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Could Trees Be the New Gravestones?

来源:纽约时报    2019-06-27 10:04

        SANTA CRUZ, California — Death comes for all of us, but Silicon Valley has, until recently, not come for death.        加州圣克鲁兹——我们所有人都会被死亡找上门来,但死亡,直到最近才被硅谷找上门来。
        Who can blame them for the hesitation? The death services industry is heavily regulated and fraught with religious and health considerations. The handling of dead bodies does not seem ready for venture-backed disruption. The gravestone does not seem an obvious target for innovation.        这种姗姗来迟,也怪不得他们。死亡服务业受到严格监管,还充满各种宗教和健康考量因素。尸体处理工作似乎还没准备好被风险资本颠覆。墓碑看起来也不是显然的创新对象。
        But in a forest south of Silicon Valley, a new startup is hoping to change that. The company is called Better Place Forests. It is trying to make a better graveyard.        但在硅谷南部的一片森林,一家新的初创公司正希望能带来改变。公司名为善地森林(Better Place Forests)。它正在试图创造一种更好的墓园。
        “Cemeteries are really expensive and really terrible, and basically I just knew there had to be something better,” said Sandy Gibson, chief executive of Better Place. “We’re trying to redesign the entire end-of-life experience.”        “墓地贵极了,也恐怖极了,基本上我就知道,肯定有更好的选择,”善地首席执行官桑迪·吉布森(Sandy Gibson)说。“我们在设法重新设计整个临终体验。”
        And so Gibson’s company is buying forests, arranging conservation easements intended to prevent the land from ever being developed, and then selling people the right to have their cremated remains mixed with fertilizer and fed to a particular tree.        于是吉布森的公司在购置林地,达成保护地役权协议,意在保证今后这片地永远不会被开发,然后他们将权益卖出去,给那些想将自己的骨灰和肥料混合在一起,给一棵特定的树做养料的人。
        The Better Place team is opening a forest in Point Arena, a bit south of Mendocino; preselling trees at a second California location, in Santa Cruz; and developing four more spots around the country. They have a few dozen remains in the soil already, and Gibson says they have sold thousands of trees to the future dead. Most of the customers are “pre-need” — middle-aged and healthy, possibly decades before finding themselves in the roots.        善地团队正在门多西诺略偏南的竞技场岬开辟一片森林;在位于圣克鲁兹的加州第二处地点预售树木;还在全国开发另外四个地点。他们已经有十来人的骨灰入土了,吉布森说他们还向未来的死者售出了数千棵树。大部分客户都是出于“预先需求”——尚在中年且身体健康,落叶归根可能还要等上几十年。
        Better Place Forests has raised $12 million in venture capital funding. And other than the topic of dead bodies coming up fairly often, the office is a normal San Francisco startup, with around 45 people bustling around and frequenting the roof deck with a view of the water.        善地森林已经筹得1200万美元风险投资基金。除了频频谈起有关尸体的话题外,这里和寻常的旧金山初创公司没什么不同,大约45个人忙来忙去,常常光顾带水景的顶层露台。
        There is a certain risk to being buried in a startup forest. When the tree dies, Better Place says it will plant a new one at that same spot. But a redwood can live 700 years, and almost all startups in Silicon Valley fail, so it requires a certain amount of faith that someone will be there to install a new sapling.        在初创公司的森林里入葬有一定风险。那棵树死后,善地称它会在同一地点新植一棵。但红杉能活700年之久,硅谷几乎所有的初创公司却都会倒闭,所以需要一定程度的信念,相信有人会去种植一棵新树苗。
        Still, Gibson said most customers, especially those based in the Bay Area, like the idea of being part of a startup even after life. The first few people to buy trees were called founders.        但吉布森说大部分客户,特别是湾区的客户,喜欢即便是身后仍能成为初创公司一部分的创意。最早买树的几个人被称为创始人。
        “You’re part of this forest, but you're also part of creating this forest,” said Gibson. “People love that.”        “你是森林的一部分,也是这片森林创建行动的一部分,”吉布森说。“人们很喜欢这个。”
        Bring Your Dog, Forever        带上你的狗,直到永远
        Customers come to claim a tree for perpetuity. This now costs between $3,000 (for those who want to be mixed into the earth at the base of a small young tree or a less desirable species of tree) and upward of $30,000 (for those who wish to reside forever by an old redwood). For those who do not mind spending eternity with strangers, there is also an entry-level price of $970 to enter the soil of a community tree. (Cremation is not included.)        客户可以来认领一棵永恒之树。目前价格在3000美元(欲在幼树或普通树种下汇入泥土者)到30000多美元(欲永远栖息在一棵老红杉下者)之间。对于不介意和陌生人永久共存者,还有970美元的入门价(不含火化),在共有树下入土安息。
