Skipping Gravestones: Why the World is Running Out of Space for the Dead

Burial Crisis In United KingdomOvercrowding is a modern problem people simply cannot escape, even in death.

As living spaces size down and living costs rise up, the world’s urban areas are feeling the posthumous pressures in having insufficient accommodation. With more than 55 million people passing away every year—equivalent to 0.8 percent of the world’s population (or 100 percent of England’s), cemeteries are quickly running out of burial spots, and there are simply too few investing on a solution.

The Price of Permanent Peace

A burial crisis is looming, with London on track to running out of space for the dead in as soon as 2019. Meanwhile, estimates show that the rest of the UK would hit the same wall by 2037. ‘Everything is going to be full, so it does pose a bit of a problem’, comments Ollie Saunders, a real estate strategist, in what seems to be a grave understatement.

The current path towards total subterranean saturation is rooted in two things: financial limitations and cultural norms. Advisers from Harley Investments Ltd mention London's cemetery plots as city features that having been transforming into a significant resource for the past decade, particularly for those looking to diversify their portfolio and take advantage of alternative investment opportunities.

As it stands, however, these people are not in numbers high enough to save the city from the impending burial crisis.

The First Few Flowers

On the issue’s cultural roots, the dilemma of grave recycling emerges. It is a system employed by countries such as Germany, Singapore and Belgium, offering free public graves only until after the first 20 years of use. Families would need to start paying for space, then; otherwise, authorities will have to transfer the remains further into the ground or to a different location, likely a mass grave.

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Recycling may be an effective, efficient method of keeping public burial spots open, but one can understand why this type of approach might fail to appeal to nations that are more entrenched in the way they treat their dead. For those willing to make the shift, however, grave recycling may eventually save their land from a corpse crisis, though not without prompting heated debate.

The world is running out of room to house the dead, and people will soon have to ask themselves what remembering those who have passed away truly needs and entails.