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Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death
Bernd Heinrich
New York: First Mariner Books
236 pages
Paperback list: $15.95, Kindle $8.77
Original publication date: 2012, reprint date: July 13, 2013

Imagine you get an email from an old friend. Sadly, he is dying and is asking for one last favor: After I die, would you allow my corpse to decompose on your property? Hmmm, I would like to be helpful; may I suggest instead something in the way of a casserole or a donation to your favorite charity?

This seemingly bizarre request by a fellow ecologist is what prompted Bernd Heinrich to write Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death. Professor emeritus of biology at University of Vermont, Heinrich said his friend wanted a "green burial" on Heinrich's land in western Maine because the alternatives—traditional embalming with interment and cremation—were unacceptable. Burying a preserved corpse "starves the Earth of human nutrients;" cremation adds to the buildup of greenhouse gases and global warming, he said. The dying man added, "like any good ecologist, I regard death as changing into other kinds of life. Death is, among other things, also a wild celebration of renewal, with our substance hosting the party."

Though Heinrich refused his friend due to logistical and legal reasons, the request prompted the retired entomologist to ponder "the web of life and death and our relationship to it." In Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death Henrich's observations take place literally at ground level as he reports how the natural world—insects, birds, fungi, bacteria and fish, among others—disposes of its dead elegantly and horrifically, enriching ecosystems in which they lived. He calls them "nature's undertakers."

He begins with the fascinating Nicrophorus "burying beetle," which finds different dead animals (but never its own) and buries them as part of its mating and reproductive life. In what the biologist sees as a beetle love story, the male discovers a dead animal, stands on his head and emits a glandular scent from its rear to attract a female. A mate flies to him and they bury the carcass, which protects it from other scavengers. She lays her eggs there, which will become larvae. A dead mouse "nursery" will nourish a dozen plus beetle larvae, he says. What makes burying beetles especially interesting is how they transport their carcass to a suitable burying place: They lie on their backs and "walk" the body with their legs (think of crowd surfing at a rock concert, only using legs instead of arms). Henrich says the mother beetle makes squeaking noises (having no vocal chords or ears they make sounds using friction of rubbing body parts together) and the larvae raise themselves up like baby birds to be fed mouth to mouth till they are able to feed themselves. As the larval stage comes to a close, the juvenile beetles burrow into the surrounding soil and pupate—overwintering to emerge as adults the following spring or summer. The author, who studied comparative physiology and behavior of insects at UCLA and UC Berkeley, spares no stomach-turning details in his descriptions of these and other scavengers.

After looking at the burying beetles, Heinrich surveys other natural death scenes and sees patterns develop. When an animal dies, bacteria begin their part in the decomposition process, followed by various species of flies, some of which can smell a carcass from 10 miles away. The chemical released from putrefying carcasses, ethanethiol, is considered the most offensive smell on earth but plays an essential purpose in sending out news that  there is a feast to be had. A blowfly can lay 150 to 200 eggs on a carcass, which hatch into maggots in as few as eight hours and feed voraciously till they too metamorphosize into flies. (He notes that one species of green fly, Lucilia sericata, is used for maggot therapy—to eat dead tissue in human wounds to speed the healing process.) Beetles and larger mammalian scavengers also do their parts in the recycling process. He remembers seeing a dead bull moose that probably succumbed to a disease a couple of days before. Coyotes had chewed through the thick hide of the animal, ravens came and picked at the hole, then came the turkey vultures and maggots. A couple weeks later all that was left was the skeleton and hide, which a black bear took away.

In the recycling world of nature, there is much redundancy and always backup. The recycling process may start with a car or ticks, then employ scavenging birds, move on to flies, then beetles, and finally bacteria. . .Had the bear not taken the. . .carcass after the flies were through, it would have been visited by swarms of dermestid beetles.
Even when all soft tissue is removed, the dermestid beetles work on the remaining hair, feathers, gristle fur and skin—everything except bone. Rodents and deer gnaw on bones to get calcium, and some avian scavengers will take a bone high in the sky and drop it in order to get at the nutritious marrow inside, the author writes.

Early humans would have been competitors for a freshly dead carcass. Heinrich argues that hominids (several million years ago) probably were scavengers as well as hunters. Though they were slower and their teeth were not as sharp as lions and saber-toothed cats, hominids evolved advantages such as endurance, development of spears as weapons and cooperative hunting in packs. As their skills evolved, he said, our human ancestors turned from scavenging to become the world's premier hunters. Becoming meat eaters gave hominids a highly concentrated energy source that enabled them to grow stronger, faster and smarter (human brains use 20 percent of human caloric intake).

