Corpses

Much has been made in the media recently of the untended corpses in New Orleans, left on the street for days on end. Aside from issues of dignity, it certainly makes you wonder about health concerns. Especially when you read this BBC report about a supposed link between human remains and mad cow disease. I have to admit that whenever I fly home to New York City, over the acres and acres of cemeteries in Queens, I wonder if it’s worth it to take up so much space for dead people when real estate for living people is so scarce. But the BBC report makes burial look pretty good. (Thanks for Rini, a commenter on this blog, for link to the BBC post.)


Carl Johnson

Before the storm, a lot was made of New Orlean's above ground crypts. Is there any chance that decent percentage of the bodies we see now could be just the recently deceased and not the tragically killed? Or am I being hopelessly optimistic?

John

There is a good article in Slate (a few years old, but it was linked to recently because of Katrina) that explains that corpses, though disgusting, usually don't pose a serious health risk:
"The rotting corpses are a "negligible" threat to public health, according to the World Health Organization".

http://www.slate.com/id/1003473/

Manu Sharma

That's why in the Hindu religion we burn the dead. It is said that whatever comes out of the earth shall go back to the earth.

Robert Schwartz

"I have to admit that whenever I fly home to New York City, over the acres and acres of cemeteries in Queens, I wonder if it's worth it to take up so much space for dead people when real estate for living people is so scarce."

Graveyards are occasionally relocated, to make way for projects like dams or highways. It is expensive and difficult work.

More to the point, New York suffers not from a shortage of land (there are hundreds of vacant acres in Harlem, the South Bronx, and the Brooklyn waterfront, just for starters), but from a shortage of political will, and a political and legal environment that is hostile to development.

Ray

Human remains are only a danger for mad cow disease if
1) The remains are from persons who had mad cow disease and
2) You eat them, or you eat an animal who ate them, or an animal who ate the animal who ate them, etc.

Likewise, the water in New Orleans only contains those disease organisms that were present in New Orleans before the hurricane.

The Professor

WWTSS?
What would Thomas Sowell say?
"I wonder if it's worth it to take up so much space for dead people when real estate for living people is so scarce." Isn't a cemetary real estate for living people? After all, living people are the ones who purchase the land. Let's go back to ECO101 (now called ECO2013) ALL real estate is scarce, we let prices dictate the use. If people valued the land more for residential developement then you would see porches and penthouses instead of flagstones and flowers. (OK...could the previous statement get me a teaching position at U o CHI instead of my current position?)

StCheryl

If it weren't for cemeteries, I would never have learned to drive. Or have had anything resembling a normal adolescence (said the nerd).

On the other hand, I am donating my body to science and then will be cremated.

Jay Kelley

A related topic: do weather events really have the net lethal effect often cited? Katrina may be an obvious exception but in more "normal" storms there may be an offsetting drop in murders,suicides,and traffic fatalities. Some storms may actually save a few lives.

Carl Johnson

Before the storm, a lot was made of New Orlean's above ground crypts. Is there any chance that decent percentage of the bodies we see now could be just the recently deceased and not the tragically killed? Or am I being hopelessly optimistic?

John

There is a good article in Slate (a few years old, but it was linked to recently because of Katrina) that explains that corpses, though disgusting, usually don't pose a serious health risk:
"The rotting corpses are a "negligible" threat to public health, according to the World Health Organization".

http://www.slate.com/id/1003473/

Manu Sharma

That's why in the Hindu religion we burn the dead. It is said that whatever comes out of the earth shall go back to the earth.

Robert Schwartz

"I have to admit that whenever I fly home to New York City, over the acres and acres of cemeteries in Queens, I wonder if it's worth it to take up so much space for dead people when real estate for living people is so scarce."

Graveyards are occasionally relocated, to make way for projects like dams or highways. It is expensive and difficult work.

More to the point, New York suffers not from a shortage of land (there are hundreds of vacant acres in Harlem, the South Bronx, and the Brooklyn waterfront, just for starters), but from a shortage of political will, and a political and legal environment that is hostile to development.

Ray

Human remains are only a danger for mad cow disease if
1) The remains are from persons who had mad cow disease and
2) You eat them, or you eat an animal who ate them, or an animal who ate the animal who ate them, etc.

Likewise, the water in New Orleans only contains those disease organisms that were present in New Orleans before the hurricane.

The Professor

WWTSS?
What would Thomas Sowell say?
"I wonder if it's worth it to take up so much space for dead people when real estate for living people is so scarce." Isn't a cemetary real estate for living people? After all, living people are the ones who purchase the land. Let's go back to ECO101 (now called ECO2013) ALL real estate is scarce, we let prices dictate the use. If people valued the land more for residential developement then you would see porches and penthouses instead of flagstones and flowers. (OK...could the previous statement get me a teaching position at U o CHI instead of my current position?)

StCheryl

If it weren't for cemeteries, I would never have learned to drive. Or have had anything resembling a normal adolescence (said the nerd).

On the other hand, I am donating my body to science and then will be cremated.

Jay Kelley

A related topic: do weather events really have the net lethal effect often cited? Katrina may be an obvious exception but in more "normal" storms there may be an offsetting drop in murders,suicides,and traffic fatalities. Some storms may actually save a few lives.