Washington Democrat Pushes for Citizens To Become Trees After They Die... Seriously?


If you don’t work for Amazon or Microsoft or really like evergreen trees, I don’t know why you’d want to live in the state of Washington.

Between taxes, liberal policies and the very dispiriting prospect of having Patty Murray as a senator, you could really do a lot better, unless your other choices involve San Francisco or Pyongyang.

Oh, and then there are the environmentalists. The granola-crunchy environmentalist types that seem to populate every corner of the Pacific Northwest aren’t in short supply in Washington. And they don’t just want to hug trees anymore. No, they want to become one.

Yes, in Washington, one legislator wants you to be able to become human compost when you die. And one guess what party he belongs to.

“The novel approach, known as ‘recomposition,’ involves placing bodies in a vessel and hastening their decomposition into a nutrient-dense soil that can then be returned to families,” NBC News reported Saturday.

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“The aim is a less expensive way of dealing with human remains that is better for the environment than burial, which can leach chemicals into the ground, or cremation, which releases earth-warming carbon dioxide.”

Democratic state Sen. Jamie Pedersen is sponsoring a bill in Washington’s legislature that would let you become nutrient-dense soil, which could mean you could help a tree or a cabbage reach its full potential after you depart this vale of tears.

“People from all over the state who wrote to me are very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree or having a different alternative for themselves,” Sen. Pedersen said, according to NBC.

I’m profoundly libertarian when it comes to what you want to do with your body so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else or set some sort of medical or bioethical precedent we ought to be concerned about.

Do you think recomposing' is a good idea?

Compost yourself. Have your ashes scattered outside the Reagan Library. Get yourself taxidermied like utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham and have your body displayed at various universities. As a proponent of limited government, I think any of these are awesome ideas if you think they are (and would like to point out option No. 2 is what will be happening to my remains, provided security doesn’t catch on).

However, two things here. First, I don’t know anyone who’s “very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree” and I have my doubts Sen. Pedersen does, either. (In fairness, however, he lives in Washington.) I can understand thinking it’s a decent way to dispose of what you’ve shuffled off when you’ve left this mortal coil. However, if you’re “very exited about the prospect,” I would perhaps propose you’re not of the sound body and/or mind necessary to make such decisions.

Second, for Pedersen, this (very predictably) isn’t really about freedom of choice, but freedom to make a choice he likes.

“Pedersen sees recomposition as an environmental and a social justice issue,” NBC News reported. “He said allowing it would particularly benefit people who can’t afford a funeral or aren’t comfortable with cremation. Recompose aims to charge $5,500 for its services, while a traditional burial generally cost more than $7,000 in 2017, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. (Cremation can cost less than $1,000, though that doesn’t include a service or an urn.)”

I’m personally cool with “The Big Lebowski” treatment, but apparently cremation puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and regular burial can leech chemicals into the ground, which hasn’t been a huge problem in the century or two since embalming has been around but apparently is now. Recomposing — or another process Pedersen wants to legalize that involves dissolving the body with water and lye in a pressurized container called alkaline hydrolysis — is apparently greener.

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However, that might not necessarily be the only reason Pedersen or Washingtonians might be interested in recomposing. Would you believe that the public-benefit corporation behind the process, known (natch) as Recompose, is from the state of Washington?

“We really only have two easily accessible options in the U.S. — cremation and burial,” 41-year-old Katrina Spade, the Seattle-area designer who’s behind Recompose and one of the biggest movers when it comes to the legislation, said, accorcing to NBC. “And the question is: Why do we only have two options, and what would it look like if we had a dozen?”

Probably a lot like Jeremy Bentham. But anyway, read what NBC News’ Tafline Laylin had to say about it and tell me this doesn’t sound like an advertisement:

“Spade’s initial goal was to design a system that would restore people’s connection to death and its aftermath, which she said had been severed in part by the funeral industry,” she writes. “A friend introduced her to the farming practice of composting livestock after they die. Called ‘mortality composting,’ the practice has been shown to safely keep pathogens from contaminating the land, while creating a richer soil.”

“It was like a lightbulb went off and I started to envision a system that uses the same principles as mortality composting … that would be meaningful and appropriate for human beings,” Spade said.

I’m sorry, “restore people’s connection to death and its aftermath?” By becoming compost? That’s not journalism, that’s copywriting. Did no lightbulb go off in Laylin’s head as she was working on this, telling her that maybe NBC oughtn’t be in the business of churning out borderline advertorials?

The story contains some scientific talk about how one becomes compost, which I won’t bore you with since I’m sure you’re not terribly amazed that you can become compost.

And then there’s some speculation from Pedersen that the dark forces within the Catholic Church had something to do with killing this legislation last session because of concerns human remains would drain into sewers. (However, lawmakers have gone on record saying the bill didn’t get considered because they “prioritized other issues that year,” and I somehow doubt those retrograde papists were so powerful in Washington as to quash this great, environment-saving social justice measure).

And then there’s more about Recompose’s plans if the bill passes (again, you’re totes not reading an advertisement or anything like that) and then the story mercifully ends, but not before another not-plug plug: “This is something that is really good for humanity,” Spade is quoted as saying.

I’m sure.

Pedersen hasn’t actually introduced the bill, so I can’t say if I have any particular qualms with the language of it. So long as tax dollarsaren’t thrown at this plan because it’s environmentalist, social justice-friendly or “something that is really good for humanity,” I don’t particularly have a problem with it. Compost yourself out, as far as I’m concerned.

My issue, instead, resides with the heavy-handed rhetoric.

The article pretends this this is somehow solving a hidden quandary vexing our beloved nation. It’s half-written in the tones of a pamphlet for Recompose. And it treats the religious objections of the Catholic Church — inasmuch as they exist at all and actually provided a legitimate impediment to the law — as if they were nothing more than a sinister hindrance thrown up by extremists who didn’t throw their religious beliefs out the window once they realized just how much good Pedersen and Spade wanted to do for us.

And then there’s my other issue — with Washington, the state where people are apparently “very excited about the prospect of becoming a tree.”

I get the feeling this is why Amazon wanted to build those new headquarters. I’d certainly want to get the heck out.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture