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Washington Just Legalized the Composting of Human Bodies



Composting of Human Bodies
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In a move that’s being hailed as a positive step by environmentalists, Washington has become the first state to legalize the composting of human remains, offering people a more eco-friendly alternative to traditional burial or cremation.

Governor Jay Inslee, who has prioritized climate and environmental causes since coming into office, signed the bill on Tuesday. The law will allow those who die in Washington after May of next year, to have their bodies turned into soil through a process called recomposition—colloquially referred to as “human composting.” The bill explains that the process is a “contained, accelerated conversion of human remains to soil.”

Katrina Spade, who lobbied for the bill and helped develop the recomposition process through her Seattle-based company Recompose, told AFP:

“Recomposition offers an alternative to embalming and burial or cremation that is natural, safe, sustainable, and will result in significant savings in carbon emissions and land usage.

Spade added:

“The idea of returning to nature so directly and being folded back into the cycle of life and death is actually pretty beautiful.” 

Spade detailed the process, which her company will be the first to offer, to KIRO:

“(The) body is covered in natural materials, like straw or wood chips, and over the course of about three to seven weeks, thanks to microbial activity, it breaks down into soil.”

As the body is broken down in a steel container over the course of 30 days, bereaved family members will be able to visit the facility and eventually receive two wheelbarrows of soil, which they can then use in a manner of their choosing, such as planting flowers or trees.

The approach was developed in conjunction with Washington State University, which conducted clinical trials with six donor bodies.

Spade noted:

“We proved recomposition was indeed safe and effective for humans as well.”

State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, who sponsored the bill, said that the disposal method is far more environmentally friendly than traditional burial or cremation methods. He explained:

“It’s about time we apply some technology, allow some technology to be applied to this universal human experience … because we think that people should have the freedom to determine for themselves how they’d like their body to be disposed of.”

Typical burials are costly affairs and carry a huge economic burden for bereaved families, who must pay between $8,000 and $25,000. Cremation can cost more than $6,000. Spade, however, hopes to charge only $5,500.

Funeral Consumers Alliance Director Joshua Slocum told The Seattle Times:

“I think this is great. In this country, we have a massively dysfunctional relationship with death, which does not make good principles for public policy. Disposition of the dead, despite our huge emotional associations with it, is not—except in very rare cases—a matter of public health and public safety. It’s a real tough thing for people to get their minds around, and a lot of our state laws stand in the way of people returning to simple, natural, uncomplicated, inexpensive ways of doing things.”

From an environmental standpoint, it remains inarguable that traditional burials carry a number of ecological drawbacks. As the Smithsonian explained:

“Each after-death action comes with its own set of environmental impacts, from embalming chemicals that leach into groundwater to transportation emissions. Many cremation facilities lack modern filtration systems and spew carbon dioxide and mercury into the atmosphere. Cemeteries themselves carry an environmental cost: Many depend on fertilizers and large amounts of water to maintain that clipped, mowed look.”

For Spade, the next goal will be to build the first “organic reduction” funeral home in the U.S., which she hopes will be the start of a new trend in the country that makes ecological and scientific sense rather than blindly clinging to old traditions.

Spade told The Seattle Times:

“I feel so happy… I can’t believe we’ve come all this way, but here we are.”

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Rare Snowfall in Sahara Desert Covers Sand Dunes in Ice



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Known primarily for being a searing and sandy wasteland, a part of the Sahara Desert has been blanketed in snowfall – an exceedingly rare, and dazzling, winter spectacle in the treacherous dunes of the desert.

On Monday, the sands surrounding the Algerian town of Ain Sefra were covered in the white powder after the area’s temperature plummeted far below freezing, reports the Daily Mail.

While the town has seen brutal heat that’s reached up to 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperatures reached the frosty depths of below 28 degrees Fahrenheit in recent days due to a high-pressure system of cold air that has moved into the region.

The resulting snowfall resulted in “stunning patterns” being strewn across the sandy expanse, according to the report.

Brilliant photos of the event were captured by photographer Karim Bouchetata, who travelled to the North African locale, which has been dubbed the “Gateway to the Sahara” and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains some 3,000 feet above sea level.

Prior snowfall is only known to have occurred four times in the past 42 years: in 1979, 2016, 2018 and 2021.

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The Notorious ‘Gateway to Hell’ May Finally Be Sealed, Turkmenistan’s President Says



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The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has long been host to what has been dubbed the “Gateway to Hell” – a massive hole in the ground that has been smoldering for about five decades.

However, the country’s government is now moving to finally extinguish the blazing natural Darvaza gas crater which lies in the center of the huge Karakum desert.

This isn’t the first time that President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has spoken of extinguishing the so-called portal to the underworld. In 2010, the strongman leader also ordered that experts investigate how best to put out the flames, which have been raging since a mishandled Soviet drilling expedition in 1971.

To prevent a disaster resulting from the spread of dangerous fumes, Soviet authorities decided it would be best to burn off the gas by setting it alight.

As a result, the 229-foot (70 meter) wide and 65-foot (20-meter) deep crater has been ablaze ever since, drawing tourists to the former Soviet country.

In 2018, the government officially renamed the pit the “Shining of Karakum.”

This week, Berdymukhamedov decried how the gas crater “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby,” reports AFP.

“We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he added in the televised statement, noting that officials must “find a solution to extinguish the fire.”

Turkmenistan is known to possess the fourth-largest known reserve of natural gas in the world, reports VICE, and its economy is dependent on the export of the raw resource.

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