Elizabeth Fournier on A Green Afterlife/90

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Our fear of death and our obsession with legacy has informed much of the dominant culture’s relationship to development, endless growth and ultimately, environmental collapse. The reality of our existence is each of us will die. We have 9 billion bodies on this planet, more living people than ever before, and where do our bodies go when we take our last breath? Our death industry has reached peak toxicity making the business a true economic and ecological monster.

As reported by Forbes, in 1960 the average cost of a funeral was $706 and only 3.56% of bodies were cremated. Today, the average funeral costs between $8,000- $10,000, and about 42% of people are cremated. The US funeral industry accounts for about $20 billion in annual economic activity, with around 130,000 employees that make a living on the 1.5 million people that go to rest each year.

300 years ago, the funerial industrial complex did not exist. We dealt with death in a completely different way. Our sterilization and separation of our death is very representative of the way in which we live our modern lives.

Our conversation today is with Elizabeth Fournier, who has worked seven generations in the funeral industry, focusing on green burial and rethinking the way we bury our dead.

What is the relationship between the civil war and our funerial industrial complex?

What is the impact of putting our dead, and now toxic, bodies in to the earth?

What are the environmental concerns of cremation?

How can our deaths contribute positively to the regeneration of our earth?

Elizabeth Fournier, affectionately called “The Green Reaper,” is the author of The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial. She is owner and operator of Cornerstone Funeral Services, outside of Portland, Oregon. She serves on the Advisory Board for the Green Burial Council, which sets the standard for green burial in North America. She lives on a farm with her husband, daughter and many goats. Find out more about her work at www.thegreenreaper.org.

Music by Anne Laplantine & Kevin Macleod

Ayana YoungComment