conserve life in death

Bhakti Issa Urra
2 min readDec 7, 2021

According to a study published in the Berkeley Planning Journal, funerals use enough wood to build 4.5 million houses each year. Two thousand seven hundred tons of copper and bronze are buried annually, along with 104,272 tons of steel and 1.6 million hectares of forest. Maintaining the manicured appearances of traditional cemeteries, with their perfectly tended lawns, requires gallons of fertilizer and hours of lawn mower use. ~ Garielle Anctil, A Death Full of Life

For as long as humans have lived, we have also died. As populations increase and cemeteries multiply — risks of death and disease spread quickly.

The world soon became overpopulated and polluted and causes of death have multiplied along with growing numbers. Famine, wars, disease , pandemics, genocide — countless natural and manmade causes for humanity’s demise and disposal became a growing concern.

One thing is certain — cemeteries can play an essential role in hosting ecosystems. Although with good reason they also have a bad environmental rap.

image by Ashim D. Silva

City planners, in particular, can play a key role in promoting conservation burials by incorporating burial practice into the larger context of public infrastructure planning. Taking a role in the development of the next generation of cemeteries.

Planners can use policy and incentives to set the framework for financially self-sufficient open spaces, both public and private, which are ecologically and culturally rich. Conservation burials that both forgo chemical embalming and hardwood caskets can provide revenue for land preservation.

Conservation burials can result in the creation of urban open space and the preservation of rural land. They can also integrate cultural landscapes into cities and regions while increasing the ecological sensitivity of burial practices and the social acceptance of death as a natural process.

Contemporary burial practices have ecological and public health consequences significant enough to reevaluate the current model. Natural burial eliminates many of these consequences, yet stops short of providing a sustainable economic foundation for open space, which conservation burial provides.

Planning for the end of life can be a way to make our peace with it — and it can also feel very liberating. How much greater would this peace be if we knew that our remains could help nourish the ecosystems around us?

Originally published at



Bhakti Issa Urra

canvassing consciousness, constantly curious — ever challenged & changed