Buried or cremated – your standard after-death options. But two bold Italian designers have posed a bizarrely brilliant and, more importantly, conversation-starting, third option.
Photographer: Francesco D’Angelo e Adriano del Ferro.
Supplied by: Capsula Mundi.
Green or natural burial is not a new concept. The idea behind the eco-friendly after-death arrangement is that by burying a body in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition, we are reducing the amount of toxins and waste that we sink in the soil. And that’s a lot of waste considering in Australia around 13,000 people die every year. The Australasian Cemeteries and Crematorium Association confirmed that the number of cremations performed in Australia significantly outweighs burials and since cremation can generate up to 160kg of greenhouse gasses per corpse, perhaps it’s time green burial was more widely discussed and more readily available.
So why isn’t it? It’s a morbid topic, but so is organ donation and they advertise the importance of that on prime time television.
Currently there are green burial options available in South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Queensland finally came on board with the concept six months ago with the first green burial performed at Alberton Cemetery, about halfway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Green burial not only reduces environmental waste, it also negates the need for a headstone as a tree is generally planted at the site of the burial, and family members are provided the GPS coordinates so they can continue to visit the site. But is one green cemetery enough? At the moment, the answer is yes, because people simply don’t know about the earth-friendly concept.
But at least the option is there in Australia. In Italy, green burial is a definite no-go and that’s where designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel come in. These innovative Italian designers have come up with a idea that they have dubbed Capsula Mundi – a cultural and broad-based project, which envisions a different approach to the way we think about death globally. It’s an egg-shaped pod, made of biodegradable material, where our departed loved ones are placed for burial. Ashes will be held in small capsules while bodies will be laid down in larger pods. The pod will then be buried as a seed in the earth. A tree, chosen in life by the deceased, will be planted on top of it and serve as a memorial for the departed and “as a legacy for posterity and the future of our planet”. The designers envisage that “cemeteries will acquire a new look and, instead of the cold grey landscape we see today, they will grow into vibrant woodlands”. Their concept is garnering world-wide attention.
Over the past ten years, the designer have had the main goal of using their Capsula Mundi project to sensitise people across the world about “the unbearable way the modern culture deals with death”. This year, they decided to start the production of the Capsula in a small size for ashes. They hoped to also go forward with production of the capsule for bodies but said this still requires further scientific and legal research.
“Is not better to bring our body in the cycle of nature where it started, in a perfect circle where it can nourish a new life?”
Essentially, with Capsula Mundi, we can grow a tree instead of chopping one down to make a coffin. The designers posed some poignant questions in their passionate reasoning for the global need for their product. “Can we be prepared to deal with death and loss as we deal with other significant changes in our lives? Can we make decisions about death that are in tune with the values by which we have lived our lives and that respect the environment? Is it not better to decide now how we want to be remembered, what we want to leave behind for our loved ones and for the people who’ll live on this planet after us? Is not better to bring our body in the cycle of nature where it started, in a perfect circle where it can nourish a new life?”
In my opinion, the reason we need to be grateful to Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel is not because of their product, it is because of their boldness in bringing to the world’s attention an alternative to a practice that we have largely, and perhaps blindly, accepted as the norm. I personally was not aware that the embalming liquids used during standard burials contain the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde. If we spend so much time in life avoiding this kind of stuff, why would we want to be coated in and then have it buried in the earth after death? Our commitment to the environment does not have to die when we do.
To read more, visit Capsula Mundi