Green Gone Mad?
8 February 2011 -

“Following its southeasterly course across the dark plain their eyes were drawn to the majestic buildings of the Slough Crematorium. For the safety of night-flying planes, its four tall chimneys were flood-lighted and tipped with crimson danger signals. It was a landmark.”

“Now they recover over ninety-eight per cent of it. More than a kilo and a half per adult corpse.” Henry spoke with a happy pride, rejoicing whole-heartedly in the achievement, as though it had been his own. “Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead.”

From Brave New World written by Aldous Huxley

Believe it or not this scene written by Aldous Huxley 80 years ago is no longer fiction, but a soon to be fact for Redditch, a town in the UK north west of London. The Redditch Council wants to warm its Abbey Stadium Sports Center, including its swimming pool, with renewable energy from its neighboring crematorium. By the transfer of heat from the crematorium’s incinerators to a system that would warm the sports and leisure facility, the town estimates that it could not only conserve energy, but save about UK£14,000 a year. Council members proudly state that by tapping into the energy of their recently passed they can save 42% on the energy needed to heat the center. Fully understanding that municipal budgets are strained throughout the world as a result of the economic downturn, and the trend towards renewable energy is spreading all over the world… One must really ask when is the quest for saving energy going too far, when is the concept of saving energy by whatever means possible bordering on the absurd.

Usually local councils in their quest to green their energy supply have to grapple with controversies surrounding alternative energy and weigh the pros and cons of moving forward. For instance many activists believe that wind farms destroy the landscape or that dams running through world heritage sites would destroy a fragile eco-system. However, the residents and leaders of Redditch will be making the oddest of decisions – whether to be the first place in the world to give a second life to its dead residents.

- Vicky Valanos