Getting buried in this suit of mushrooms could help save the planet.

Death: It's bad for us.

People who are actually dead have to deal with that whole not-being-alive thing, which is less than awesome. But those people probably aren't reading this right now. (And if you are, please tell me your secret!)

For the rest of us, losing a loved one can be tough on our emotional state. Every loss is different, and I can tell you from experience that they all suck in their own special way.



GIF from "Beetlejuice."

But death is also bad for our wallets.

Between the coffin, the service, and everything else, the average funeral costs a whopping $7,000.


GIF from "Ghostbusters."

On top of that, death is even killing the environment.

According to Scientific American, it takes more than 30 million board feet of wood annually to produce enough caskets. There's also the issue of those 800,000 gallons of embalming fluid used each year, which contain toxic carcinogens like formaldehyde that seep into the soil once the body decomposes. (And also turns embalming into a risky career.)

Cremation isn't much better either. More than 500 pounds of carbon dioxide get released into the atmosphere every time a corpse gets put through the furnace. Based on the average cremation rate of 38%, that's nearly 250,000 tons of CO2 every year, or the equivalent annual output of 50,000 cars.


GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

What else can we do with our bodies? One option is to feed our corpses to carnivorous mushrooms that will nourish the soil with our decomposing flesh. Seriously.

That's what artist/inventor Jae Rhim Lee wants to do, anyway. She calls this radical idea the Infinity Burial Suit, and it looks like this:


GIF via Sustainable Human/YouTube.

Here's how they describe it on the official website:

"[The Infinity Burial Suit] is embroidered with a special type of thread infused with infinity mushroom spores. When buried, the mushroom spores act to cleanse the body of many toxins and gently return the it to the earth. The end result: our bodies are transformed into vital nutrients that enrich the earth and foster new life."

It's basically a bodysuit made from biodegradable netting that's woven with specially cultivated mushrooms that help breakdown the cadaver into clean compost. Lee jokingly described this suit as "ninja pajamas," which you'd think would have more mass appeal than "sustainable mushroom death suit."

More importantly, it retails for a scant $999, which is waaaaaay less than you'd pay for a standard funeral with a fancy casket. Did I mention it's also available for pets?


It's like this. Kind of. But for dead people. GIF from "Super Mario World."

But wait: It gets even weirder.

Apparently it's difficult to breed a special hybrid mushroom strain in a laboratory. So Lee has been growing standard shiitake and oyster mushrooms by ... um ... feeding them toenail clippings, loose hairs, skin cells, and whatever else naturally sheds from her body. Over time, this trains the mushrooms to, well, develop a taste for people.

OK, so it might not sound like the most conventional way to go about it. But when you start to think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

"I realize this is not the kind of relationship that we usually aspire to have with our food," Lee said with a laugh. "We want to eat, not be eaten by, our food. But as I watch the mushrooms grow and digest my body, I imagine the Infinity Mushroom as a symbol of a new way of thinking about death and the relationship between my body and the environment."


GIF via Neil Bromhall/YouTube.

Are you grossed out but intrigued? You're not alone. Lee's TED Talk has more than a million views ... which means she's onto something.

No matter how much we try to talk around it or avoid the subject all together, death is part of our lives. And while it can be sad, it doesn't have to be bleak — in fact, it can be kind of beautiful in a bittersweet way. Because it's all part of the wondrous cycle of life.

As Lee says at the end of her TED Talk, "Accepting death means accepting that we are physical beings who are intimately connected to the environment. [...] We came from dust and will return to dust. And once we understand that we're connected to the environment, we see that the survival of our species depends on the survival of the planet. I believe this is the beginning of true environmental responsibility."

GIF via TED/YouTube.

The Infinity Burial Suit helps us confront some uncomfortable truths about mortality.

Death might be inevitable, but we shouldn't have to pay extra for it while also poisoning the Earth.

Besides, what better legacy is there to leave behind than a better, brighter world for the next generation to enjoy with the knowledge that you literally gave your life to help the planet thrive?

GIF from "Scream Queens."

Watch Jae Rhim Lee's full TED Talk below. You might find yourself surprisingly inspired.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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