Green Burial matters

Thanks, Thomas, for your thought-provoking response. I hadn’t thought of the potential obsolescence of GPS technology, but you’re right. I do want to respond to a couple of points you made: “These remains will be as irrevocably lost as those in a mass grave. I make this last point more in regard to relatives looking for their family graves decades down the road than law enforcement authorities….” Yes, the graves will eventually be lost over time. I’m not convinced that’s a terrible thing, though. People who choose green burial, and who know upfront there won’t be any permanent marker, are probably not concerned about that. We all vanish from the face of the earth eventually, and I’m not convinced we have the right to expect that the location of our mortal remains will be recorded in perpetuity. It strikes me as a rather desperate attempt to battle our immortality. You also wrote: “But grave markers are a matter of taste, and it is thus fair neither to require grave markers nor to forbid them. Thus, in my opinion, both Bibb County and more radical green burial proponents are wrong, albeit in opposite directions. Or both are right, and each has the right to enforce what they feel is best on their own land. In this context, our free market should decide. ” I think you’re mixing up separate categories. It is not fair for lawmaking bodies to require or prohibit headstones, because that interferes with allowing the free market to offer families different options. That’s not the same as an individual cemetery writing its own rules. If you want the free market to decide, then you have to accept that some cemeteries will allow headstones, and others won’t. It’s up to the consumer to pick which cemetery he wants to deal with. No one is forcing consumers who want a headstone to bury their dead in a cemetery that doesn’t allow headstones. Green cemetery customers know what they’re getting – and what they’re not – when they sign on. It’s not “unfair” that green cemeteries don’t allow bronze or granite markers. If families want those, they can choose from any conventional cemetery. By contrast, the Bibb County Commission is closing down the free market by legislating that all cemeteries must require permanent markers, even if the cemetery and the consumer don’t want them. “The current vision of a green cemetery only needs the addition of beautiful weathering boulders, even small menhirs, inscribed with names, dates, and simple profiles of the deceased, set among the slowly maturing trees and the naturally evolving landscape. A modern-primitive look that would appeal to our naturalistic tastes and retain the human element of a cemetery is what we need.” What you describe sounds charming, and pleasing to look at. I’m betting enough people will agree that some cemeteries will start offering that. Even though I have no intention of being buried, and I don’t visit my relatives’ graves (I bring out their letters and photos when I want to remember them), I’m a sucker for gorgeous cemeteries. But remember, your aesthetic opinions are just that – your opinions alone. They’re not binding on anyone else, and they’re not to be used as the basis for laws dictating what cemeteries should or shouldn’t offer the public. No matter how deeply you feel about this issue, you don’t have any authority to proclaim what humans “need.” I don’t either. I really do appreciate your comments; they’re more thoughtful than many. I’m only offering a counterpoint to a few specifics, and I hope you’ll continue reading our blog and having your say. Josh Slocum Executive Director Funeral Consumers Alliance

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