Just a few months ago, Mexico City sounded an important alarm. Their impressively large population, estimated to be at or just under 9 million, has put significant strain on the city’s cemeteries, as land is becoming more and more scarce with each passing day. 

Also experiencing a paucity of available land, the island nation of Jamaica is being forced to address the needs of their population for their end-of-life planning. As with Mexico, they are putting the research and exploration of each option on to the table. Also as with Mexico, they are certain they will need to work diligently and compassionately in order to shift opinion on many of the cultural norms surrounding death and dying on the island. 

Jamaica’s National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA) is urging the nation’s policy makers, according to Jodi-Ann Gilpin of The Jamaica Gleaner, to seriously consider promoting cremation over the more widely accepted traditional burial. 

“There was an emphasis on public burial space,” stated Leonard Francis, Director of Spatial Planning at NEPA, “but there is an overall issue with land space. Development orders that we receive are showing that most parishes are out of space. We are burying more and more people and it is sterilising some sensitive lands in addition to decreasing the capability of land in terms of agriculture and other development.”

Francis realized that the task before the nation’s policymakers and thought leaders was going to be monumental. “A major issue that we have to tackle is some of the cultural norms that exist. There are some serious stigmas in our country when it comes to the dead.” He concluded, “…the fact is that we have to find other alternatives for burying persons, because we have no land space.”

The senior manager of NEPA, Janet Hyde, supported Francis’ remarks. “I want to implore persons, especially leaders, to see how best they can get citizens to move away from traditions, because it is a crisis that we are in and we would have to change some of the cultures and some of the things that we are accustomed to, in order to solve this problem,” she stated.

While cremation seems to be the most judicious decision, other options undertaken by other nations in the same situation are also being explored. Among these alternatives is the systematic exhumation of graves after an allotted amount of time so the land can be used for future burials. This practice is already in place in Mexico City.

The United States is not at the same crisis level as Jamaica, Mexico City, and other locales, in terms of an ever-limited amount of land in which to bury our deceased. That doesn’t mean we haven’t seen a steady rise in the price of cemetery plots over the past several decades, however. Cremation doesn’t simply have to be the answer to a land shortage crisis. Aside from not taking up excessive amounts of land, cremation also provides a far more ecologically responsible option over a traditional burial as there is no chemical runoff into the surrounding land from the breakdown of materials in the coffin and from the embalmed human body within. 

If cremation is only just on your radar or you have already decided that cremation suits you and your family’s desires and needs, it is best to reach out early to a reputable cremation provider to begin the cremation preplanning process. Knowing early on what your end-of-life plan will be goes a long way to providing your loved ones the peace of mind they seek at the time they will need it most. If nothing else, take the time to learn more about the cremation process and understand why it has steadily been growing in popularity in North America.