Showing posts with label Death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Death. Show all posts

March 9, 2020

Only 33 Years Old Now Dead, He Took Travelers To North Korea Like Otto Warmbier, Also Dead


 Credit...via Young Pioneer Tours
            


His company takes travelers to “destinations your mother would rather you stay away from.” One client was Otto Warmbier, who was imprisoned and fell into a coma.


Troy Collings with a North Korean boy in an undated photo. His company likes to say that it takes young travelers to “destinations your mother would rather you stay away from.”
Troy Collings with a North Korean boy in an undated photo. His company likes to say that it takes young travelers to “destinations your mother would rather you stay away from.”Credit...via Young 

Pioneer Tours
Choe Sang-Hun
By Choe Sang-Hun
First Published on:

SEOUL, South Korea — Troy Collings, whose tour-guide company specialized in taking young budget travelers to forbidding places like North Korea, where one of his clients, the American Otto F. Warmbier, was imprisoned and fell into a coma, died last week, the company said on Friday. He was 33.

The cause was a heart attack, his company, Young Pioneer Tours, or YPT, said in a statement. No other details were provided. Mr. Collings, a New Zealander, was its managing director.

Mr. Collings’s company likes to say that it takes young travelers to “destinations your mother would rather you stay away from.” It is one of the few that specialize in taking tourists to North Korea, finding a marketing niche among young people who want to tour that secretive, totalitarian country at budget prices.

“Troy was instrumental in establishing Young Pioneer Tours as one of the leading travel companies for North Korea,” the YPT statement said. 

Mr. Collings, a native of Auckland and a graduate of the University of Auckland Business School, co-founded YPT with his friend, Gareth Johnson, in 2008. He had since visited “pretty much every place a foreigner can” in North Korea, his company said in an online biographical sketch about him.

With few tourists visiting North Korea, the YPT tours had not been widely known among Americans until Mr. Warmbier was arrested in Pyongyang in 2016 on charges of trying to steal a propaganda poster from the wall of his hotel.

He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After being held 17 months in North Korea, Mr. Warmbier, then 20, was flown from Pyongyang to Ohio, his home state, in a coma in June 2017. He died a week later, provoking international outrage and a debate on how safe it was to visit North Korea.



“Despite what you may hear, for most nationalities, North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit provided you follow the laws,” the Young Pioneer website says. But following the death of Mr. Warmbier, his father, Fred Warmbier, criticized such tourist companies, which he said helped North Korea “lure Americans” to that country by carrying “slick ads on the internet.”

After Mr. Warmbier’s death, Washington banned Americans from traveling to North Korea.

In a 2018 interview posted on his company’s website, Mr. Collings said he had become fascinated with North Korea after watching “A State of Mind,” a 2004 documentary on young North Korean gymnasts practicing for their country’s propaganda-filled Mass Games. 

Later, he visited North Korea with Mr. Johnson and “saw the potential tourism had to help the locals and to influence the country’s development,” he said.

“More importantly,” he added, “I made some real human connections with people I met that had a profound effect on me, and I decided during that trip that this is what I wanted to dedicate my life to.”

After gaining a foothold in the country, Mr. Collings’ company marketed such creative tour programs as “Pyongyang City Cycling Tour” and “North Korea Study Tours” and even “the first North Korean booze cruise and beer festival.”

It also expanded to market trips to off-the-beaten-path destinations like Chernobyl in Ukraine, East Timor in Asia or remote islands in the Pacific, like tiny Nauru in Micronesia, northeast of Australia.

In North Korea, foreign tourists are monitored by government minders. The authorities there impose strict restrictions on what foreign visitors are allowed to see.

“You can’t have the same level of authentic experience in North Korea as you can in most other countries,” Mr. Collings said in the 2018 interview, adding, “But what you see of daily life there is daily life.”

“If you’re traveling with that kind of bias, it’s better to just stay at home,” he said, referring to the criticism that organized trips to North Korea were staged. “In the beginning, the big surprise for me was how ordinary the people are. It sounds cliché, but once you scratch the surface most North Koreans aren’t that different from anyone else.” 

There is no reliable data on how many foreigners visit North Korea each year. North Korea has been trying to ease the pain of international sanctions, imposed over its nuclear weapons program, by attracting more foreign tourists, mostly from China. But such efforts are now on hold after the country shut its borders in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in China.



