The university from which I graduated is bordered on one side by Woodland Cemetery, which is 200 acres in size, according to the cemetery website—roughly the size of a really small town I might drive through on my way to Lubbock. My heroes the Wright brothers are buried at Woodland, as is Erma Bombeck, the great humor writer from Dayton, among thousands of other folks.
There are dozens—maybe even 100 or more—of other cemeteries of varying sizes in and around Dayton, themselves taking up untold acres and acres of space. My elementary school, located just north of Dayton’s city limits, was also next to a huge cemetery the size of several city blocks. When we were kids we would sometimes take class walks through it.
In the city you’re from, there could be just as many or more cemeteries. Some of the plots have been there for possibly 100 years or more, and I doubt many, if any, people visit them. I hope for the sake of the deceased that their graves get visitors, though.
I have read that there are perhaps more people alive today than have ever died in all of history. With as much room as cemeteries take up, are we going to run out of space for the living because we need so much land to bury the dead?
The National Funeral Directors Association—”the worldwide source of expertise and professional resources for all facets of funeral service projects,” according to its website—reported July 18 that the rate of cremation in the U.S. is the highest it’s ever been and is now more popular than burials. The NFDA estimates 78.8 percent of the deceased will be cremated by 2035.
I’ve heard the reasons more people are choosing cremation are because it’s cheaper than burial and a casket and a tombstone; people are moving and living in many places in their lives—we’re less tied to a certain city or state than we used to be, therefore less likely to be tied to a burial plot; and I would imagine cremation is better for the environment, too.
So based on current trends, it looks like many of us are going to be cremated, and there will be more space on which to build stuff in the future than we might have once thought! But then again, there’s almost certainly going to be more people alive than have ever lived on this planet year after year going forward, so we might lose the space we gained through cremating our dead.
Typical humans: We urn something and then let it go to waste.