What kind of ecological footprint does Cryonics really have?
Climate change, air, water and light pollution, and many other environmental topics are everywhere these days. Looking at historical trends, life conditions have always improved, so there is reason to believe it would continue this way. However, current events are giving many people reason to have a pessimistic outlook on the future of humanity. As a company oriented towards the future, the wellbeing of our environment is important to us. But what about the practice of cryopreservation itself?
In this article we will go over the impact cryonics have on the environment, and how it might affect it in more indirect ways in the future.
As part of our all-inclusive cryopreservation service, we assume full responsibility for a patient’s body after legal death. This includes reaching our patients location and subsequently transportation to EBF’s storage facility in Rafz, Switzerland where the final steps of cryopreservation will be conducted. To achieve this, we will take whatever means necessary to reach you as fast as possible, be it by car, train or plane.
As most transportation still runs on fossil-fuels, we of course produce emissions, which, inarguably, aren’t good for the environment. Nonetheless, it is virtually no different from a regular ambulance bringing you to the hospital. We would argue that the amount of emissions it would take to potentially save a human life is reasonable. It is also important to note, that, as most of our patients are young and healthy, the number of procedures we expect in the coming years is rather low. We are optimistic that transportation options will rely more on renewable resources by the time cryopreservation becomes more commonly conducted.
To initiate the cryoprotection procedure, we start by cooling down a patient’s body to slow down metabolic processes in the body. For that purpose we use ice, which is a completely natural substance.
Afterwards, cryoprotective agents are used in perfusion. These substances are only toxic to the environment if incorrectly disposed of, but pose no threat to nature or otherwise. We take good care of how our agents are handled between creation and usage, storing them in tightly-sealed perfusion bags. Once used for perfusion, the final batch of the fluid stays within the patient’s vitrified bodies, not impacting the environment in any negative way. The rest is being disposed of properly.
During surgical procedures, we use reusable tools wherever possible, and sterilize them with our autoclave device afterwards. This minimizes waste that would be created through instruments that are one-time-use only.
At the storage facility, the body is further cooled down to the temperature we use for long-term preservation, -196°C. Thereafter, we use liquid nitrogen inside the cryogenic storage dewars to keep the temperature steady. No electricity is necessary to store our patients indefinitely. The cooling substance simply has to be refilled about once a week from there on out.
To get liquid nitrogen, scientists compress air and split it into its individual components. Almost 80% of that is nitrogen. This process does use some energy, but results in an easily renewable resource that is highly sustainable. Using liquid nitrogen enables us to significantly reduce our environmental footprint for storage.
If a better method is found, we may change our preservation accordingly, but as of now liquid nitrogen proves to be a pretty environmentally friendly option.
Direct influences, like use of fossil-fuels or electricity, are not the only way a technology can leave its mark on the environment. It can also be influenced indirectly, when the mindset of individuals, or society as a whole changes.
In this aspect, cryonics has the ability to help people be more mindful about the future.
We at Tomorrow Bio noticed that people who signed up for cryonics are more likely to adapt to a long-term type of thinking about the future. It’s easy to shove problems like climate change aside, because we think we’ll long be dead before it becomes too unsustainable that it affects us.
At this point in time, preventing climate change is largely an act of compassion for future generations. Oftentimes we might find ourselves prioritizing short-term value over long-term efforts, like traveling by plane instead of train to save some time. Having a prospect of revival in the future might change this mindset towards a more personal, forward-oriented one.
With Cryonics becoming more mainstream, society in general might be more conscious of their environmental footprint, as they are hoping for a great future. Not just for their descendants, but also themselves.
As you can see, cryonics mostly works with natural and renewable resources such as ice and liquid nitrogen. While we can’t claim that there is no environmental footprint at all, we argue that Cryonics as a whole is not bad for the environment. Looking at it from a broader point of view, it could actually have a positive impact on people’s mindsets regarding the future. What do you think? Would the prospect of future revival motivate you to be more mindful of our environment? Feel free to discuss your thoughts with the community on our Discord server. Or schedule a call with us if you have any more questions regarding Cryonics.