February 25, 2020

B. Smith Dies After Fight With Memory Loss



Julia Jacobo

B. Smith, the model turned lifestyle guru and restaurateur, has died at 70 years old following her battle with early-onset Alzheimer's, her husband, Dan Gasby, announced on Sunday.
Barbara Elaine Smith died "peacefully" at the couple's home on Long Island, New York, on Saturday just before 11 p.m., Gasby said.
PHOTO: B. Smith at her restaurant in New York, Feb. 20, 2001.
B. Smith at her restaurant in New York, Feb. 20, 2001.(Getty)
In his post, Gasby thanked the doctor and caregivers who made Smith "comfortable in her final days" in hospice as well as friends and fans who supported the family during their journey with the disease.
"Heaven is shining even brighter now that it is graced with B.'s dazzling and unforgettable smile," Gasby wrote.
PHOTO: B. Smith and Dan Gasby attend the "Barefoot Under the Stars" event at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, June 25, 2011, in Sagaponack, New York.
B. Smith and Dan Gasby attend the "Barefoot Under the Stars" event at the Wolffer Estate Vineyard, 
June 25, 2011, in Sagaponack, New York. (Getty image)
Smith began her career as a model in the mid-60s and later opened her first restaurant in New York City in 1986. She has also authored three recipe books.
Read this, be prepared because Memory loss from Alzheimer's, Accident or just a brain that had an electrical malfunction, means it could strike silently lots of people:
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease that severely impacts memory and cognitive ability, more than seven years ago.
PHOTO: Congressman Charles Rangel attends B. Smith's party at her restaurant to celebrate her new Discovery Channel TV show.
Congressman Charles Rangel attends B. Smith's party at her restaurant to celebrate 
her new Discovery Channel TV show. (Getty image)
Last year, Gasby appeared on "The View," opening up on what it was like to be the primary caretaker for someone suffering from Alzheimer's.
Smith is survived by Gasby and their daughter, Dana

February 16, 2020

Did You Hear That Too Much Sex Will Cause Blindness Followed by Death? It's True!


an antechinus on a tree branch
 PHOTOGRAPH: A.N.T. LIBRARY/SCIENCE SOURCE
PHOTOGRAPH: A.N.T. LIBRARY/SCIENCE SOURCE
What if I told you that in Australia, a mouselike marsupial called antechinus breeds so manically during its three-week mating season that the males bleed internally and go blind until every male lies dead? And what if I told you that this isn’t the reason the species is facing an existential threat?

Reporting today in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, biologists from the University of New England in Australia and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology present troubling evidence that antechinus might be ill-prepared for a warmer world. The researchers set out to look at something called phenotypic plasticity in the yellow-footed antechinus, one of the creature’s 15 known species. Think of your phenotype as your body’s hardware, or physiology: your height and skin color and metabolism. This is in part coded by your genotype, the genetic software that powers the hardware. Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of a species to respond to environmental stressors—like temperature swings—by altering their physiology without mucking with all the underlying genetics.

For the antechinus, the researchers were interested in the plasticity of its metabolism. This is highly influenced by temperature: An adult antechinus’ metabolism shifts to expend less energy when it’s cold during the winter and there isn’t much insect prey for it to hunt. When it’s warm, an antechinus can afford to expend a lot of energy because the prey is plentiful.

The researchers, though, were more interested in how temperature affects antechinus babies—that is, how being raised in cold or warm environments might affect how their metabolism works once they become adults. So they reared two groups of babies, one in colder temperatures and one in warmer temperatures. They then flipped the thermostat, exposing the individuals reared in the cold to warm temperatures and the warm-reared ones to the cold.

As the researchers expected, when the temperature switched from warm to cold the animals decreased their activity levels, which the scientists were recording using infrared sensors that logged movements. This is perfectly natural for wild animals since in winter they have fewer insects to hunt and need to conserve their energy to keep from starving. In fact, in the dead of winter, antechinus can slip into a state called torpor, drastically lowering their body temperature and metabolic rates.

In the lab, the researchers also found that when turning up the heat on animals that had been reared in the cold, the animals increased their activity levels, just like they would in the wild as warmer spring temperatures bring more insects to hunt.

