Los Angeles Times - 04.03.2020

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Scott Kraft
Kimi Yoshino
Sewell Chan, Shelby Grad, Shani O. Hilton,
Julia Turner
Christian Stone
John Canalis, Len De Groot, Amy King,
Loree Matsui, Angel Rodriguez


ddressing climate change
doesn’t just mean taking cars off
the roads and shutting down
coal-burning plants. It requires
rethinking everything humans
do that contributes in ways large and small
to our carbon footprint. That includes how
we travel to work, what we eat for dinner,
what household products we buy and even
what’s done with our bodies after we shuffle
off this mortal coil.
That’s right. Death too comes with envi-
ronmental consequences that can continue
to affect the Earth’s livability for years to
Burial in a cemetery often means inject-
ing toxic chemicals into the body before it is
placed in a casket made of hardwood har-
vested through deforestation. Cemeteries
use water to keep the grounds green and
may use pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
Interment is also increasingly expensive,
especially in places where land is scarce or
pricey. That’s one of the reasons cremation
has become more popular in the United
States than traditional burial in a casket.
Slightly more than half of all deaths in the
U.S. conclude in cremation, and that rate is
projected to grow to nearly 80% by 2040, ac-
cording to the National Funeral Directors
But cremation leaves a mark on the envi-
ronment too. Although cremation rates vary
globally — for example, in Japan it’s close to
100% — overall the practice produces 6.8 mil-
lion metric tons of carbon dioxide every year.
That’s a small fraction of the global green-
house gas emissions, but every little bit mat-
ters. Cremation facilities have also been im-
plicated in mercury pollution from vapor-
ized dental fillings.
So what are environmentally minded
people to do with their bodies once they no
longer need them? There are a number of
slightly greener options to meet the growing
interest, such as burial without preserva-
tives or in fully biodegradable shrouds or
caskets. Someday people may even have the
option of placing their departed loved ones
in a biodegradeable pod over which a tree,
rather than a headstone, is planted. Later
this year Californians will have another eco-
option called alkaline hydrolysis, which uses

water, lye and heat to break down the body.
But there’s one environmentally friendly
choice that isn’t yet available for Califor-
nians and should be: natural organic reduc-
tion or, basically, above-ground human com-
Washington legalized this new procedure
this year, becoming the first state to do so.
And in California, Assemblywoman Cristina
Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) is leading the effort
to do the same by creating a licensing path
for facilities that want to offer human com-
posting services to Californians. Such serv-
ices are not outlawed exactly at the moment;
they’re just not specifically listed as one of
the allowed methods of body disposition
under the state’s Cemetery and Funeral Act.
Lawmakers in Colorado are considering do-
ing the same.
The idea was pioneered by Katrina
Spade, a Seattle resident who was inspired
by a decades-old agricultural practice to dis-
pose of dead livestock. Spade’s company,
Recompose, successfully tested the process
with researchers at Washington State Uni-
versity (using six donated cadavers) and is
now building the first human composting fa-
cility in the state of Washington.
As Spade describes it, bodies will be
tucked into tubular steel vessels atop a layer
of wood chips, alfalfa and straw and then
covered with the same material, which cre-
ates the right conditions for microbes to
heat up to 150 degrees and break down the
body completely, including the bones, teeth
and hair. The microbes’ work will also neu-
tralize pathogens. The vessel will be aerated
and rotated, and after 30 days all that will be
left, other than the non-organic material
such as tooth crowns, is a fluffy material that
resembles soil and can be used in the garden.
It may sound ghastly, but it’s not all that
different from what goes on in any backyard
compost container, assuming it is done
properly. And it has a much smaller carbon
footprint than burial or cremation, Spade
says. It’s worth remembering too that bodies
in caskets don’t remain pristine as the years
pass. Not to put too fine a point on it, but
they rot.
Admittedly, composting may not be for
everyone. The Catholic Church, for one, is
opposed to human composting, arguing
that it is disrespectful. That’s fine. Catholics
can still choose burial for their departed
loved ones. But for those who don’t have reli-
gious or philosophical objections and who
care about how their afterlife may impact
the ongoing lives of those they leave behind,
human composting should be an option.

Why not compost bodies?

The need to cut carbon emissions

requires us to rethink our

arrangements for life — and death.


uesday’s election brought a
whole new approach to voting to Los
Angeles County, offering more times
and places to vote, but also introducing
potentially befuddling new procedures and
equipment. Members of The Times’ Opin-
ion section staff cast their ballots over the
last two weeks, and here are some of their

L.A. County recently spent $300 million
to update and expand its voting system so
that, as county elections chief Dean Logan
said, “there are no longer wrong places to
vote.” But when my wife and I tried to do so
on Saturday, every place seemed wrong. At
John Burroughs Middle School, the mach-
ines weren’t ready to check us in at 8:15 a.m.
We went instead to Third Street Elementa-
ry School, where the machines ... also wer-
en’t ready. Back at Burroughs we were told
to wait 15 more minutes, so we walked
around the block. Then we were informed
we would have to vote provisionally, even
though there were no doubts about our
My wife didn’t want her ballot to be
counted as much as 30 days after election
day, so we went to a third voting center,
oddly just across the street. There she
voted successfully on the new machines,
but my vote didn’t, well, “connect” in some
way, so my ballot had to be submitted
provisionally after all. The whole process
took longer than ever before — well over an
hour. On the other hand, there were no
lines, and the election workers were all
— Nicholas Goldberg