We are the ultimate scavengers of all time. Everything from the coal forests to a large part of the earth's animal biomass—domestic birds and mammals (and, increasingly, fish)—are cycled directly into us, instead of into a sustainable world ecosystem.
This development is in Heinrich's eyes nothing less than tragic. He refers to John James Audubon's Missouri River Journals, in which the early American described seeing astonishingly large numbers of bison, elk and other species, which soon after were decimated in just a few decades by frontiersmen. For example, he says, early settlers would kill a bison and take just the brains, tongue and liver—all of which were highly nutritious. The rest of the animal they would leave to the less-evolved scavengers because the daily kill spoiled quickly. (A hunter himself, the author remembers scavenging roadkill when he was a starving student at the University of Maine.) Heinrich makes one assumption during his prolonged hunting narrative that begs for more information: He claims that the origins of human empathy lie in prehistoric hominids hunting prey. Quoting the late conservationist Laurens van der Post and others who see skillful hunting as getting "under the skin" of the prey, Heinrich seems to support a questionable hypothesis. Thinking like an animal is not the same thing as empathizing with it, which involves the capacity for compassion and care for the other. (Many scientists instead see the origins of empathy in maternal rearing habits and cooperation in mammals.)

Heinrich, who perhaps is best known for his book Mind of the Raven, points out that much of the heavy lifting in scavenging is done by birds. Ravens are the top carcass recyclers in the Northern Hemisphere. Birds are especially important in scavenging carcasses in winter, when insects are inactive and bacterial growth slows. In one experiment, he laid out two skinned Holstein cows, each weighing a ton. Approximately 500 ravens removed almost all of the flesh from the cows in two weeks. Yet they had not eaten it. The birds buried bits of it for future consumption, using their beaks to remove meat from the frozen animals and dig holes in the frozen ground to bury it. After the spring thaw, the ravens as well as other animals found the buried treasures of food necessary for their survival.

Then there are the vultures, scavengers with perhaps the worst reputation. Heinrich points out that "the undertaker has always been undifferentiated from the executioner," and perhaps vultures, with their strange bald heads and wide black wings, perfectly fit the stereotype. They are fast workers—a swarm of white-rumped vultures in Southeast Asia has been reported to have stripped the carcass of a cow in 20 minutes. However, these and other vultures worldwide are disappearing due to poisons, including drugs used to treat livestock, as well as decreasing availability of carcasses. Another scavenger, the California Condor, became extinct because of DDT and lead poisoning as well as habitat destruction. They remain endangered as biologists try to reintroduce them from breeding in captivity.

In the case of an undisturbed forest, death and new life are a beautifully woven tapestry. Heinrich explains how trees are often taken down by insects, which bore into the inner bark and sapwood and bring with them fungi, which digest the cellulose. Eventually a tree falls, where a "progression of scavengers attacks the carcass one species after another, till the feeding queue ends and the tree has returned to the soil." These decaying "nurse logs" provides habitat and space above (moss, leaf litter, fungi, etc.) for new seedlings to grow. Heinrich says we humans foolishly interrupt this natural life cycle in our own environments when we rake up leaves and other plant litter, putting them in plastic bags and sending them off to the landfill while robbing the soil of its rich leafy top layer.

When Heinrich turns his gaze from the land to the sea, we discover some of the most enthralling phenomena of nature's recycling. He tells the story of salmon, which make the seemingly impossible trek of hundreds of miles to their spawning grounds. One in a hundred of the salmon survive the arduous journey; many of them are eaten by bears and other predators before they arrive to reproduce. Heinrich points out that the successful salmon after mating return to their ecosystems of origin to die, where their lifeless bodies are recycled for new generations of salmon to develop and begin the amazing odyssey again. Those eaten along the way become "packets of salmon scat" that are scattered by the bears and other predators in surrounding forests to help nourish the trees.