So far so good—until the researchers also looked at the metabolic rates, instead of just the activity levels, of the animals as they experienced temperature shifts. A metabolic rate is a measure of how much energy the animal needs to maintain function at rest. For a mammal-like antechinus, that rate can change significantly when outdoor temperatures go up or down. Unlike a reptile, a mammal-like antechinus has to constantly maintain its own body temperature, either spending energy to cool or warm itself.

This time, the researchers found that when the antechinus raised in the warm group shifted to the cold, they increased their metabolic rate only slightly. But those raised in the cold group that shifted to the warmth decreased their metabolic rate significantly. The discrepancy suggests that the babies brought up in cold conditions have more plastic phenotypes when it comes to adjusting to temperature changes.

“So we hypothesize that perhaps these results reveal that antechinus that is raised in cold conditions have more flexibility in their physiology than those that are raised in warm conditions,” says physiological ecologist Clare Stawski of University of New England in Australia and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, lead author on the new paper. “Which might show you that in the future when it's much warmer, and more consistently warm, that the antechinus might not be as flexible to changes in the climate.” 

And that’s a problem because the antechinus relies on torpor to survive the winter months. As Australia warms, this strategy may no longer be available to the species. “If it's very warm, they can't use torpor,” says Stawski. That might be fine if a warmer climate also ensures a steady supply of insects to eat all year round. “But if for some reason they lose all their food—for example, there's a fire—they might not be able to deploy torpor, and then they would really struggle to have enough energy,” she says.

Bushfires are a perfectly natural component of the Australian landscape—every so often a mild fire sweeps through an area, and these animals can take refuge underground or in fallen logs. But climate change is creating ever more powerful wildfires. Instead of gently resetting an ecosystem, they wipe it out. Even if the antechinus in the fire’s area manages to survive, the ecosystem’s insects will have been obliterated. While insect populations will eventually rebound, all the vegetation will be gone—at least in the short term—so the insects will have less food. In other words, instead of leading to a year-round insect buffet, a warmer climate might actually create more summers in which the antechinus go hungry because their food supply has been diminished by fire.

Australia has also been withering under a fierce drought; indeed, it was that lack of moisture that supercharged this season’s bushfires. Unfortunately for antechinus, food is closely linked to moisture availability, says Queensland University of Technology mammologist Andrew Baker, who wasn’t involved in this new work. “We found a decline in threatened antechinus numbers right across that drought leading up to the fires,” he says. “And that we believe is probably really closely related to lack of food availability.”

In fact, the animals’ three-week mating frenzy is so short because it’s timed with the availability of food. Females mate in the winter and give birth in the spring, when insect populations explode, providing the species with plenty of food. In the months leading up to that mating season, the males are sprinting all over the landscape, eating insects and packing on weight, since that they won’t even stop to eat once the sex frenzy starts. Once the orgy kicks off, the males’ testosterone levels skyrocket, which in turn glitches their bodies’ ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol. An overload of this hormone makes the males’ bodies literally start falling apart. Their hair falls out, they develop open sores and they go blind, yet still stumble around in search of females.

The females, in turn, mate with as many partners as possible. Each carries sperm from perhaps dozens of males. By the time a female gives birth to around a dozen young that suckle in a depression on her belly, every adult male around her lies dead. None of them will have lived more than a year—they were all born after the previous year’s mating bonanza. Which is just as well, at least for the females and their offspring: It means more food for the mothers, who have to produce lots of highly-nutritious milk for their immature babies. (It seems bizarre, but it’s an evolutionary trade-off. Placental mammals like humans are born relatively mature but take longer to develop in the womb. In marsupials like kangaroos, babies are born less mature, but have to finish developing in the mother’s pouch.)

For the antechinus, it’s a fast life filled with drama and death, and all of it depends on being able to eat enough food and save up enough energy for the big finish. But a warmer Australia will threaten its food supply, and leave it less able to adapt to change. If only its sole worry was finding a date.

January 29, 2020

A WP Journalist Suspended For Breaking The Unwritten Law: "Thou Shall Not Speak Ill of the Dead"




This is a wonderful thing we can all look forward to when we die. People will be saying good things about us that never said while we were alive. Humans are a funny species. Most humans don't understand other humans at all and this little quirk is one of the millions of things that make no sense but we make sure we adhere to them. I could start on religion which I love to talk about (now I do). Most people don't know where their religion comes from or who wrote their holy book. If they knew that the bible was not written by who they think it was, would it change something?
Adam Gonzalez

I always liked Kobe Bryant. A wonderful sportsman and dad now that he is dead I like him even more. As far as Reuters which is a nonprofit for some and I am always happy to print their articles decided the below picture will be along with the rule of the dead. The story below is not from Reuters.



