Monday, January 4, 2016

Natural Burial (letter to the editors, New Yorker)

A part of the death industry that was skirted in Rebecca Mead’s article about the artisanal funeral director Caitlin Doughty is the cemetery (“Our Bodies, Ourselves,” November 30th). At a cemetery, there are concrete vaults, coffins made from exotic materials, and headstones that have been transported from across the country; perpetual mowing, irrigation, and leaking toxins become one’s environmental legacy. Contrast that with a natural burial: the unembalmed body is wrapped in a simple shroud and laid to rest in a three-to-four-foot-deep hand-dug hole, marked only with materials found on site and a small metal surveyor’s disk, and decorated with native wildflowers. When a natural burial site is overseen by a nonprofit land trust or a public-park system where the proceeds purchase more conservation land and restore the landscape to a meadow or a forest, the environmental legacy of the departed extends to land that is protected as sacred burial ground, which even the most cynical developer or government will not dare disturb. So rather than become a puff of crematory air pollution, each of us can partially compensate for our living environmental footprint by occupying and securing special ground, one death at a time.
 Robert Hutchinson, gravedigger
Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery
Alachua County, Fla. 

The Mail (January 4, 2016) - The New Yorker

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