Saturday, May 19, 2007


Until yesterday, I thought that the environmentalist position could be summed up as: "A good man is a dead man." It turns out, however, that I was only partly right: it depends on how you die. In the last of her five-part series of sermons ... I mean, articles that's just appeared in The Daily Telegraph, environmentalist Julia Hailes gives the faithful ten tips on how to avoid turning their cherished union with their goddess Gaia into a climate crime.

Here's your chance to test your awareness of green issues: How many of the ten tips can you make sense of? My score is 1 out of 10. This is the one I understood:

• Give cremation a miss

Of course, this is the absolute beginner's question. As an obedient and humble little Earth Citizen, the last thing you would not want to do is erupt in a flame of rebellion and ascend towards the sky in the form of CO2 and other sacrilegious substances. Your last duty is to go down where you belong and let your body feed the Weeds, Worms, and all the other Saints.

Anyone willing to help me figure out the rest?

• Donate your organs

Perhaps this has to do with recycling?

• Say no to embalming

Mother Julia mentions something about the "horrors of embalming" on her home page, but she takes it for granted we know what they are. I am clearly too ignorant to be worthy of this great religion...

• Select a "green" coffin (those made from recycled newspapers are best)

I thought wood decomposed just as well as, if not better than, paper? In any case, I nominate this as the funniest line of the entire sermon series!

• Remove all jewellery and gold teeth before burial or cremation

I'll try, although I must admit I sometimes found it difficult to remove my own milk teeth when I was 5, so I'm not sure how well I'll do with my permanent teeth when I am dead.

But I was so perplexed by this commandment that I did some research on what beef environmentalists have with jewellery--to discover that there is an entire industry built around protesting jewellery not being earth-friendly enough.

One gold ring, conservationists say, generates 20 tons of mine waste.

And how much more envy!

On to the next tip for getting intimate with earth:

• Dress minimal in death and choose natural fibre clothes such as hemp

If I didn't know who the author was, I could have sworn this list was written by a non-believer making fun of the greenies!

• If you want to be buried, chose a natural burial ground rather than an overcrowded graveyard

Stop cities from sprawling, so all the world can be turned into a cemetery? Am I on to something?

• Re-use graves after 20 years and put bones in an ossuary, as they do in Europe

I've seen many graves in Hungary that are 30, 50, or even 100 years old. I guess not all that's Europe is green!

• Choose not to have a headstone

I cannot for my life figure out how a stone is going to damage the earth. I mean, isn't that where the stone came from in the first place?

• Don't waste valuable resources on elaborate pet coffins, urns and caskets

My best guess on this is that the elaborate ornaments wouldn't go well with the recycled paper the coffin is made of. But that's just me, thinking about worldy matters like style and taste while Mother Julia is trying to save my soul from eco-damnation! It looks like it will be a cold day on Earth when I score well on this test...