An Italian company by the name of the Capsula Mundi Project is working on a new kind of tech: organic pods for burials. The idea is that the pod, being made of biodegradable material, will house the body in the fetal position. Then the pod and either a seed or a sapling will be planted together, allowing the tree to absorb the decomposing body as it grows. In this way, the deceased will become effectively part of the tree. The article linked says that this could lead to a “beautiful memory forest full of hope and the promise of new life,” as opposed to “spooky, sad cemetar[ies]”.
In theory, this is a good idea. Speaking as someone who has never died, as I understand it the point of a normal burial is to allow the living to grieve and commemorate the dead. However, as an installment of TruTV’s (formerly CollegeHumor’s) Adam Ruins Everything succinctly puts it, almost every aspect of a by-the-books funeral is pointless. Why spend so much on a fancy casket? The body is not going to be uncomfortable. We no longer live in an era where it was a known phenomenon that people believed dead could recover in the tomb and be unable to escape, eventually starving or suffocating to death. Even if we were, a comfortable coffin was not the solution employed back then; a shotgun was.
Besides, with centuries’ worth of the dead, surely we will run out of land deemed worthy to bury them in after a while, so it just makes sense to let that decomposing body turn into something new, right? And a tree is a suitable marker of where one’s loved one was buried. If there is a need for a specific label, a tombstone would be a welcome addition.
So all that said, it sounds like I would be all on-board for this method of burial, right?
My main concern is that it sounds like yet another attempt to over-complicate the process in order to get more money. Maybe I am being too cynical, but hear me out. This whole idea is not new. There have been natural burials for ages, and all these ideas of embalming, coffin vaults, and steel (and other such materials) coffins are only relatively recent additions.
Even the idea of planting a seed to absorb the nutrients has been done. In one of my favorite movies, Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, this was a big thematic moment. And, yes, it has been done in real life too. Like this. Or this website entirely devoted to the idea.
So all that the Capsula Mundi Project is bringing to the table that is new is the specific kind of pod. There is nothing wrong with progress and developing new technology to do the same thing, but better. But I personally have yet to see how this is superior to an ordinary biodegradable casket, like a willow or bamboo one.
But I can almost guarantee you that this organic pod, like most things on the market labeled organic, will be much more expensive than the alternative. So when it comes down to it, I would much rather be buried in a plain coffin with a seed planted alongside me than in one of these pods. If you feel differently about your own burial or that of your loved ones, I wish you well. Just please do not pick something expensive without good reason to do so.
As for Capsula Mundi, their method is considered illegal in Italy. They are working on getting legislation changed. But for the time being, it is only a dream.