"Дай мне силу с небес, брат!": опубликовано прощальное письмо Коби Брайанту, пробирающее до мурашек
Photo by Reuters.
   
 Washington Post employees have condemned the paper after it suspended a journalist for tweets about the late US basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
Felicia Sonmez posted a link to a 2016 article about historical sexual assault allegations against Bryant in the wake of his death in a helicopter crash.
She received death threats and has since deleted the post.
But the paper then placed her on administrative leave - prompting a condemnatory letter from colleagues.
"Instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave," the Washington Post Guild letter to the editors reads.
It describes the paper's social media guidelines as "vague and inconsistently enforced", and says the newspaper has not clearly explained why she was suspended.
More than 300 Washington Post employees have signed the letter in support of Ms Sonmez. The growing list includes Pulitzer Prize winners David Fahrenthold and Beth Reinhard, and White House Bureau Chief Philip Rucker.  
The newspaper's media critic Erik Wemple described Ms Somnez's suspension as "misguided" in a Monday column. 
Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, sparking an outpouring of grief around the world.  
The player was considered one of the greatest in the history of basketball, winning five NBA championships and two Olympic Gold medals during his 20-year career.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old woman. The case was dropped after she refused to testify in court. She had received death threats after a clerical error saw her name published online.
Bryant repeatedly denied the allegations but later apologized and settled a civil case out of court.

Why was the journalist suspended?

In the wake of Bryant's death, Sonmez tweeted a 2016 Daily Beast story about the rape allegations against the basketball player. The article includes police interviews with the accuser and with Bryant from 2003.
Sonmez did not write the piece and posted it on her Twitter feed without comment. 
She was swiftly criticized for the timing and content of her tweet. In her response, Sonmez called the attacks "eye-opening" but defended her decision to post the link saying the way her post was received "speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases". 
Sonmez herself came forward in 2018 with allegations about sexual misconduct by Jonathan Kaiman, then a Los Angeles Times journalist. He later resigned, although he says the pair had consensual sex and their perceptions of what happened to differ.  
On Monday she also tweeted an image of her email inbox showing her attackers, which included the names and email addresses of the senders.
The journalist contacted her editors to tell them she was being threatened. Washington Post managing editor Tracy Grant then told her to delete the tweets, and sent her an email suggesting she "consider a hotel or a friend's place for this evening", the New York Times reported.
She was later told she had been suspended with pay. 
A statement by Grant said Sonmez had "displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues", and that she was on paid leave until the paper could determine if the posts broke their social media policy.

What was the reaction?

Colleagues swiftly condemned the suspension. 
"What did Sonmez do to deserve this brushback? She tweeted out a very good story from the Daily Beast," wrote the Washington Post's Mr Wemple.
"If journalists at The Post are prone to suspension for tweeting stories off their beats, the entire newsroom should be on administrative leave." 
The Washington Post Guild said the paper should have shown more support for a woman who had come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct.
"Assault survivors inside and outside this newsroom deserve the treatment that is fair and transparent; that does not blame victims or compromise the safety of survivors," their letter reads. 
The Washington Post has not commented further.

January 28, 2020

Grammy Tribute to Kobe Bryant With Boyz to Men, Alicia keys







At the start of this year’s Grammy telecast, Alicia Keys led a tribute to basketball legend Kobe Bryant with the help of Boyz II Men. Together, they sang a somber rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” in the middle of the Staples Center, Bryant’s home court for almost every one of his 20 years as a Los Angeles Laker. Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people were aboard the helicopter that crashed this morning in Calabasas, California, killing everyone aboard. The Grammys quickly pulled together a remembrance for the NBA star, and Lizzo dedicated her show-opening number to him as well. The Recording Academy released a statement regarding Bryant before showtime tonight that read in part, “All of us at the Recording Academy is deeply saddened by Kobe’s sudden passing, and our hearts go out to his family during this time.”

