Crematorium Heat Rises as Swimming Pool Warms

Last night, Redditch Borough Council voted in favour of a planning application to re-direct heat from the town’s crematorium to warm a new swimming pool at the Abbey Stadium leisure centre. This is not only a more environmentally-friendly way of dealing with emissions but it will also save around £14,560 in heating costs. You might think that this is a win-win situation but the local labour union, Unison have called the plans, “sick and an insult to local residents.”

This does seem an odd attitude to take but I guess they think that it must be sacrilegious. Maybe there is some notion that the fumes of the fire contain the essence of the individual and  should rise towards heaven or some supernatural belief like that rather than circulating round heating ducts. Not surprisingly, I heard a Reverend on Radio 4 criticising the plans. I expect that the more practical we treat the disposal of the dead, the less room there is for religious ceremony.

Apparently, the council received overwhelming support from residents. But how far can we go with this utilitarian approach. When you consider the fossil fuel required for cremating bodies in the US is equivalent to the amount to send a car to the moon and back again – 84 times a year! then it does seem very wasteful. Burial seems so much more eco-friendly but according to this site, burial is also an environmental disaster.

Sky burials are probably the most eco-friendly way of disposing of bodies but somehow I don’t think we will see this in the parks across Britiain (BEWARE images are not suitable for the squeamish). I don’t think that pigeons would be so efficient as vultures.

17 Comments

Filed under General Thoughts

17 responses to “Crematorium Heat Rises as Swimming Pool Warms

  1. I kinda like the idea that my smouldering remains would be going to some good use. I’d think it more poetic to be heating a greenhouse or something, rather than a swimming pool, but hey.

  2. Gerard Simons

    Anything to do with the dead is probably best left alone. That idea of heating would give any living person the creeps. Its not about departed spirits returning to haunt them. The crematorium is where the remains of the departed are disposed off. Its practical but gruesome to hearing about it! For one, the dead can travel anywhere they wish. And they certainly do not need a “dip in the pool”!

  3. Gerard Simons

    Perhaps at the bottom of it all, it wouldn’t hurt, would it ? Burning up my remains to heat a pool or fuel a car! Or as Anaglyph mentioned, heating a greenhouse. Unless those I leave behind complain!

  4. To be fair to the reverend, he was not particularly critical, he did say if he was forced to make a judgement.

    I think its a great idea

  5. Well it gives me the creeps even though I’m an atheist. I’d probably get used to the idea but here’s the thing…I’m not sure that I’d want to! I don’t know whether desensitization to these quasi-mystical fears is actually a good thing.

    By the way, I’ve heard that the greenest way to go is to be freeze-dried and then pulverized. Strangely enough, the idea of freeze-dried bodies being used as fertiliser doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s just the idea of gases that’s spooking me.

    • I’m with Tom, in that I am forced to admit the idea sort of gives me the creeps. I’m sure I would get used to it quite quickly, and given how imminently practical it is, I could never bring myself to oppose it based simply on its creepiness.

      At the risk of telling an evo-psych “just so” story, it seems consistent with the evolutionary origins of disgust for this to creep us out. People who are grossed out by anything that mixes recreation with dead bodies would presumably be more likely to avoid corpse-borne illnesses.

      To me, the most surprising thing about this is that the residents supported the plan. In the US, there would be an outcry. Good on them for being practical!

  6. Arno

    Interesting bit. It reminds me somewhat of the metaphor that people have of life being a flame or spark. Wouldn’t surprise me much if that is partly the reason for these gut responses as well.
    And on the ‘sky burials’ and its application in the UK… I can see that working: seagulls eat pretty much anything. And otherwise, who knows? I always thought that those grey squirrels were rather ferocious looking. Though it is personally not to my taste as I hate seagulls with a passion.

    So in my case, if burial is no option (which is a shame: think it shows some gratitude to the bacteria who have kept me alive that they now get first picks on my flesh) just chop me up and turn me into dog chow – I have always been a dog person. But only after the medics are done collecting any useful organs from my dead body (I am sure I am not the only one here who has opted in organ donation, right?) of course.

  7. Adolfo

    It is true that the sky burial is not very suited to the UK, but the obvious choice is to use dead humans as fertilizer. It would not only be a green disposal, but it would save a lot of money and reduce the manufacture of fertilizers, thus making it environmentally beneficial.

  8. jacarandamimosifolia

    I heard the interview with the vicar too. And I thought he was quite interesting – much more interesting and considered than I thought he would be.
    He seemed to say that, if he was forced to make a judgement, it would be that the swimming pool heating plan was probably a bad one ‘at the moment’ becuase, in general, people would feel that it was inappropriate. (He added that in the future this attitude might change).
    He also suggested that it was the linking of what he described as a ‘holy’ process to a practical outcome that was what made it inappropriate – in other words that the ‘holiness’ of the religious act of cremation was somehow diminished by linking it to a worldly benefit. (Not that the body or the memory of the deceased was somehow desecrated). To my surprise I sort of found myself agreeing with him….

    • Arno

      Ah yes, the sacred-profane dichotomy. It is an interesting one. I am currently reading up on this idea, because though discounted by some anthropologists, the idea of sacred values is becoming popular again in social psychology thanks to the work of Jonathan Haidt, which seems to suggest that at least for Western society this idea is really important. I can recommend his articles and books to anyone btw: they are very accessible and Haidt is a great scholar.

    • brucehood

      Yeah but if we conserve the holiness of the cremation ritual then think of the all the holy water that you can swim in – like some huge sacred swimming pool. For some reason, I just thought of the movie “Cocoon”

      BTW I discuss this exact point of sacred value at the end of my book – things need to be supernatural in order to be sacred

  9. Thats a great idea but the less rational part of me cant escape the fact someone elses death is making you a cosy swimming pool. Great idea all in all though!

  10. wow – those photographs of the Tibetan sky burial are extraordinary

  11. Peter Robinson

    More excellent news. Gary Bolton of GT200 infamy guilty!

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