I'm a Hindu, so when someone dies, it's common for their body to be cremated, with their ashes spread over the Ganges River (back in India, of course - I've never had the misfortune to have a family member here in the States pass away). I never truly thought about it. I've also been to funerals and burials here in the United States, where they are buried 6 feet deep and a tombstone marks their resting place. Cemeteries and graveyards (I've been down to Arlington as well), in my opinion, are sort of sacred places. I'm not a religious person, but I always make it a point to respect the dead. But I never really thought too much about that either.
Of course, I began thinking differently when I saw an episode of Harry's Law, a now-cancelled fantastic NBC law show written by David Kelley that often tackled controversial issues in its cases, this being one of them. There was a lawsuit against the owner of a funeral home, who was reportedly using ashes (from cremations) to spread over fruits and vegetables at his stand (he also owned a fruit stand, and apparently, spreading ashes makes the produce fresher and preserve longer). Admittedly, that itself is disgusting. However, is burying bodies truly any better?
For those not exactly privy to the science behind it, when a body is enbalmed to preserve it, many chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are used to put the body in this sort of pristine state. It's not uncommon for these chemicals to seep into the soil as the body decays over time, and this heavily harms the environment. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of enbalming liquid is buried in the US every year, and enbalmer fluid has been known to cause cancer. Furthermore, the costs of a funeral are pretty high. (I am not trying to make funerals sound like a waster expense).
Cremation isn't 100% safe either. Cremation releases quite a bit of mercury into the environment, as some is needed to burn a body to pure ash. But, my understanding is that cremation is less taxing on the environment and less costly as a whole.
I don't mean to say funerals are terrible. I respect funerals, the dead, and where the dead are buried. But I only wonder, is it really the right thing to do? Even if we have a tombstone to visit, which can be very comforting, should we continue to destroy the environment? What do you guys think?