By  


Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 29, 2019 in Los Angeles.
Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

January 25, 2020

Many Millennials See Death in a Different Way and Are Planning Death Differently




Simon Sotelo was 27 when she donated her body to science.
The Portland, Oregon-based graphic designer is still very much alive — and presumably will be for decades to come. She doesn’t have any life-threatening afflictions or high-risk hobbies. But, Sotelo says, signing a contract that grants medical students in the distant future the right to study her body gives her a sense of peace in the present. 
“My goal from the beginning was, how can I just make this as cheap as possible for the people who have to deal with it?” Sotelo, now 31, says. “When I was first planning it, I was like, I have no savings, I have no money.” Oregon Health & Science University seemed to offer the perfect solution: When its research is complete — typically after two years — the college will pay to cremate the remains of its donors and return it to the family. At that point, Sotelo says, she hopes her loved ones will hold a celebration of her life, not a mournful wake. She’d like “The End of the Tour” by They Might Be Giants to play.
The National Funeral Directors Association has found that 15.8 percent of Americans age 18 to 39 think people should plan their funerals before they’re 40. Among them is Sotelo, seen in a Portland cemetery. Amanda Lucier for Vox
 
Most Americans don’t plan for their deaths in their 20s — or maybe ever. A 2017 study in the journal Health Affairs found only one in three US adults have an advance directive, including a living will with end-of-life medical instructions, power of attorney naming a person responsible for last affairs, or both. Fewer have planned their actual funeral arrangements: Only 21 percent of Americans have even spoken to their loved ones about their wishes, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. 
But “the American way of death,” as journalist Jessica Mitford called it in her 1963 classic book on the funeral industry, is changing. When Mitford first penned her investigation, she found anxiety, aversion, and few real options. Most consumers only interacted with the funeral industry on average every 14 years — and then, only under duress — so they weren’t likely to compare prices or make informed choices. As a result, Mitford argued, funeral directors could convince their hapless customers to spend more money than they had, on things they never wanted. 
Today, the internet grants us instant access to lots of information and seemingly infinite options. “Embalm and bury” used to be the only way Americans processed human remains — funeral directors were resistant to cremation (it was much cheaper than burial), and consumers thought to burn a body sounded awful and un-Christian. Now, a YouTube channel called “Ask a Mortician” has almost a million subscribers, and we can turn our dead into diamonds.  
In many cases, younger people are leading this black-bannered parade of cultural change. Mortician Caitlin Doughty in 2011 founded the Order of the Good Death, an organization that promotes death positivity when she was 27. Now she runs her own funeral home in Los Angeles. Hansa Bergwall was 35 when he created the app WeCroak, a digital-age memento mori that reminds its 30,000 monthly users that they are going to die five times a day — presumably to help them live in the moment. And Katrina Spade began developing the idea that would become Recompose, a company that plans to turn human remains into the soil, when she was 30.

 Mortician Caitlin Doughty founded the Order of the Good Death, an organization that promotes death positivity when she was 27. “We know that not talking about death can lead to a less self-aware life,” she says. Courtesy of Mara Zehler
 
This same demographic is also the consumer of certain relevant services: The Dinner Party, a boozier take on the old-fashioned support group, caters to 20- and 30-somethings who have lost a loved one. Some British 25- to 35-year-olds are flocking to Deadhappy, a pay-as-you-go life insurance start-up. And though they don’t necessarily all follow through like Sotelo, the National Funeral Directors Association found that 15.8 percent of Americans age 18 to 39 think people should pre-plan their funerals before they’re 40 — something only 7.9 percent of people over age 60 believed.
Why, those older adults must be asking, do people in the prime of their lives seem to be preparing for their demise? The answers vary widely, from eminently practical concerns, such as crushing debt and climate change, to social factors, like wellness culture, diverse spiritual practices, and the desire of some millennials to “curate their afterlives.” 
“We are a generation that is less willing to be shamed for our interests in difficult topics,” Doughty says. “We know that not talking about money has put us in a very difficult financial position, especially those that graduated around the time of the [September 2008 stock market] crash,” she adds. “And we know that not talking about death can lead to a less self-aware life.”

