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“Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” These words were once the ritual uttered every Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, as a priest imposed ashes on a penitent’s forehead.

The “returning to dust” now has been jolted from God’s prerogative to man’s.

In today’s woke and cancel culture, environmentalists have come up with an idea to save the planet. Perhaps they were inspired by the victims of Covid-19 around the world and the mounting number of bodies waiting in refrigerated containers or elsewhere for eventual burial or cremation.

Last month Colorado became the second American state, after Washington, to permit human bodies to be turned into compost. The process takes about a month. The body is placed in a pod with with alfalfa, straw, and wood chips. The container is slowly rotated and oxygen is pumped in to promote decomposition.

Representative Brianna Titone, who introduced the bill, was delighted. “I’m just really proud to give this option to people here in Colorado, which have the Colorado way of life in mind … And when people pass away, they can feel like they lived in Colorado and they can give back to Colorado and help the earth,” she said.

According to environmentalists the process is less energy intensive, and the resulting product can be used for fertilizer in gardens, houseplants or to replenish open fields. It is already being done with cow carcasses. Why not humans?

Human composting or “natural organic reduction” is also being considered in a few other states including New York and Delaware.

Crematorium IV in Auschwitz-Birkenau / Wikipedia

This might cause some people to shudder with revulsion as they recall the crematoriums of the Nazi era. Historians have ascertained that the ovens’ ashes indeed were used for fertilizer.

How can today’s environmentalists propose a practice with a similar outcome is perplexing. But for them saving the planet means wiping away the human footprint on Mother Earth; human composting fits right in.

Composting is utterly repugnant as well as disrespectful of the body and its Creator. Human life was created by God. Christians believe the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and bears a certain dignity not accorded to lower forms of creation. Christians also believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

Some families dispose of the cremated ashes of their deceased loved ones by scattering them somewhere in nature. If that person enjoyed sailing during life, why not scatter his or her ashes into the ocean? (Once I saw this happening at Jones Beach in New York and went swimming elsewhere.)

But, as the Family Policy Institute of Washington noted a couple of years ago: “[there’s] a critical distinction between cremation and human-composting. With human-composting, the goal is to use the human body, that is to say, to instrumentalize the body, treating it as if it possesses no more intrinsic worth than fertilizer.”

Many indoor mausoleums have display cases with urns containing human ashes. They occupy little room. Why not settle for that? In Europe, a continent more densely populated than the United States, burial in mausoleums is common and takes up less space than ground burials.

Moreover, in Northern Italy, and perhaps elsewhere, bodies are exhumed after 40 years and the remains are placed in an ossuary, which occupies even less space. Human remains are treated with the dignity that they deserve as beings created in the image and likeness of God.

In our secular society people are no longer content with abortion and euthanasia, the deliberate termination of life at its beginning and end. The lifeless body needs further manipulation and destruction. Mankind can no longer trust God to finish the human job he created. Environmentalists will hasten the process of “unto dust you shall return” and go a step further – recycling “unto compost.”

Vincenzina Santoro is an international economist. She represents the American Family Association of New York at the United Nations.