There's a very good report in Funeralwire on the progress of promession, the new Swedish method being trialled for an alternative method of disposing of the dead.
A more ecologically-friendly alternative to burial and cremation, it involves reducing the corpse to powder through a process of freeze-drying, so it can then be returned to the earth and "turned into compost by worms and bugs." (More details on the Promessa site).
In Sweden, it's been trialled successfully on dead pigs, the Church of Sweden has 'no objections' to it and 'deceased citizens are already lying in wait' for this service... that conjures up some strange mental images.
In England, several councils are already looking at it as an alternative to cremation and burial. It will need a massive change in attitudes towards the body, grief and memorialisation to be acceptable here, but it will be interesting to watch developments.
Promession is also apparently being considered by certain religious groups in India, as a possible solution to problems created by a huge decline in the numbers of vultures, needed to eat human remains in a traditional sky burial. The RSPB says that certain types of vulture have declined by almost 95% since the 1990s, and are heading for extinction. So a rapid change in a natural bird population, caused by local farming practices, has accidentally threatened traditional burial rituals and opened up the need for something new.
I've watched some good student presentations over the past few years on sky burial, including a video. They usually provoke a lot of discussion, unsurprisingly.
Nothing to do with freeze-dried remains, but vultures don't seem to have a very good public image really... is it because they're a bit odd looking and eat dead flesh? So they get portrayed as baddies, like the bald, green-clad Vulture attacking Spiderman on this 1963 Marvel Comics cover. I think vultures will have to go on my list of favourite deviant misfits... I'm getting quite fond of them now.