I thought I would get ahead of the long
lines on election day, and so I headed to the
local senior center in Sherman Oaks on
Monday afternoon, which is one of several
new vote centers within a five-minute drive
of my home. I figured I’d be in and out in 15
minutes, just like every other election I’ve
voted in. Wrong. The line of voters
stretched out the door and deep into the
courtyard. One hour and 20 minutes later I
finally cast my ballot.

Why the long wait? Poll workers, who
were exceptionally helpful and friendly,
said that the electronic check-in systems,
which replaced the old-school registration
books that checked voters’ addresses and
recorded their signatures, could be slug-
gish. Also, voters using the new touch-
screen machines to mark their ballots
(instead of the low-tech Ink-a-Vote devices
of yore) needed a bit more hand holding. A
few extra minutes here and there added up.
The senior center also happened to be a
very popular location; apparently, there
was no waiting at the mall down the road.
— Kerry Cavanaugh

I voted at 1:30 Monday afternoon at the
Proud Bird, a bar and restaurant a few
blocks from The Times’ El Segundo office. I
was the only voter there. No lines, and
about 20 voting booths available. It took
me about five minutes. This was the first
time in my life I voted on a day other than
election day.
Because you’re wondering, I should
point out that the voting booths were up-
stairs, and the alcohol was downstairs. As
was the barbecue.
— Robert Greene

I wanted to avoid the lines expected on
election day, and I sure did. Though there
were a number of people at the Echo Park
Recreation Center on an early afternoon a
week before Super Tuesday, none appeared
to be there to vote. I had the touch-screen
ballot-marking tablets (one was out of or-
der) and a quartet of poll workers to myself.
One helped me check in on a tablet and
choose a crossover ballot. One explained the
machine and pointed out the crucial differ-
ence between the “more” and “next” but-
tons; pressing “more” pulled up the names
of additional candidates in races where
there were too many people running to fit on
a single screen, while pressing “next” moved
on to the next contest. And another helped
me submit my ballot — sending it back up
through the machine that had printed it —
after I made my selections.
— Mariel Garza

About that new voting system


Trump may be less
popular than President
Richard Nixon in 1972, but
Sanders’ nomination still
promises to be an electoral
disaster, likely costing
Democrats their House
Abcarian needs to see
past her ideological ani-
mosity toward President
Clinton, a centrist Demo-
crat, and ask what will
happen when the Trump
campaign highlights Sand-
ers’ self-identification as a
democratic socialist or
points out the economic
effects on this country of
his tax and expenditure
Democrats made gains
in the 2018 midterm elec-
tion thanks to the subur-
ban and moderate voters
who were appalled by what
they saw in the White
Many of these voters
will simply not support
David Perel
Los Angeles


Finally, someone had
the wisdom and courage to
honestly define the Demo-
cratic Party’s reaction to
Sen. George McGovern’s
landslide loss to Nixon in
1972 and, more impor-
tantly, what it means right
My first vote was in 1972,
and I was thrilled to vote
for someone I believed in.
The party indeed moved to
the right in response, elect-
ing Clinton in 1992 and
giving us his disastrous
policies that followed.
I hope Sen. Elizabeth
Warren comes down the
stretch winning, but if
Sanders is the nominee, I
will proudly vote for some-
one I actually believe in.
Terry House
Palm Springs


Like Abcarian, I believe
a race between Sanders
and Trump will be closer
than many people think.
However, she needs to
brush up on her American
history badly when she
intimates that Nixon prac-
tically had a free ride to
reelection in 1972.
Nixon was in serious
trouble when 1972 rolled
around. A recession in 1969,
his expansion of the un-
popular Vietnam War in
1970, high inflation in early
1971, and the implementa-
tion of wage and price
controls put Nixon’s reelec-
tion in jeopardy.
In fact, by the start of
1972, Democratic Sen.
Edmund Muskie of Maine
was considered to be a
favorite to unseat Nixon
until he self-destructed in
the early primaries. It was
Nixon’s historic trip to
China in February 1972 and
the missile treaty with the
Soviet Union that May that
gave Nixon some breathing
Yes, peace was at hand
in Vietnam by November,
but it was only in the three
months leading up to the
election that Nixon took

credit for what he was able
to accomplish; that along
with Democratic bungling
turned 1972 into a landslide
I taught high school
U.S. history for 35 years,
and I know a canard when I
see one.
Fred Peritore

