California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law allowing human bodies to be turned into garden soil. The sale of this “soil” or the use of it to grow food for human consumption are not prohibited by the law.
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The contentious law allowing the “composting” of human remains for soil was signed over the weekend by Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom. According to SFGATE, the regulation will permit the material made from the decayed carcasses to be sold and utilized to cultivate food for human use.
The Cemetery and Funeral Act (AB 351), which was signed into law on Sunday, will put in place legal procedures for the state to authorize so-called “reduction facilities,” wherein deceased people are disintegrated in a manner akin to home composting.
The law will go into force in January 2027.
California has legalized the practice, alongside fellow West Coast states Oregon and Washington, as well as Colorado and Vermont, becoming the fifth state that has done so.
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The California law, according to SFGATE, differs from the one in Colorado in that it does not restrict the selling of composted human remains or the use of the “soil” to grow food for human consumption.
The bill’s Democratic Assembly author Cristina Garcia stated in June that by providing Californians with “an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere,” the law would aid tackle “climate change and sea-level rise.”
Garcia said that since “[t]rees are important carbon breaks for the environment,” she looks forward to “continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”
Natural Organic Reduction is the term used to describe the technique of eliminating human remains in order to replenish the soil (NOR).
Recompose, an activist group and NOR firm, opened the nation’s first human composting funeral home in 2020. The Seattle Times said that the Kent, Washington facility features 10 hexagonal cylinders where dead people’s bodies are kept and the decomposition process is sped up.
The so-called “reduction” method, according to Recompose, is storing the deceased person “in a reusable vessel, covering [the body] with wood chips and aerating it, which creates an environment for microbes and essential bacteria.”
According to the organization, a human body will be “fully transformed into soil” after “about 30 days.” The resulting “soil” can then be “used to enrich garden beds, planted with a tree, divided across multiple locations, or donated to conservation efforts.”
The information on Recompose’s website provides some insight into the ideas underlying the NOR movement.
According to the site, employees must “[a]dvocate for climate healing, soil health, and environmental justice,” be “anti-racist” and “committed to advocating for and protecting the rights of BIPOC, religious minorities, and undocumented people,” as well as “[e]ngage with the work of queer feminist practices of inclusion and equity.”
After AB 351 goes into effect, Recompose intends to establish a California “reduction facility” in 2027.
Catholic groups have slammed efforts to standardize the use of dead bodies to make soil, claiming that the practice violates the sacredness of human life.
The Colorado Catholic Conference declared this year that it will oppose “NOR” because the Catholic Church “teaches that the human body is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral society.”
Likewise, the New York State Catholic Conference said it’s “essential that the body of a deceased person be treated with reverence and respect,” arguing that the “composting” method “is more appropriate for vegetable trimmings and eggshells than for human bodies.”
The Catholic Conference of California has likewise slammed the ostensibly eco-friendly alternative to dignified human burial.
According to CCC executive director Kathleen Domingo, the technique “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.”
Domingo noted that NOR was created for animals, not people, and that the method used to decompose a human body is comparable to “a home composting system.”
Furthermore, Domingo said that dispersing composted human remains over busy places “risks people treading over human remains without their knowledge.” She further claimed that “repeated dispersions in the same area are tantamount to a mass grave.”
Salvatore Cordileone, the archbishop of San Francisco, disagrees with the California statute that permits so-called “human composting,” according to Peter Marlow, executive director of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
But Gov. Newsom, a self-described Catholic who has come under fire from conservatives for his extreme views on everything from abortion to the purported “climate crisis,” signed the bill on Sunday without saying a word in the media.
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