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You've heard that national parks are America's best idea. Not so, says Aaron Sachs, Cornell professor of history. America's best idea is its garden-style cemeteries, which prompted architects to design environmental greenery into the urban landscape.

Sachs discusses "How Death Provided Life for America's Environment and Urban Parks," at Inside Cornell, a journalists-only luncheon, at noon, on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 at Cornell's ILR Conference Center, 16 E. 34th St., 6th floor, Midtown Manhattan.

Nineteenth century Americans embraced death, talked openly about it, and created beautiful garden-style cemeteries that were explicitly designed to spur public conversations about mortality, nature's cycles and limits, and the pace of modern life. Central Park and Prospect Park are now New York icons, but they never would have come into existence had it not been for the dazzling success of Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery, founded in 1838.

Sachs, of Cornell's History department, conducts research with students in History, English, History of Art and Architecture, Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology and Natural Resources. He earned his bachelor's degree from Harvard and his doctoral degree from Yale. Sachs is a former environmental journalist with the Worldwatch Institute in Washington. His new book, Arcadian America, was published in January 2013, by the Yale University Press.