Peasant dreaming

Smashed avos grow on trees

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  • Published 20170502
  • ISBN: 9781925498356
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

This piece by Sam Vincent, published by Griffith Review in 2017, was a precursor to his 2022 book My Father and Other Animals.

WHEN WE WERE kids, my sisters and I weren’t allowed to watch TV during dinner. The risk of seeing John Howard was too much for my parents to bear. In the months after he became prime minister, Mum and Dad wore their opposition proudly, chortling of his imminent demise and slapping a ‘Don’t blame me I voted Labor’ sticker on our dusty family van.

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Smoking hot bodies

Since 2013, South Korea has mandated the use of compost bins for uneaten food and the country now recycles an estimated 95 per cent of its food waste. Similar schemes exist in Europe and North America, and in June, Nevada became the seventh American state – after Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California and New York – to legalise human composting.

Known as ‘terramation’ or ‘natural organic reduction’, the process entails a certified undertaker placing the cadaver beneath woodchips, lucerne and straw in a reusable box, where, with the controlled addition of heat and oxygen, it decomposes within eight weeks. Anything inorganic (hip replacements, pacemakers) is then removed, and remaining bone and teeth fragments ground down and added to the mix. The deceased’s loved ones can spread the compost as they choose, with no need for concrete burial vaults and steel caskets, or the energy required for cremation.

Unlike the usual resistance to decarbonisation from those in the business of polluting, opposition to terramation has come from an unexpected source: Catholicism. The Catholic Conference – which represents the Church’s bishops – in each US state where the practice is legal has denounced it as an attack on the dignity of the body and a threat to its eventual reunification with the soul…

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