy industrial 'solution'.  

aquamation green cremation

'Feeling good' Aquamation
The innovation in this case is the word- Aquamation.  Doesn't this conjure a picture of the natural, timeless power of the ocean?  Provided with a word like this, the news agencies are taking a new tack, and giving a lot of favorable publicity to the process.  It's a feel-good story, not a creep-out story.  I'm glad Australian resomators found a good PR firm before they sent out their press releases,  because as dim a picture as this paints of us as discerning consumers, it paints a very bright one for those of us who would like to see more sustainable options in death.

For more information about green disposition options, visit:

Promession: A Return to the Living Soil

Swedish town Considers Recycling the Heat of Cremation
The Shrouded Way: Emissions and Dehumanization
The Trees Remember: Memorial Plantings
Forest Burial in Germany


Charles Cowling said...

It's all about aesthetics, isn't it? Down the drain in a resomator, up the chimney in a cremator - what's the difference? But I feel that cremation may have taken industrial disposition as far as it can go. Is there an appetite for a parallel alternative? It's not elemental, that's the problem (though it uses water, I grant you). It's not simple enough. As for fire, it's not enough; people want flames!

I very much like the makeover you have given your page. I much admire and envy your tech-savviness!

Perpetua´s Garden said...

I agree, Charles, it IS about aesthetics. Disposition is a symbol act, and with symbols, aesthetics is primary.

Otherwise you might as well join the Brave New World - and you know what I´m talking about there.

Utility - which includes environmental sustainability - is the simpler death-related problem facing us today. Giving new meaning - to life and death - is the real issue. And there sustainability is a red herring, a nice distraction from the real issue.

Cheers from Vienna!

Thomas Friese
Perpetua´s Garden

Lisa J said...

I've seen a lot of change in the way that people choose to bury their loved one or release their ashes. The trend is definitely turning towards the eco-friendly/green and I think more and more with the overcrowding of cemeteries and the burden of the economy, families are looking for other means.

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