Liz Eddy was 27 when she got the call that her grandmother was dead. “I was met by two police officers, a nurse, and her body, and they said, ‘What do you want to do?’” Eddy recalls. “I did what most people do these days and pulled out my phone and Googled, ‘What do you do when someone dies?’” 
She found little guidance and spiraled into what she calls “logistical chaos.” Eddy had to move everything out of her grandmother’s assisted living facility within a month, sort through a lifetime of belongings, and close all of her grandmother’s accounts. She spent a year trying to resolve an unpaid Verizon bill with a debt collector. The trauma eventually inspired her to start a new business: Lantern, a digital end-of-life planning tool. 
The venture capital-backed site (Lantern has so far raised $890,000 in funding) offers checklists for every aspect of death, all delivered in a soothing seafoam green color palette and with dozens of conceptual illustrations. Still in the early planning phase? Sort out your organ donor status. A week has passed since the funeral? Be sure to notify the post office. 
The New York-based company is still new, but Eddy and her co-founder, Alyssa Ruderman, hope Lantern will work for people of all ages, whether they’re planning their own funeral or grappling with the loss of a loved one. They tested the product on people ages 18 to 92, to ensure accessibility. But, Ruderman says, “We absolutely built it with the millennial in mind.” 
This strategy, however counterintuitive, could pay off. In 2017, Nathan Gerard, an assistant professor of health care administration at California State University Long Beach, published a study of 84 millennials and their ability to talk about death. “There’s been a long-held assumption that the young are somehow uninterested — or worse, ill-equipped — to talk about death, let alone work with the dying,” Gerard said in an email. But he found the majority “had already engaged in a conversation about end-of-life care with a family member, and furthermore, a majority perceived themselves just as willing, if not more willing, like their parents to talk about end-of-life care options.” 
Whether the Grim Reaper is at the door or decades away, consumers will find a growing number of funeral-planning resources at their disposal. Sites like Funeralocity provide comparative pricing for funeral home services by zip code. Memorials can be arranged digitally on GatheringUs. You can even draft important legal documents online.

Before the internet, people hoping to get their affairs in order had to find financial planners, lawyers, and local funeral directors in the phone book then set up in-person consultations. But people have an “aversion to talking to strangers about important things,” says Patrick Schmitt, the co-founder of FreeWill, a site that streamlines the process of generating a will, healthcare directives, and powers of attorney. Technology means they no longer have to. With sites like Schmitt’s, it’s possible to generate a legal will in 20 minutes, no human interaction required.
Since these essential forms used to be made on paper and in private, there’s little historical data about who had a will and who didn’t. But for the team at FreeWill, that information is readily available. Among its users, the number of people age 18 to 24 crafting wills is low, but shoots up among 25- to 44-year-olds, Schmitt says.
“Younger people are less likely to have assets. People make the joke, ‘I don’t know who to pass my debt onto,’” Schmitt says. But “you’ve got big shifts around religiosity, home ownership, overall wealth at this age, marriage rates, birth rates, and these things are really going to shape views on estate planning and death.” 

In The American Way of Death, Mitford described a funeral industry that operated like an autocracy. The all-knowing funeral director guided the guileless consumer to the most expensive burial options — the most luxurious casket, the hardiest burial vault. Some things about dying haven’t changed, including the expense: The average cost today is $6,500. 
But the death industry has diversified since 1963. Approximately 60 percent of students in mortuary science programs today are female, up from 5 percent in 1971. And new trends, like the home funeral movement, are led by “an assemblage of different groups of people, different beliefs, different practices,” says Phil Olson, a technology ethicist at Virginia Tech specializing in death studies. 
Church membership is declining, and the number of Americans who say they are atheists is on the rise. (Right now, it’s hovering around 10 percent.) Though young people today may diverge from their parents’ or grandparents’ approach to death and the afterlife, many find other philosophies to guide them. 
Bergwall co-founded WeCroak — the death reminder app — in 2017 as part of his own meditation practice. He quotes a Bhutanese folk saying that states, “To be a truly happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily.” The practice, which Buddhists call “maraṇasati,” or death awareness, is supposed to help people embrace uncertainty and feel the spiritual urgency required to change your life for the better. Monks in some parts of Asia meditate over dead bodies to accomplish this. Bergwall thought an app would be easier. 

