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Jae Rhim Lee's Last Rights

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Green Burials

The human body is composed of many living and non-living materials and organisms. We have living bacteria that help us function as well as non-living minerals and other compounds that we use for energy. Some of the materials that our bodies are composed of are harmful partially to us but also to the environment. Different toxins, pesticides and preservatives that we hold within are body are released into the environment when we die and follow traditional burial procedures. In her Ted Talk “Last Rights”, Jae Rhim Lee discusses an alternate option for burial. I will discuss the alternate option as well as other alternatives and I will explain why I think these options won’t become popular in society.  

In “Last Rights”, Ms. Lee discusses her invention of the Mushroom Burial Suit. Just as it sounds, this is a suit that is infused with organic mushroom spores and helps the body decompose upon final resting. The mushrooms eat your body, helping to turn harmful toxins into less harmful forms. Ms. Lee points out that “5,000 pounds of mercury from our dental filings are released into the atmosphere each year” (Lee, 2011). In American Burial traditions, the body is “pumped with toxic formaldehyde to slow decomposition” (Lee, 2011). So not only are we releasing all of these chemicals into the environment upon death, but we are also pumping more chemicals into the dead before burial. Ms. Lee’s mushroom suit is officially called the Infinity Burial Suit. Using the Infinity Mushroom, it can “decompose bodies, clean the toxins and deliver nutrients to plant roots, leaving clean compost.” (Lee, 2011).  

Ms. Lee’s Infinity Suit is not the only “green” option for burial. An option that has recently become much more popular is The Living Urn. This is a process where the deceased is first cremated, then the ashes are infused into seedling. The seedling eventually grows into whatever kind of tree or shrub that was picked. The company explains “it is a smart, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to approach an inevitable phase of life.” (thelivingurn.com, 2018). Another alternative is to be buried in a plain wooden coffin. This coffin is to be made of just plain wood, not put together with any metal, glue or stain. “Ensure the type of wood you are purchasing is not an exotic wood and has been sustainably sourced” (Eco-friendly Burial, 2018). Both of these alternative options also have their drawbacks. For example, The Living Urn can only work if the person is cremated and that process can be harmful to the environment. Building an eco-friendly coffin is cool but once your body decomposes it will still release all of the toxins into the environment. I think that the Infinity Suit is the best option for a green burial.

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