Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saving the World by burying the Greens.

In medieval Europe many cathedrals and churches were built with money from people that paid for crypt spaces and burial spaces in the building or its grounds.

What's the equivalent today? For many nature is sacred so lets give them their eco-cathedrals.

Why have grave plot in the big city costing many thousands of dollars if you could have a hectare plot in the wilderness? Grave plots are getting very expensive. Even getting a hole in a memorial wall for grannies ashes is very costly. However land in the country side is very cheap particularly if its non arable land. Even arable land in the country is only a few hundred dollars a hectare at most. A green funeral plan could be created where an hectare, half hectare or quarter acre plot is purchased in an ecologically useful location. A grave plot or two are set out and the rest restored to wilderness.

Wilderness can be created by skilled landscapers, botanists, entomologists and zoologists. It need not be fenced but it may be wise to fence out feral animals: introduced predators like the cats, foxes in Australia, possums, goats and pigs in Oceania. Trees are planted if necessary and bird boxes, artificial nesting sites created. Hollow logs are created and deployed. Ponds may be added to encourage frogs and water the fauna. Ideally the memorial nature parks should be located to create fauna corridors and buffer zones around fragile areas.
Some consideration is needed on the provision of fire brakes, fire shelters, road crossings for both ground fauna, aquatic fauna and arboreal animals.

Only part of the money is spent on immediate costs land purchase, landscaping and the burial. The rest becomes a memorial trust invested carefully with some investment in gold and some compounded. This grows the fund, the gold protects against a crash, it provides the economy with a long term investor to match some long term borrowers.
The interest is used in two ways:

Firstly, If the funeral is not immediate they pay for the funeral its self. Funeral costs should be kept under half the interest funds if possible.

Secondly, It is used to fund on going long term management of the this and the other memorial nature parks. Care must be given to remove invasive weeds, non indigenous plants and feral predators and browsers. The principal should not be spent if possible.

When the buyer of the plot dies they are buried in the burial plot. Early purchase means the ecosystem becomes a wonderful back drop for an out door ceremony. To be viable the total cost, including the seed money for the trust, should be less than the urban burial plot.

Some consideration is need in the design phase of the burial location to the effects of the burial itself on the ecosystem. The impact and space required for crowds, vehicles and access for a backhoe. Because there is an inflation protected memorial fund covering long term maintenance of the ecosystem the nature park is guaranteed. It is not dependent on the whims of government or the threat of budget cuts. It must also be protected from land, capital gains and inheritance taxes.It will eventually end up very overgrown but that's the idea.

There is another benefit. Today hundreds of people are trained in environmental science but the major employer in that sector is government. Industry positions are rare. With budgets being tightened and governments going broke and winding up with their bonds reduced to junk status. This pitches those that genuinely want to save species and the environment against those advocating small government, capitalism and property rights. In a time of fiscal collapse this raises the spectre of ecological collapse and drives some to very dangerous political positions.
These memorial projects provide a new employment opportunity for these same people trained in environmental science, botany, zoology, etc turning them into the 21st century equivalent of cathedral architects. In some cases it will be their first introduction to capitalism and private sector employment.    

I'm not the only person thinking about this strategy. In the US there's already an organisation.  http://www.greenburialcouncil.org/
I don't want to become an undertaker so others are free to take it up. There are some legislative changes needed to burial laws, zoning and the tax protections but these are almost cost free to governments and create a new industry.

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