Human Composting

Composting humans instead of burying or cremating them? Why not? The Washington state legislature is considering it. It is the brainchild of Katrina Spades who has been developing it over a number of years as a greener alternative. The idea is to find an alternative to existing methods of treating bodies after death. Not only are cities running out of land for cemeteries, both cemeteries and cremation leave large carbon footprints. Spade’s idea is to use natural chemicals to allow the body to decompose and allow it to return to the soil in about 30 days. The method saves a metric ton of carbon each time. She founded Recompose, a human composting company where the body is placed in a vat with wood chips, alfalfa and straw which work to decompose it. Her idea includes creating a comforting peaceful space for families not only to say good bye to their family member or loved one but also a place where they could come and contemplate as people do in a garden. If the Washington state legislature goes ahead and legalizes such an option, it would be the first in the world.

The idea reminds me of my friend Sanora Babb who wanted her ashes to be used as fertilizer for her roses. No doubt had re-composting been legal when she died she would have chosen it. What I also like is how the idea of human composting chips away at some of the entrenched religious habits and traditions which many have outgrown.

Hail The Caravan

As an immigrant I know what it’s like to leave all you know for the unknown. We had visas, we weren’t penniless, we flew to the US and regardless I felt fear.  When you emigrate everything familiar is gone and you don’t know how it will be replaced, nor do you know what will happen next. I heard and read about the caravan from Central America and I  can’t help thinking about those courageous people who are willing to walk  a couple of thousand  miles or more in search of some safety, in search for some opportunities out of assured poverty and violence, in search of  better lives for their families. They banded together to avoid the criminals who prey on migrants, Continue reading “Hail The Caravan”

The Free Speech of Prisoners

Incarcerated people are usually American citizens—with the exception of the many immigrants detained for lack of visas or other papers—and as American citizens one would expect that they would be subject to the provisions of the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of speech. But that may not necessarily be so. The issue came up when a weekly debate club in Statesville Correctional Center in Crest Hills, Illinois, was suspended without explanation. They had been debating the pros and cons of Continue reading “The Free Speech of Prisoners”

On Selling Kidneys

Shashank Bengali is the Los Angeles Times South Indian correspondent.  Some time ago he had written a story about a hospital in Mumbai that was busted because it was doing illegal kidney transplants, which he says was a sort of cautionary tale because a young man has been lured to sell a kidney. Months later Bengali received an email. Someone thought he was in the business of selling kidneys. He did not pay Continue reading “On Selling Kidneys”