“WE CAN bury her, burn her, or dump her.” The lucrative business of running funeral homes is rarely as blunt as that portrayed by Monty Python, a British satirical television show, and certainly not a front for cannibalism. But burial rites in most of the modern world remain an expensive relic of 19th-century habit. The last big innovation was cremation, which is now under fire for its environmental costs. A study conducted in 2007 for Centennial Park, a cemetery in Australia, found cremations produce the equivalent of 160kg of CO2 per body. A cemetery burial emits a mere 39kg. But maintenance (mowing lawns and the like) makes the ultimate carbon footprint of burial bigger than cremation.
“我们可以把她埋掉，烧掉，或者抛掉。”经营殡仪馆这一利润丰厚的行业很少会像英国讽刺电视节目——巨蟒剧团(Monty Python)中所描述的那般露骨，它也肯定不是一种同类相食的掩盖手段。不过在现代世界的大部分地区中，丧葬仪式依旧袭19世纪习俗遗风，成本高昂。（该产业的）最后一大创新是火葬，如今这种做法也因其在环境方面的代价而受到攻击。2007年对澳大利亚公墓——百年园(Centennial Park)所进行的一项研究发现，每具遗体火葬产生的碳足迹相当于160千克二氧化碳，而土葬的二氧化碳排放量仅有39千克。不过土葬的维护工作（诸如修剪草坪等）使得它最终的碳足迹大于火葬。
Both tend to make extravagant use of coffins made from valuable hardwoods such as oak and mahogany. In America the coffin may then go into a cumbersome and expensive burial vault. Unpleasant chemicals abound. A paper published in the Journal of Environmental Health in 2008, entitled “Drinking Grandma”, warned about the public-health risks of formaldehyde leaking from cemeteries into groundwater. Cremations are dirty too. Dental fillings mean that they account for as much as a fifth of Britain’s mercury emissions: regulations require crematoria to cut mercury emissions by half by 2012.
火葬法与土葬法往往都会无节制地使用由橡木或红木等宝贵硬木制成的棺。在美国，棺之后或将被置入笨重而昂贵的椁之中，其间充斥着令人厌恶的化学品。2008年发表于《环境卫生期刊》(Journal of Environmental Health)的一篇题为《将祖母喝下肚》的论文，已就甲醛从公墓外泄流入地下水这一公共卫生风险向人们发出了警告。火葬也不卫生。补牙材料意味着火葬所排放的汞占到英国汞排放的两成之多：规制措施要求火葬场到2012年时，将其汞排放量削减一半。
Customers (or their relatives) want change. A survey in 2007 for the AARP, an American senior-citizens’ lobby, found that more than a fifth of respondents wanted greener burials; subsequent surveys have had similar results. That can mean sharing hearses, or using home-grown flowers and coffins made with cardboard (pictured) or willow, which biodegrade easily. But bigger changes are also afoot.
One is that more people want to be buried in natural habitats—not headstoned in neatly ordered plots, or in vaults. Although natural-burial grounds exist in places as far afield as America and Australia, they are most widespread in Britain, thanks largely to permissive rules. The first natural-burial ground was set up in 1993. More than 200 have since opened. Andy Clayden of the University of Sheffield says that 242 natural-burial grounds are either up and running or planned in Britain, only just fewer than the country’s 252 crematoria.
Ireland’s first natural-burial ground won planning permission last month, and is due to open in October. Colin McAteer, who runs it, says indebted Irish property owners are calling him in the hope that their undeveloped land could be used this way too. It is not an obvious commercial bet: burial grounds cannot be redeveloped, so banks are unlikely to want them as collateral. But they can make some money. Mr McAteer’s site will also be a managed forest, for example.
爱尔兰的第一处自然墓地在上月获得了规划许可，并计划在10月开放。该地经营者科林·麦克阿特(Colin McAteer)表示，债务缠身的爱尔兰业主们正打来电话，希望其未被开发的土地也能作此用途。这并非一种意图明显的商业赌注：因为墓地无法被重新开发，因此银行不大可能希望以此作为抵押品。不过它们倒是可以带来一些收入，例如麦克阿特先生的这片场地也将作为人工林。 更多信息请访问：http://www.24en.com/
New technologies are changing the picture, too. One is “water cremation” or alkaline hydrolysis, where a corpse is placed into a heated solution of water and potassium hydroxide. In a few hours, the corpse dissolves into an inorganic liquid, which can be used as a fertiliser, and a white ash-like residue. Aquamation Industries, an Australian company, opened a water-cremation facility in Queensland last month. Resomation, a British firm, will install equipment in Florida by the year-end. Its founder, Sandy Sullivan, says conventional cremation produces four times as much CO2 as does this process.
新技术也正在改变（该产业的）面貌。其中之一是“水葬”，或称碱性水解，遗体被置于经过加热的氢氧化钾水溶液中。数小时内，遗体便被分解为可被当作肥料使用的无机液体和白色灰状残渣。上月，一家名为Aquamation Industries的澳大利亚公司在昆士兰州开办了一家水葬处理机构。英国公司Resomation则将于年底前在佛罗里达州安装设备。公司创始人山迪·沙利文(Sandy Sullivan)表示，传统火葬产生的二氧化碳为这种过程的四倍之多。
Another nascent technology takes a different approach. The body is freeze-dried in liquid nitrogen, then vibrated so that it dissolves into a fine powder. Further processes evaporate water and remove things like mercury. The residue can be put into a shallow grave and turns to mulch in about a year. Observers reckon that the Swedish company which developed the idea, Promessa, has promised much and delivered little. But Susanne Wiigh-Masak, its founder, says that franchises are now in place in South Korea and Britain, and that the need for crematoria to comply with mercury-abatement rules could also prompt orders in Sweden itself.
None of this yet amounts to a revolution. There are no good data on take-up of green options. New technologies need new legal frameworks, and legislators tread very carefully when it comes to death. Members of the public may take time to adjust to the idea of being dissolved. (Though cremation was seen as outrageous in its day.)
Natural-burial grounds do not wholly avoid the problem of land scarcity (the fact they can have several uses helps). In theory, the funeral industry ought to be happy to offer whatever consumers want. But Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council, a non-profit organisation, says that in America at least, many funeral directors are unwilling to ruffle the feathers of suppliers of coffins, vaults and the like. Even so, if the traditional funeral is to be buried, concern for the environment is the likeliest undertaker.
自然墓地并不能彻底避免土地稀缺的问题（但它们可有多种用途的事实，则可对缓解土地稀缺有所帮助）。理论上，丧葬业应当乐于提供顾客所希望的任何一种方式。不过非盈利组织——绿葬协会(Green Burial Council)的乔·斯西(Joe Sehee)指出，至少在美国，许多丧葬承办人不愿意惹怒棺材、墓穴或诸如此类材料的供应商。即便这样，如果传统葬礼将被埋葬的话，环境方面的考虑也将是最有可能送它上路的人。
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