Users of WeCroak, which recently surpassed 100,000 downloads, skew male. Sixty-four percent are under the age of 44. Five times a day, the app sends them a push notification that reads, “Don’t forget, you are going to die. Open for a quote…” In the app, they’ll find words of wisdom culled from a range of texts, from the philosophical to the literary. 
While wills and advance directives are important, Bergwall thinks his app attracts people with a broader definition of “death preparedness.” Instead of who will get what, “the conversation is more about, how can we have our affairs in order — emotionally, spiritually, relationship-wise — so we can enjoy our life now,” he says. If it sounds like we’re in the midst of a wellnessification of death, well, we probably are, Bergwall adds. In lieu of crystals and green drinks, you’ll find memento mori, “grief retreats,” and green funerals
Anna Swenson is the communications manager for Recompose, the Seattle-based company that developed a method for human composting — and got it legalized by the Washington state legislature. She suggests that many of the changes in the death industry, and the speed at which they’re unfolding, could be driven by climate anxiety. As ecosystems collapse and the future no longer feels guaranteed, some people may feel more conscious of their own mortality. They may also feel more conscious about their impact on the planet, alive and dead.
In the United States, more than 90 percent of people are buried or cremated. But both methods have their downsides. Along with our dead, Americans also bury 20 million feet of wood, 4.3 million gallons of embalming fluids, and 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete each year, according to the New York Times. Cremation, once marketed as an eco-conscious alternative, releases approximately 534 pounds of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — per person. But newer, greener methods are emerging, from human composting to the “mushroom death suit” — available in human and pet sizes — that uses fungi to aid in decomposition. 
If conventional burial all but ensured your last act on Earth was a destructive one, these green efforts often capitalize on the belief that your body can become “nutritive,” Olson, the Virginia Tech ethicist, says. People see “having a tree made out of them or turning them into compost [as a way of] giving them a new life,” he says. But there’s another, darker way to read this: We want to be productive even when we’re dead. We’re taking our #riseandgrind capitalistic mentality to the grave. 
Olson sees end-of-life consumerism evolving in other ways, too. “Millennials want their uniqueness or their quirkiness to come out in their final act,” he says. While much has been made about millennials and an assumed preference for “Instagram-worthy funerals,” Olson thinks this emphasis on individualism may reflect more profound social and personal angst: “It’s a way of exercising control over death,” he says. “It’s a way of coming to grips with your own mortality — to think about it and plan for it and try to make it your own.” 

Marisha Mukerjee began planning her death in 2015. 
Every month, the 35-year-old TV writer and producer meet with other women in the entertainment industry to talk about the ups and downs of creative projects. At one gathering a few years back, Amy Pickard, founder of the advance planning company Good To Go!, spoke to the group about death preparation. Pickard, who lost her mother, father, and grandmother in three successive years, developed a 50-page “departure file,” which, for $60, “covers everything a will doesn’t cover,” from social media passwords to how you hope to be remembered.
Inspired by Pickard’s talk, Mukerjee began filling out the booklet. She organized her passwords, made plans for her pet, and decided who would get what jewelry. “I literally update it monthly with a pencil if something needs to be put on there,” Mukerjee tells me. She also planned her funeral, which ended up being one of the trickier parts of the process.

“I grew up in a household with two religions: We were raised Catholic, and my father’s Hindu,” she says. Instead of planning what she called a “cookie-cutter” funeral, like what you’d expect for your parents or grandparents, Mukerjee started from scratch. “I do want to be cremated,” she concluded, “and I would want a ceremony that would invite all religions. I know my mother would probably be like, ‘What?’ But that’s what I want to do.” She hopes her loved ones will scatter her ashes in a few of the cities she’s lived in, and in India’s Ganges River. 

The Ganges River in India is a sacred site for Hindus, who come from around the world to perform last rites in the city of Varanasi, on the banks of the river.
 Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP

The possibility that other people would make the wrong decisions for her is, in part, why Sotelo, the graphic designer in Oregon, turned her interest in death planning into actual end-of-life arrangements. “When I told my mom that I was going to donate my body, she said, ‘That’s weird but okay,’” Sotelo recalls. But Sotelo’s father, who sees burial as a tenet of his Christian faith, objected. 
“It is important that there are safety nets for myself in place so that he can’t make my decisions,” Sotelo says. 
Still, plans change. While Sotelo is certain she wants to eventually become a medical cadaver, she’s no longer sure she wants Oregon Health & Science University to cremate her body when they’re done with their research. She’s looking into human composting, and hopes Recompose will be nationwide by the time she dies.
Her own end-of-life plans are “an evolving process,” she says — much like the death industry itself. 

Eleanor Cummins reports on the intersection of science and popular culture. She’s a former assistant editor at Popular Science and writes a newsletter about death.
Amanda Lucier is a photographer based in Portland, Oregon.

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