Since the recession of the 1990s, the word ‘sustainability’ is one that has been on the lips of many ecologists and economists. Literally meaning ‘capable of being maintained’, ‘sustainability’ should be as important a term to the stay-at-home mum as it is to our bankers and environmentalists, because it is, quite simply, the keyword for the survival of our future generations.
Perhaps if the Victorians had had a better idea of the importance of sustainability, today’s society would not be faced with the problem of overcrowded, decaying graveyards and cemeteries, which are polluting our environment and eating up a substantial portion of our land and taxpayers’ money.
The human race often seeks to find some sort of solace from death; for example, many of us take comfort from the belief that for every person that dies, a new life begins. The truth is, however, that for every person that dies, multiple new lives begin – and when we consider the consequences that traditional forms of burial are having on our society, can this really be comforting to the soul? Surely, if we continue to lay our departed to rest in this manner, as one door closes the several that open will give view to a somewhat depleted and gloomy landscape.
‘Sustainability’ is therefore a term that must be applied to matters surrounding death as well as future living, and those of us that are already addressing the issue are embracing greener ways of saying goodbye, such as woodland burials within biodegradable coffins. With this inexpensive, eco-friendly alternative to the traditional cemetery or graveyard, the concept of death bringing new life can take on a whole new meaning; by committing our bodies to these preserved conservation grounds, we are returned to earth to let nature take its course. In doing so, we allow our remains to become part of the food chain, just as nature intended.
The first woodland burial site came into being in 1993, and there are now approximately 200 across England, Wales and Scotland. Unlike cemeteries, these ring-fenced areas of natural land have been granted a state of perpetuity – just as nature is infinite, these beautiful, unspoilt resting grounds provide an eternal habitat for wildlife and plants, the latter of which play a major role in sustaining our atmosphere.
In line with this essence of an untouched landscape, commemoratives such as plaques and headstones are forbidden, as is the act of tending to graves. However, whilst these sites can vary in style, it is common for a tree to be planted at the time of burial. This establishes a living memorial to the deceased, who will in turn become one with nature by creating new life that boosts the environment. Surely there can be no better solace than that?
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