Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Maine's Dead Turning Green?

Over at All Things Maine, Chris D reports that a Maine landowner is contemplating a very pleasant sounding alternative cemetery as use for her property in South Orrington.

As of this morning, the article in the Portland Press Herald has generated 16 comments of various levels of response, from encouragement to vehement airing of opinions about "dead human shells" and land use.

An example of comments:
John of Portland said, "The thought of becoming wormfood is making me drool...BRING ON THE DECAY!!!!"

Lisa of Hollis said, "I think the idea of any cemetary is absurd. Look at the earth and see just how little land is suitable for the growing of food that feeds the humans that insist on reproducing like rats. Where are these people supposed to live in the future? They can't build homes on the "sacred" land occupied by human waste that was left behind by ancestors they never even knew. What are we saving these bodies for? Wont we eventually run out of prime real estate to store them in after a while?"

Rod of Augusta said, "I always wanted to be forest fertilizer. I don't think it matters to the dead."

Here here. I think I'm with Rod.

At any rate, this certainly pegs a clientele that is attracted to Maine in the first place -- folks that love the natural world and the peace it seems to bring, and people who are interested in doing as little harm to the land as is possible. Whether the burial costs stay reasonable remains to be seen as Ellen Hills works out a proposal for the business plan with the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Maine.

Back in 1996, Memorial Ecosystems opened Ramsey Creek Preserve, the first U.S. green burial ground, and their burial costs seem to have remained fairly reasonable in the high-priced world of funeral arrangements. For more information, please see also the Green Burial Council's site.


Chris said...

I'm of two minds about all this. As an environmentalist, I like the idea of low-impact burials. But as a genealogist, I can't stand the idea of losing the information found on gravestones.

I've visited hundreds of cemeteries in Maine, and I consider them the "open-air archives" of our state. I love the idea of trudging into the woods and finding a written record of the land's former owners.

I can at least be comforted in knowing that "green cemeteries" will be the exception and not the rule. In general, people are far too eager to erect monuments to themselves to give up tombstones.

Michelle said...

Somehow my brain just assumed that even if they were using "natural" markers, they'd still carve the info on them somewhere. I think they do ... I wonder about the cremated clients, though. At any rate the Ramsey Creek Preserve does mention engraving on their price list, so some folks must be doing it. All is not lost, Chris!!! I think you're right. I mean, heck, I certainly want an epitaph!!!

Chris said...

In that case, I guess I have to approve.

I've always enjoyed visiting the park-like cemeteries that became popular in the mid-1800s. Instead of lining up the headstones as they do now, they buried families in clusters, laid out winding paths, and planted bushes and trees to create a mock-natural setting—all according to a plan drawn up by a landscape architect. In my hometown, there's a cemetery that started out this way, but at some point they must have lost the plan and just started burying people in straight lines again.