A Natural Death
Is the industrial-strength American funeral the right way to
bury our loved ones? One answer to that question can be found in
a woodland in the Appalachian foothills.
By J. William Thompson, FASLA
Conventional burial in this country bears a lot of resemblance
to toxic waste disposal. That's the conclusion of the Vermont-based
publication Environmental Building News.
The News has a point. Consider the basic facts: First the
deceased is drained of blood and pumped full of embalming fluids-formaldehyde
and other poisonsconcocted to slow the natural processes of
decay. Then the body is hermetically sealed in a metal or wood coffin
and vault designed to prevent contact with soil, water, and microorganisms.
This attempt to seal off the dead body from the natural processes
of decay is all part of our culture's increasing desire to distance
ourselves fromultimately, to attempt to denythe brute
fact of death. We've become convinced as a culture that final respect
for our loved ones requires an elaborateand costlyritual
that pumps them full of poisons and encases them in steel. Of course,
the $27-billion-a-year funeral industry has eagerly moved to fill
this perceived needor, probably more accurately, has helped
to create it.
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