        A steward then installs a small round plaque in the earth like a gravestone.        管理员随后会在土里安上一块类似墓碑的小圆牌。
        When the ashes come, the team at Better Place digs a 0.9-meter by 0.6-meter trench at the roots of the tree. Then, at a long table, the team mixes the person’s cremated remains with soil and water, sometimes adding other elements to offset the naturally highly alkaline and sodium-rich qualities of bone ash. It is important the soil stay moist; bacteria will be what breaks down the remains.        当骨灰送来的时候,善地森林团队会在选定树木的根部挖出一道0.9米乘0.6米的沟。然后,在一张长桌上,工作人员把这个人的骨灰和泥土与水混合起来,有时会添加一些其他的物质,以抵消骨灰本身碱性强、钠含量高的特点。重要的是让土壤保持湿度;细菌最终会分解遗骸。
        Because the forest is not a cemetery, rules are much looser. For example: pets are allowed. Often customers want their ashes to be mixed with their pets’ ashes, Gibson said.        森林不是墓地,所以规则要宽松得多。例如:允许与宠物合葬。吉布森说,客户常常希望自己的骨灰能和宠物的骨灰混在一起。
        “Pets are a huge thing,” Gibson said. “It’s where everyone in your family can be spread. This is your tree.”        “宠物是件大事,”吉布森说。“每个家庭成员的骨灰都可以洒进来。这是你的树。”
        “Spreading” is what they call the ash deposit. The trench is a “space,” the watering can is a “vessel,” the on-site sales staff are “forest stewards.” When it comes to both death and startups, euphemisms abound.        他们把骨灰沉淀物称为“挥洒物”。沟是一个“空间”,洒水壶是一只“容器”,现场销售人员是“森林管理员”。涉及到死亡和初创公司,委婉语总是少不了。
        It is all pretty low-tech: mix ashes in with dirt and put a little placard in the soil. But there is a tech element: For an extra fee, customers can have a digital memorial video made. Walking through the forest, visitors will be able to scan a placard and watch a 12-minute digital portrait of the deceased talking straight to the camera about his or her life. Some will allow their videos to be viewed by anyone walking through the forest, others will opt only for family members. Privacy settings will be decided before death.        这全都没有太多技术含量:把骨灰和泥土混合起来,在土里插上一小块标牌。但其中也有技术因素:只要额外付费,顾客就可以制作一个数字纪念视频。在森林里走过时,访客可以通过扫描标牌,观看一段12分钟的视频介绍,逝者将直面镜头讲述自己的一生。一些人会允许任何走过树林的人观看他们的视频,另一些人则选择只允许家属观看。隐私设置将在生前确定。
        Death Is a Growth Industry        死亡是个增长行业
        As cities are running out of room to bury the dead, the cost of funerals and caskets has increased more than twice as fast as prices for all commodities. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a traditional funeral and plot burial often costs $15,000 to $20,000. The majority of Americans are now choosing to be cremated.        随着埋葬死者的空间即将耗尽,很多城市葬礼和棺材花费的增长速度超过了所有商品的两倍。在旧金山湾区,一个传统葬礼和墓地土葬开支通常在1.5万美元至2万美元。大多数美国人如今选择火化。
        “The death services market is very big — $20 billion a year — and customer approval is low,” said Jon Callaghan, a partner at True Ventures, an investor in Better Places. “The product is broken.”        “殡葬服务市场很大,每年达200亿美元,而且客户认可度很低,”真创投(True Ventures)合伙人、善地投资人约翰·卡拉汉(Jon Callaghan)说。“产品很差。”
        The firm’s other investments include Blue Bottle, Peloton and Fitbit, and Callaghan sees consumers of those products as ones who would be interested also in Better Place trees.        真创投的其他投资项目包括蓝瓶咖啡(Blue Bottle)、Peloton公司和Fitbit手环,卡拉汉认为这些产品的客户也会对善地的树感兴趣。
        “Every industry seems to have its time when things get wild,” said Nancy Pfund, the founder and a managing partner at DBL Partners, which led early funding. “It’s been mobile apps, it’s been cars, it’s been fake meat, and now it is death care,” she said.        “每个行业似乎都会有一段疯狂的时期,”从事早期领投的DBL合伙人公司(DBL Partners)创始人兼管理合伙人南希·芬德(Nancy Pfund)说。“已经有过手机应用、汽车、人造肉,现在轮到殡葬服务了,”她说。
        Around 75 million Americans will reach the life expectancy age of 78 between 2024 and 2042, Better Place suggests. The company’s pitch is that tree burial is good for the environment, the location is more beautiful than a traditional graveyard — and it is cheaper as well.        善地表示,2024年至2042年间,约有7500万美国人将达到预期寿命78岁。公司的卖点是,树葬利于环境,地点比传统墓园更美,而且费用也更便宜。
        Where’s Grandma?        奶奶在哪?
