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3.01.2004

Holy Ground
I heard a great segment on NPR's Living on Earth on Saturday. The piece, titled "Green Burials," is about the increasingly popular trend of environmentally sensitive burial practices. Two cemeteries were reviewed, one in South Carolina and one in Virginia, and both were selling burial plots at market rate, but were much less formal than traditional cemeteries. Embalming was forbidden, and families were encouraged to bury their loved ones in pine or cardboard boxes, or even in just a cotton shroud. Headstones were allowed only if they were flush with the ground and made from local stone. And there was little formal landscaping.
Two points in particular caught my attention. First, one of the cemetery owners was remarking that they had anticipated that typical greens (ie, hippies) would be their typical customer, but they were surprised to discover that quite a few of their customers were actually traditional Southern families, people who wanted to be buried simply in the earth in the same way their fathers and grandfathers were buried. It's interesting to note that these traditional, rural families end up at the same environmental conclusion as urban liberal intellectuals.
Second, the cemetery owners are cleverly using our dislike of building on top of burial grounds to their own advantage. These people have, in essence, purchased large swaths of untouched forest desiring to keep them from the hands of developers. By scattering the burial plots throughout the land, they are insuring that the land will not be developed in the foreseeable future. To paraphrase one of the cemetery owners, "No Wal-Mart is going to build on a field of dead bodies. Not ever."

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