Micro Homes, Cremation, Green Funerals and Other Suggestions for a More Sustainable Future

In recent weeks, the news and alternative media have been deluged with stories on Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” but there has been a dearth of stories on the debate over the efficacy of using wind farms for energy and the tensions between the growth of McMansions in exurbs and the niche market for “micro homes,” among other issues. All of these issues indicate a basic tension between environmentalists interested in resource management and those more interested in controlling land use and development. The former group is concerned primarily with emissions control and the usage of raw materials in creating finished goods, while the latter group is concerned with urban sprawl and the poor use of urban spaces and rural land for excessive commercial development. My contention is that the latter group has a far more accurate assessment of the environmental situation and there are several ways in which the American nation can contribute to the cause of controlling over development.

1. Greater public control over expansion of commercial and residential zoning- In a recent story on Yahoo News and a few other outlets, there was a discussion about the burgeoning field of “micro homes,” which range from 600 to 1,000 square foot spaces that can be used as primary residences. While few people have purchased “micro homes” at this point (and largely they have been used as extra studio space or home offices), the government should do more to promote the purchase of these homes by providing tax incentives similar to those on hybrid cars. Emissions are a problem, but our nation is quickly gobbling up space with mini-malls and box stores and we will eventually run out of green space and natural preserves. As well, local and state government should establish land use management plans that contain the amount of land that homeowners and businesses can take up with their buildings. The upward potential of ingenuity knows no limitations but there are always boundaries and self-imposed boundaries on what to do with our limited space will breed ingenuity.

2. The choice for cremation of the deceased over traditional or “green” funerals- Everyone knows that funerals are expensive and rather ornate, even in the most reasonably priced ceremonies. There is a movement in New York’s Finger Lakes to create a natural burial movement in America. The idea behind this is the use of smaller funeral plots, biodegradable caskets and no use of embalming processes that can be harmful to the environment. While this is an admirable movement, America should start to promote the use of cremation as a more sustainable method for remembering the deceased. Frankly, the use of large tracts of land for the burial of bodies is unnecessary when cremation allows a more portable memorial for loved ones. The contention of those who are pro-green funeral is that cremation is still costly and uses materials that are harmful to the environment. However, the more cremation is pushed as a primary method for the deceased, the better the process will evolve into a green method. As well, cremation is still much cheaper than funerals and takes up almost no land space.

In addition, the government and the American public should focus on creating a versatile energy plan for the future, relying on no one resource to fuel the entire economy. Wind and solar power could power public buildings and residences, nuclear energy can be used as an alternative in case of electrical failure, and so on. While Americans are concerned about energy prices and increased prices of consumer goods, they are not willing to make a whole sale change in the way our country is fueled or organized in terms of land use. We need to buckle down, more efficiently use our living spaces, and stop consuming at the cost of future generations.

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