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9.11.03

Rotting In The Grave

Burial: Rest In Green Peace

SO-CALLED GREEN cemeteries, hundreds of which exist in Europe and Africa, are catching on in the United States. Marketed as an alternative to burial in traditional wooden caskets (which remain intact for centuries) and cremation (which wastes energy and causes air pollution), these cemeteries have an environmentally correct solution: bodies are buried in biodegradable shrouds like a blanket or cardboard; individual headstones aren't permitted. This month Texas environmentalist and Universal Ethician Church Bishop George Russell is opening the country’s third, and largest, natural cemetery on an 81-acre lot on the shores of Lake Livingston in east Texas. "A pickled body in a case" is not only bad for the environment, Russell argues, but it doesn’t follow the Biblical concept of "dust to dust."


Hopefully these are widespread enough by the time I die that I can get in on it. Back when I worked at the funeral home, it always seemed strange to me that the caskets in the showroom made a selling point out of how long the casket, and presumably hence the body in it, would last. It's not like anybody's going to be able to tell whether you're still there somewhere under the ground. Assuming that you don't believe that the soul remains in some way tied to the body -- which I don't -- about the only purpose this information seems to serve is to weird out Barbara by discussing how they test the lifespan of the caskets.

On the other hand, the very fact that I don't believe it matters to my fate what people do with my body after I'm done with it suggests that the choice of burial shouldn't be entirely mine. The ritual of the funeral and burial is for the benefit of the survivors and how they need to grieve. A part of that process, though, is facilitated by the knowledge that they're doing what the deceased would have wanted, so maybe that's my way to bring in the green cemetary idea.

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