Climate Lobbyists & Green Burials, Part 2
Host: Lester Graham
Show date: 05/22/2009
There are a lot of lobbyists talking to Congress about the new climate change bill. Lester talks with the author of one report that finds the number at 880 different groups, and they wield a lot of power. And... eco-friendly final wishes- part 2. Todd Melby met one undertaker who's giving people greener options. Like eco-caskets that are biodegradable, and body cooling instead of embalming.
This is The Environment Report. I’m Lester Graham.
An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found there are 880 interests lobbying Congress on the climate change bill… more than half of them big industry such as oil, coal, electric companies and big energy users. Marianne Lavelle wrote the invetigative report. She says their influence is being felt.
“I think if you have seen what has happened to the bill just between last week and this week, you can see that the changes made were changes that were really to address those industries and their concerns.”
A few environmental groups such as Greenpeace say it’s so watered down they can’t support it now.
But most environmental groups are still on board.
Individuals are trying to get the attention of Congress too. A group of 180 scientists from colleges and universities in Michigan signed a letter addressed to their Congressional delegation, encouraging them to pass meaningful climate change legislation…
Thomas Dietz is a scientist at Michigan State University.
“Congress always has to make decisions based on facts and values. As scientists we don’t have any special privelege about the values. But, I do think we have something to say about the facts that’s quite different than what lobbyists will tell Congress.”
Members of Congress always stress they want to hear from all interested parties… but Marianne Lavelle with the Center for Public Integrity says those big lobbyists know what buttons to push to get the attention of the politicians.
“These lobbyists are not only very savvy at making their argument, they’re very good at organizing fundraisers and helping the lawmakers meet and greet with the right people.”
This is The Environment Report.
When businesses begin offering earth-friendly alternatives to traditional products, it often takes a while for those items to catch on. The funeral industry is no exception. Todd Melby reports on one undertaker’s attempt at greening death.
Steve Dawson takes me into a small building that looks like a two-car garage.
STEVE DAWSON: “This is the crematorium. This is a cremation retort.”
That retort is a big furnace. It’s also a big part of Dawson’s business here at Sax-Tiedeman Funeral Home.
STEVE DAWSON: “We have a body that has been dropped off here for cremation. If this is bothering you because we have a body here, I will do what I can to get the body out of the way.”
TODD MELBY: “No, I’m fine.”
STEVE DAWSON: “OK.”
SFX Crematory Furnace
After the furnace starts, it takes a few hours to finish the process. Then Dawson takes the remains over to a machine that sifts through what’s left.
STEVE DAWSON: “What we do is we go through there and sort through the cremated remains.”
Dawson collects all the prosthetics, those titanium knee and hip joints, in a big can nearby. They get recycled.
That’s important to Dawson. At home, he’s a passionate recycler of soda pop cans, newspapers and other household items.
STEVE DAWSON: “My family calls me the recycling Nazi because I get after them to put it all gets put in the recyling bin.”
On the job, he tries to be green too.
Dawson knows that cremation — an option chosen by nearly 1 in 2 Americans — has environmental downsides. Many older people have mercury dental fillings. During cremation, that cancer-causing toxin vaporizes and goes up in the atmosphere.
That’s why he’s embraced green burial. Sax-Tiedemann is Chicago’s first green-certified funeral home.
STEVE DAWSON: “In this area here, we have rental caskets and up on the top, these are e-caskets, Eco-caskets. These are made out of bamboo and these are designed to be biodegradable.” Green death advocates are opposed to embalming because of the formaldehyde used in the process. So to get certified, Dawson had to buy something new: a cooler.
STEVE DAWSON: “This is what we use to be able to hold remains without embalming.” SFX Funeral music slowly faded up under narration (maybe)
A chilled body will hold for a day or so, which is usually enough time for friends and family to gather and say good-bye.
Dawson says this is the future for his business. As baby boomers begin dying in big numbers, he expects more of them to choose green burial.
We’ll have our final look at environmentally friendly burial… on Memorial Day.
That’s the Environment Report. I’m Lester Graham.