Art

My mushroom burial suit: Jae Rhim Lee on TED.com

Posted by: Emily McManus

Here’s a powerful provocation from artist Jae Rhim Lee. Can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth, even after death? Naturally — using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms. Yes, this just might be the strangest TEDTalk you’ll ever see … (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2011, July 2011, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Duration: 7:30.)

Watch Jae Rhim Lee’s talk on TED.com, where you can download it, rate it, comment on it and find other talks and performances from our archive of 1,000+ TEDTalks.
Learn more about Jae Rhim Lee’s Infinity Burial Project >>

Comments (7)

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  • commented on Oct 16 2011

    I think Jae Rhim Lee makes good points that many people have not thought about which is the effect embalming fluid, cremation and toxins in our bodies have on the environment after we die and decompose.

    In the Jewish and Muslim religion embalming is not permitted thus many people do not use embalming fluid which is a better for the environment. Many Hindu people do not practice embalming either

    I think her idea of trying to detoxify the body through mushrooms is really an environmentally friendly green thing to do that most people would never in a million years have likely thought of on their own.

    Millions and millions of people die each year and that adds up to a lot of embalming fluid chemicals going into the ground. We have to reevaluate the wisdom of this practice since the body likely decomposes anyway over time. I just read that it only preserves the body for a few weeks longer but I do not know if that is true. To preserve the body really much longer it was said they would have to dry it out and follow the same process that the Egyptians did.

    I just saw a different concept on the internet along the same lines that is really growing called Natural Burial; the Ultimate Back-to-the-Land Movement in a website: http://www.beatree.com/

    The following text is a condensation of forthcoming book “Be a Tree, the Natural Burial Guide for Turning Yourself into a Forest.” by C. A. Beal. Natural Burial: The Ultimate Back-to-the-Land Movement

    1. Dying to Do the Right Thing

    In the United Kingdom, a compelling new consumer movement is underway. Natural burial grounds—where people are buried in biodegradable containers, without embalming fluid or synthetics, and returned to the earth to compost into soil nutrients with a forest of trees marking the spot—are springing up across this island nation.

    Since 2005, when CA Beal first began documenting this trend, dozens (if not hundreds) more sites offering some form of natural interment have emerged in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, with other countries coming on fast. Natural burial movements can now be found in China, Japan, Germany, and Africa.

    While some folks have started new burial grounds to fill the gap, most of the UK’s alternative leaders are existing cemetery managers who recognize that by simply returning to the way they used to bury and manage their graves they can offer the fundamentals many people are seeking, and ensure grave space far into the future.

    I would suggest however that it may be better to sign an organ donor form to donate our organs, skin and even bones to be used for transplants or even medical research if possible to help humanity since we have a vital need for organ transplants instead of just planning to be buried in this suit. I have signed an organ donor form and have informed my family of my anatomical gift. I prefer to help many people rather than becoming a meal for ants, slime, mushrooms, maggots or the like. In the end however we may become the fossil fuel or wood furnishings from a tree of future generations if life on Earth survives that long. I never thought of life and death in that way before.

    What do you all think? I think the ideas they have are good but only a few people would ever probably consider it especially the way the suit looks very silly. She mentioned people are made up and dressed in their finest clothes to be buried.

    As for me I would consider either of these options it since I would like to help the Earth in any way I can and this is an easy thing I could do with out even having to do anything at all.

    I think if the suit appearance was changed a bit and the idea catches on and if it were done by cultures around the world it could really have a big impact since this process is detoxifying and recycling our bodies.

    Many cultures and people are too accustomed to embalming that they may not be willing to change that practice. I guess time will tell if the idea takes off or not. Humanity is really going green now and this just proves that our thinking is beginning to change radically. We are returning to a simpler more natural way of relating to the environment. I hope this will be the new thing to do.

  • Anthony Martini commented on Oct 15 2011

    This was terribly creepy at first. But is true, I find it hard to give up my mentality of permanence. My own mortality is something I take seriously. It’s probably a good idea and definitely a resume builder for her in her career. I question,
    Which cultures would take this on a serious practice?
    How much impact this actually can make?

    haha also I suppose this would help the mob be environmentally responsible after a hit!