Cemeteries are everywhere.
They are scattered across country and cityscapes from one town to the next all around the world.
Will the finite amount of real estate we have on earth be filled with caskets and monuments as the world grows ever more populated?
We go to the cemetery for many reasons: to bury our dead, to mourn, to grieve, to spend time remembering those that were lost. These visits serve many essential purposes for the human condition, but how much space are we giving up for that opportunity? Do cemeteries take up that much space? Will we eventually run out of space to bury people?
Let’s start by breaking down the question. According to the population clock at census.gov, the world population currently stands at roughly 7,594,275,500 people as of August 2019 and growing.
To calculate the amount of space needed to bury everyone in the world, we need to establish the required area for one single depth burial plot. — While more space-efficient options do exist, this is an excellent place to start. — Let’s assume that each person’s burial plot would adhere to the current traditional western burial standards for this scenario. With this assumption, we can determine that each person would need a plot of land with a surface area 2.5 feet wide and 8 feet long or 20 square feet.
Twenty square feet is enough room for the casket inside of a burial vault to be buried below ground level. The 2.5-foot width leaves enough room on each side of the casket or burial vault for the next burial to occur without disturbing the prior grave. The 8-foot length also leaves additional room back at ground level near the head end of the casket for a headstone. (Monuments, grave markers, tombstones, or gravestones are most commonly located at the same end of the burial plot as the decease’s head, thus headstone.)
So to calculate the land area needed, we multiply the current world population (7,594,275,500 people) by the standard size of the burial plot (20 ft²), which totals 151,885,510,000 ft² of land.
That is a lot of square feet!
Now, since so many square feet are hard to visualize, we can convert the square feet needed to square miles required. If we divide our total (151,885,510,000 ft²) by 27,878,400 ft², (the number of square feet in a square mile), we come to just over 5,448 mi² required.
You might say at this point,
“That seems like A LOT of land area!”
So let’s look at land areas roughly equivalent to the required land area of the 5,448 mi² that we would need to bury everyone currently on Earth. Thanks to census.gov, we can also find the total area for each state as well as separate figures for land area and water area.
Since it is markedly more difficult to bury people under bodies of water, land area totals are the focal point. Besides, we should leave those lakes and waterways as pretty scenery in our unified planetary cemetery.
Let’s start with New Jersey — total land area: 7,354 mi². That’s right; we could bury the entire world on roughly 3/4th of New Jersey and still leave the turnpike to get around and room for that beautiful shoreline. A small area of land compared to the size of the world.
Alternatively, we could look at Connecticut — total land area: 4,842 mi², plus Rhode Island — total land area: 1,034 mi². With a combined total area of 5,876 square miles of land. United these two states would provide a beautiful and scenic waterfront cemetery with 428 mi² of land to spare.
At this point, logic sets in, and you might be thinking that maybe we should go for less prime real estate. Perhaps we should find somewhere more rural and economically responsible.
I offer the six northwest counties of Kansas in the combined rolling pastures of Cheyenne, Rawlins, Decatur, Sherman, Thomas, and Sheridan Counties with a total land area of 6,009.55mi². That leaves 561.55mi² to spare for fountains, parking lots, an airport for visitors, and nearly all current buildings to stay in place!
So next time you are flying over the Great Plains at 35,000 feet, you might think to yourself…
— NO, we are not running out of room to bury people, and this could hypothetically count as visiting my relatives. —
The real question is…
How can we simultaniously use this land for the good of ourselves, society, future generations, and the future of our planet?
For answers to other interesting questions like ‘What are Ashes?’, and ‘Who Has The Rights To My Hologram?’ please buy a copy of my book now on presale:
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Jarred Harrington, M.Than.