        Those tracking the death services industry are more skeptical about how disruptive it will be.        那些密切关注殡葬服务业的人,则对这项服务的颠覆力存在怀疑。
        John O’Conner, who runs Menlo Park Funerals, said more than 90% of his clients opt for cremation.        经营门洛帕克殡葬服务公司(Menlo Park Funerals)的约翰·奥康纳(John O'Connor)称,他90%的客户都选择火化。
        “Most of my people scatter on their own,” O’Conner said. “They just go at night, scatter grandma, have a cup of Champagne, and every day they drive by that park they know grandma is there. Why would they pay $20,000 to go to a memorial grove when they can scatter at any little park they want to for free?”        “客户大多都自己撒骨灰,”奥康纳说。“他们就直接晚上出去,撒放奶奶的骨灰,喝杯香槟,然后每天驱车路过那个公园时,他们知道奶奶在那里。既然能免费在自己想要的任何公园撒灰,干嘛要花2万美元去墓林呢?”
        That act is, technically, illegal.        严格来讲,这种行为是非法的。
        “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” O’Conner said.        “别问,也别说,”奥康纳说。
        Ben Deci, a spokesman for California’s Cemetery and Funeral Bureau, said Better Place Forests’ activities do not fall under the bureau’s purview.        加州公墓和殡葬局(Cemetery and Funeral Bureau)发言人本·德西(Ben Deci)表示,善地森林的经营活动不受该局管辖。
        “It looks to me like they’ve just purchased large tracts for forest land and are allowing people to disperse their ashes, and they say here ‘This’ll be your tree or whatever,’” Deci said. “You don’t need our approval to do that.”        “在我看来,他们只是买下了大片林地,允许人们撒放骨灰,然后他们说这棵‘将是你的树之类’”,德西说。“做这个不需要我们批准。”
        As Gibson hiked across the Santa Cruz forest, he noticed a rhododendron, his mother’s favorite flower, growing out of a stump.        徒步走过圣克鲁兹的林地时,吉布森注意到一棵树桩上长出了一朵杜鹃花,那是他母亲最爱的花。
        Both his parents died when he was young, and, at 12, Gibson was adopted by his half brother. He is now 36, and, since then, he has spent many afternoons in Toronto at his parent’s grave site, set on a noisy corner, with a shiny black headstone that reflects traffic.        吉布森的父母均在他年幼时离世,12岁时,他的异父母哥哥收养了他。他现已36岁,自那时起,他在多伦多的许多个下午是在父母的墓地度过的。墓地位于一个嘈杂的角落,光面的黑色墓碑能映出附近的车流。
        “You remember them dying, you remember the memorial service, and you remember the image of their final resting place,” Gibson said. He was haunted by that badly designed grave site. “It’s comically bad.”        “你会记得他们离世的情景,会记得葬礼,并且会记得他们最终长眠之地的样子,”吉布森说。那个设计糟糕的墓址让他耿耿于怀。“差得让人发笑。”
        Visiting their grave in 2015, he decided to quit his job running a marketing automation company. He would make a better graveyard.        2015年拜访他们的墓地时,他决定辞掉掌管一家营销自动化公司的工作。他要建造更好的墓园。
        “A lot of investors laughed at us when I first pitched this,” Gibson said. “People don’t really like thinking about this.”        “我刚开始推销这个的时候,很多投资人都取笑我,”吉布森说。“人们真得不大喜欢思考这个。”

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