Burials of the future: Alternatives to traditional resting places

Posted at 10:54 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 23:36:48-05

Traditional graveyards could become a thing of the past. Researchers in New York are developing futuristic final resting places.

More than half a million people are buried in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, but it's reaching its capacity.  

"Five years ago I said five years but now but now we are really there down to the last three to five years," said Richard Moylan, president of Green-Wood Cemetery.

Researchers at Columbia University are literally thinking outside the box, trying to come up with burial alternatives.

Karla Rothstein is the founder of the school's "Deathlab." She envisions placing remains in reusable glowing vessels creating a "constellation park." She says natural chemical reactions from decomposing remains create energy, powering the glow for up to a year.

"The light will slowly brighten and dim at the conclusion of the disposition process. At which point there will be a small amount of inorganic remains. Those remains can be collected and given to the family," Rothstein said when asked how people might move about the space.

After the light fades, Rothstein says the vessel will stay in place and be reused. The idea: to install these tributes in light in parks and other public places.

"So the levels are connected by ramps and stairs but the desire is that you could go through it pushing a baby carriage or on a bicycle or strolling thinking about life, death and the future," Rothstein explained.

Cemeteries are also a logical space for displaying the glowing vessels, something Moylan says he would consider.

"There are a lot of innovative options coming along and most of them would be probably welcome," he said.

Because real estate - and time - is running out for us all.