• All About Connecticut HB 5354, An Act Concerning Terramation, Otherwise Known As "Human Composting"

    Composting Beds, Public Domain.

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    A public hearing by the Environment Committee regarding HB05354: An Act Concerning Terramation took place on Friday, March 8, 2024.

    HB05354, which aims "to authorize the natural organic reduction of human remains as a final disposition of such remains" (also known as "human composting"), drew written testimony from 19 people, most of whom (16) spoke in support of the bill.

    Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, submitted written testimony indicating that the proposed legislation was outside of DPH’s scope, but if passed, would pose a significant impact on her department.

    "If passed, this would have a significant fiscal impact as DPH would need to hire additional staff, which were not included in the Governor’s recommended budget adjustments, to carry out this new workflow. This work will require the development of new regulations – which we do not currently have subject matter expertise in – the development of a new certification program, engaging new businesses offering natural organic reduction, and enforcing the provisions of this bill and the accompanying regulations," wrote Commissioner Juthani.

    Claire Walsh, the Chair of DEMOCRACY Women in Action, supports human composting since she's "profoundly concerned about the environment, and the devastating impact of climate change" and wants to "mitigate the forces contributing to climate change and to preserve our natural environment in every possible way."

    She said, "terramation is an ancient environmental practice and is legal in WA, OR, CA, NY, and VT. It allows for the remains of the deceased to be returned to the earth in ways that benefit the environment."

    Jonathan L. Green, Legislative Chair for the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, Inc., also wrote in support of the bill, "provided it is supplemented with much needed regulations as it concerns composting dead human remains as a new type of disposition."

    One of those opposed, however, felt that this was not at all about "environmental impacts" and "climate change".

    Stephen Mendelsohn wrote, "Let us not be fooled by euphemisms like “natural organic reduction” and “terramation.” HB 5354 seeks to promote human composting—the disposal of deceased human beings as if they were garbage to be recycled into soil and fertilizer. We are dealing with a profound devaluation of human dignity when we treat the human body in this manner, even if some people willingly consent to it."

    Mendelsohn, who is Jewish, then described traditional Jewish funeral practices which are almost entirely consistent with green burial.

    "Our halacha does not permit environmentally damaging practices like embalming or metal caskets—only plain pine without nails, or no casket as is the custom in Israel. Cremation is even more strongly forbidden to us—something that was done to our people by the most murderous antisemitic regime in history and not something we would consider for ourselves. Reducing human bodies to soil and fertilizer through human composting reminds us of those of our martyrs whose bones were also turned into fertilizer, whose fat was turned into soap, and whose skin was flayed off and turned into lampshades," he said.

    He further cautioned "there is nothing “natural,” “organic,” or even gentle about human composting..."

    "If we allow deceased human beings to be reduced into soil and fertilizer, then there is no way to stop the co-mingling of human compost with other soils and fertilizers and the sale and use of human compost to grow food," warned Mendelsohn.

    "Of the seven states that have authorized human composting, only Colorado has a restriction on the sale of “human compost” or of its use in the food supply."

    Of course, Soylent Green immediately comes to mind after reading Mendelsohn's comments.

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