A pro-worker

law that isn’t

Re “Capitol to weigh doz-
ens of AB 5 bills,” Feb. 29

What planet was As-
semblywoman Lorena
Gonzalez (D-San Diego)
on when she stated that
the intent of Assembly Bill
5, which she wrote and
championed, has never
been to end the use of
independent contractors
in California?
If that was not her in-
tent, then why isn’t she
doing something to end the
chaos and loss of work
caused by her “good inten-
I am a freelance musi-
cian and have lost work
because of this bill, and
news reports abound of
theaters and other venues
using recorded music
instead of their previously
employed live orchestras
because they cannot afford
to comply with the new law.
Our world was fine the way
it was.
This whole situation
needs to be rethought one
industry at a time, or the
law should be thrown out
Les Benedict


There is a simple,
straightforward way to
deal with the issue of em-
ployees versus independ-
ent contractors, but it not
something that the politi-
cians or labor unions want
to be considered.
The answer: Let the
worker decide.
It removes the angst for
small employers, eases the
business pressure to hire,
and assures that the
worker gets treated fairly.
Just make sure the law
protects the worker from
undue pressure by the
Forcing me, a software
developer, to be an employ-
ee instead of a contractor is
just wrong. Let the worker
decide. No one gets
harmed, and the whole
exemption process can be
thrown away.
Michael J. Wolfstone

No leadership

on new housing

Re “Cutting the cost of new
homes,” editorial, Feb. 28

Your editorial encour-
ages California legislators
to take aggressive action to
improve the availability of
housing. Problem is, much
of the blame for the lack of

sufficient new home con-
struction can be attributed
to the same political body
that you want to help fix
My wife and I had plans
to build a new home in Big
Bear Lake, Calif. Having
already lived in the area for
five years, we know it well.
But in a recent meeting
with our architect, we were
warned that because of the
many state zoning
changes, both the city of
Big Bear Lake and the
county of San Bernardino
were confused about new
regulations and had differ-
ent interpretations.
The issue of required
solar panels is also unpre-
dictable. We own a second
home in Carlsbad, for
which we purchased panels
many years ago. Initially
this was financially benefi-
cial, but then the utility
changed the reimburse-
ment for the power we
In addition to building a
new home, we also planned
to rent out our existing Big
Bear home — yes, increas-
ing the housing supply.
Under the current gov-
ernor, the obvious solution
for people who cannot
afford housing in California
is to move to a less costly
state. The Democratic
leadership is clueless
about increasing the hous-
ing supply.
Dan Dreblow
Big Bear City, Calif.


“The cost to build new
housing is too damn high”?
What kind of housing?
This reminds me of Elon
Musk’s claims about Tesla
cars: Public demand is
overwhelming; the only
problem is too many poten-
tial buyers can’t afford the
My dad, a World War II
veteran, bought his first
(and only) house in what
was then the community of
Rivera in 1949. It had two
bedrooms, one bathroom
and 700 square feet. There
was no landscaping, and
the kitchen had linoleum
floors and metal cabinets.
This was a typical house in
our area.
Slashing the “impact
fees” charged to developers
only nibbles at the edge of
the problem and undercuts
local cities and school
Maybe legislators can
find some way to incen-
tivize market suppliers and
customers toward the
equivalent of basic econo-
my cars instead of Teslas.
Bob Wieting
Simi Valley

It can happen

after Nov. 3

Re “Will Trump be
crowned king?” Opinion,
March 2

There is a real possibil-
ity that if he is reelected in
November, given a spine-
less and acquiescent Re-
publican-controlled Sen-
ate, a compliant Supreme
Court and an obsequious
Atty. Gen. William Barr,
President Trump could
crown himself king.
The only way to stop
this insanity is for the
masses who care about the
United States being a
democracy to come out in
their numbers and vote
Trump out in November.
Another four years
under Trump would be a
real disaster for the coun-
try as we knew it before
Trump became president
more than three years ago.
Charles Blankson


Op-ed article writers
Donald Ayer, Tom Cole-
man and Christine Todd
Whitman are late with
their question.
Trump has already
been crowned king, and it
is impossible to prove
The coronation was
completed by the Senate at
Trump’s impeachment
Jim Reginato

Going mainstream

Re “Destroy the Democratic Party? Sanders might save
it,” Opinion, March 1

I agree with Robin Abcarian that the kind of socialism
espoused by presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders
will not threaten the future of the Democratic Party if
he’s the nominee; instead, it will strengthen it.
Over the years, both Republicans and Democrats
have accepted about two-thirds of the 1928 Socialist
Party platform on economic reforms, advancing
capitalism into a more workable system today. Now,
nearly all Americans have accepted the Federal Reserve
bank, the eight-hour work day, universal healthcare and
so many other social and economic benefits.
Many businesses are in fact subsidized, benefiting
wealthy elites, corporations and agriculture. So why all
the fuss over Sanders’ “radical” ideas?
Jose A. Hernandez
San Fernando

Dania MaxwellLos Angeles Times
BERNIE SANDERSand his wife, Jane, onstage at
a rally Sunday at the L.A. Convention Center.
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