Natural Burials

Why cremations are bad

Cremation turns your body into air pollution and barren ash.

Studies of emissions reveal that cremation turns people into at least 46 different pollutants. Some of these, like nitrous oxides and heavy metals, remain in the atmosphere for up to 100 years causing ozone depletion and acid rain.

Society is becoming once again less fearful of death. People are demanding more involvement, more personalisation, and more choice in what happens to their body after they die.

At the vanguard of that change is natural burials – the concept of being buried without embalming, in a bio-degradable casket, at less than half the depth of the traditional burial, so your body is returned to the earth rapidly. A tree is planted over your grave, which becomes part of a new natural forest.

The natural decomposition processes utilised by a natural burial rapidly returns your body to the soil in the shape of around a dozen fundamental life-giving nutrients.

Not only do many people find the acres of bush in a natural cemetery a fitting memorial to their lives, they also regard returning their body to the ecosystem as a far better legacy to leave for future generations.

Natural burials are bringing human death practices full circle.

For thousands of years early humans buried their dead in simple shallow fashion. Cremations only emerged relatively late in human history. It first arose in the Western world when Romans sought to mimic the dramatic fiery end of their great mythical heroes. Entombments soon replaced cremations thanks to the smart marketing of elaborately carved sarcophagi. By the fifth century cremation had become almost completely obsolete following the spread of Christianity, with its associated belief in the resurrection of the dead (thought to be a bit difficult if your body had been burned to a cinder).

Cremation was revived in 1869 as an idea at the Medical International Congress of Florence, and a model of a cremating apparatus and ashes was exhibited at the Vienna Exposition in 1873.

The first crematorium was built in the UK in 1885. The first crematorium in New Zealand was opened 24 years later, in Karori, Wellington.

Although New Zealand has one of the highest rates of cremations – around 70% of all deaths – the practice has met with mixed success internationally. In Britain only 56% of people are cremated, and in America only 26% of deaths are cremations (although the Cremation Association claims 39%).

Given the high cremation rate here, it is hard to understand why local councils think they face bigger cemetery issues than other countries.

I cannot leave under-answered recent claims that cremations are environmentally better because they reduce pressure on available land, and are “clean”.

The pressure on land and the environment is living humans, not dead ones.

If there is a ‘problem’ posed by cemeteries, it is traditional burial methods. We are the only species in which the dead do not return naturally to the eco-system. Long-life coffins, deep burial and embalming result in the dead remaining intact for a very long time.

Councils are worried by the realisation that, hundreds of years after you die, they will still need to meet the costs of mowing around your grave and re-erect your crumbling gravestone.

They are also jittery about the cost of buying land for new cemeteries, and the costs of owning intensely valuable cemetery land that can’t be sold or developed.

But if traditional burials seem problematic, let us consider the real effects of cremations.

Bodies take up to three hours to burn in a crematorium, using up large quantities of fuels like electricity or natural gas.

The process emits pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulphur oxide, mercury, dioxin, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, cadmium and chromium.

Although transport and raw industries are the biggest contributors to air pollution, crematoriums are statistically significant polluters.

The European Environment Agencies Emission Inventory Guidebook says crematoria contribute 0.2 % of the total emissions of dioxins and furans – among the most environmentally destructive and long lasting pollutants.

San Francisco’s Public Works Department found in 1999 that crematoria were the third-highest contributor of mercury (from burning amalgam fillings).

Crematoriums claim to comply with environmental standards, but standards are relatively weak. For example, “clean-burning” crematoriums only reduce visible particle emissions, not the real pollutants.

Sadly, the remaining ashes are of no use to the environment either. Ashes are so inert that the soil in cemetery flower beds needs regular replacement to prevent accumulating dead ash choking the life out of plants.

A natural burial offers a far better alternative to both cremation and traditional burial.

It is better for the environment and a more satisfying choice for many of the dying and their families.

The greatest thing we can do upon our death is to be buried naturally, and lock land up in bush to be enjoyed by future generations of humans and flora and fauna.

Permission is granted to reprint this article, as long as the author and source are attributed prominently; Mark Blackham,

10 thoughts on “Why cremations are bad

  1. Jenna

    All we have to see is what happens in India – AIR POLLUTION, in fact all the cremation keeps the COVID VIRUS
    in the air.

    My Uncle to a three week vacation to India and returned with a chronic respitory
    illness he has had for five years since.

    Cremation advocates deny the facts , they live in an echo chamber .

  2. Lisa Luzzi

    I was searching for articles that tended to support my own feelings on the matter, and this came close. Besides the pollution issue, something about cremation has always bothered me. I guess it is how rapidly – and unnaturally – the body is disposed of. As if once the person has died, their body must quickly cease to exist as well. Yet what nags at me is that it takes nine months for a human body to form, and it happens in stages (and many years, even, when you add the time until you reach adulthood.) It seems only natural, then, that the body returns to the Earth in the same way – gradually, and in stages. Decomposition is the counterpart to gestation/growth – the natural progression of life and death. Embalming and sealing a body in a casket and vault which preserves it indefinitely interferes with this process as well: cremation precipitates the decomposition of the body, embalming retards it. The idea of a “natural” burial seems to be the most harmonious and acceptable to me. The body is gradually formed in the womb, grows to adulthood (ideally!) and then eventually dies, at which time it gradually decomposes and returns to the Earth. That makes sense, and I find it somehow comforting.

  3. Aliya Shaikh

    Thank you for this piece of information. It iis very helpful in identifying the perfect way to maintain the equilibrium of nature after one dies. The Islamic law prohibits embalming, also no coffin casket is allowed. In fact, a concoction is applied all over the body to facilitate the process of disintegration of the body into the soil.

  4. Katherine Gipple

    I love this article and I am glad to hear an argument against cremation. It reminds me of damnation, I don’t like anything about it. It reminds me of a punishment for bad living.

    1. Sally Spedding

      I agree with Katherine Gipple, and feel that cremations are barbaric, and I could never put a loved-one through that process, where the skull is smashed etc. etc. No mention by Climate Change activists of the pollution caused by cremations., which seems odd to say the least.

      1. admin Post author

        I don’t know if we’ve mentioned it previously, but the EU counts crematorium pollution in its climate change emission tally.

      2. Fran

        I had a loved one cremated and I don’t think that I will ever come to terms, nor should I! I was told it was cleaner and freed up land, but I wish that I had laid him to rest and could have a memorial

  5. Pete Do

    I have a 20acre block of land in the Manawatu-Wanganui that I would like to gift as natural burial site.
    I am nearly 70 years old and want to see the use of Natural Burial promoted in our community.
    Can you help me to research this subject?

    Regards, Pete Davies

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