One part of the book you will not want to skim over has to do with the marvelous ways whale carcasses are recycled in the ocean deeps. The "whale fall" process begins near the surface of the water when a whale, weakened by disease or age, might become prey to orcas, Heinrich says. The blood in the water attracts large sharks, like the Great White, as well as smaller ones. When the whale body cavity is opened, the organs are removed and lungs deflated. Then the carcass sinks to dark, oxygen-poor depths where there are other scavengers adapted to the harsh environment, including chemotrophic bacteria that live in geothermic vents at the ocean bottom. Some of the creatures are truly alien, like anglerfish, which have enormous jaws and stomachs that can expand to swallow food twice as large as them. Perhaps my favorite are the Osedax "zombie worms" which, having no digestive tract, tunnel into the carcass and use symbiotic bacteria to feed on fats, which the worms absorb into their bodies. More than 400 species of macrofauna (excluding bacteria) are involved in whale falls, Heinrich reports. In contrast to the elegant ways of nature, he tells a humorous (and repulsive) tale of human ineptitude in dealing with a whale carcass that washed up on a beach in Oregon in 1970. The community, worried about the stench from the rotting whale, decided to use a half-ton of dynamite to blow it up. Heinrich reports that after the explosion a rain of blubber fell down over an 800-foot radius, flattening a car in the process.

Heinrich argues that human folly when faced with death in the nature world is rooted in superstition. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the sacred scarab beetle, Khepri, which they believed rolled the sun god Ra from darkness into light each day. The scarab beetle is truly a fitting metaphor for the cycle of death and new life. It rolls its dung ball to a place in darkness where its larvae feed until they pupate. Ancient people, the author surmises, found the white, seemingly lifeless pupae of the beetles in the ground, which then burst from their enclosure to be "reborn" as the same scarab beetle that died in the earth. Likewise, the ancients wrapped their dead in shrouds and provided food for their journey to the afterlife, believing they would be born again like the scarabs.

We moderns have nothing on the ancients when it comes to irrational beliefs driving our human burial practices. Heinrich reports in the United States alone, burials in 22,500 active cemeteries annually use up 30 million board feet of lumber, more than 100,000 tons of steel, 1,600 tons of reinforced concrete, and nearly one million gallons of embalming fluid. Preserving a human corpse with chemicals that stop decomposition, putting it into a steel capsule and sealing it inside a concrete vault is about as far from natural recycling as one can imagine. Cremation also is not ecologically sound—vaporizing a body by fire emits toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and contribute to greenhouse gases.

Heinrich offers no ideas as to how we might evolve from these unsustainable practices. However, he does refer to the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Jhator, sky burial, in which corpses are dismembered on high places so that birds of prey and other recyclers can dispose of bodies in nature's ways. Buddhist monks use sky burial as a living meditation on death, contemplating the dissolution of the body as a reminder that all life is impermanent and freeing them up to be alive in the present moment. Trying to dispose of our dead in more sustainable, eco-friendly ways will bring us face to face with deep-seated taboos. While I doubt there will be sky burials in the suburbs any time soon, there surely will be increasing pressure for our burials practices to become more green as our planet's billions continue to multiply.

Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death is a great read; it will inform and amuse as well as more than occasionally disgust and perhaps rile you. Reading Heinrich's book brings the reader face to face with his or her own death, which is perhaps the most challenging taboo of all. If we can entertain the truth of our own mortality, perhaps we can discover hidden wisdom as we contemplate the terrible and lovely process of death becoming life anew.

Originally posted to zen sparky on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 04:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight and Readers and Book Lovers.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think anything moving toward green removal (9+ / 0-)

    will happen soon.  It took a long time for humans to accept cremation.  There are people who donate bodies for science, frozen bodies with hope of return and I like the idea in sci-fi movies dumping bodies in space.  Natural decomposition of humans only in a sealed box so far unless you die where someone cannot find you.

    Do not adjust your mind, there is a flaw in reality.

    by Shrew in Shrewsbury on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 05:13:25 PM PDT

    •  The closest I've seen (10+ / 0-)

      Is a company that packs your ashes with a sapling; apparently this will nourish it. As for me, I thought I'd donate to science. It's my last shot at getting into med school.  Terrific, informative post.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:15:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Green burials are an increasing practice (3+ / 0-)

      There are companies that specialize in no-embalming burials, and states have options for it. In my own state, it's possible. It is a hassle, however. The state requires the burial to be nearly immediate, and the body has to be encased in concrete, effectively.

      Everyone's innocent of some crime.

      by The Geogre on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:51:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the comment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        We have green burials in the Bay Area (Marin, apparently) -- I'm going to check it out, as it is never too early to plan for the inevitable!

        •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zen sparky

          I do not want to be embalmed.

          First, it frustrates my plans to become an EPA superfund site. I'm hoping, with all the medicines and drugs in me, that I'll need Hazmat teams.

          Second, I don't see any good in dry cleaning fluid polluting the land and my bits going down the drain.

          Third, I do believe in the resurrection of the dead, and, frankly, though it doesn't matter, it still matters enough to me that, if I'm going to believe that I cast off the flawed flesh, I have some to cast off.*

          *Note: My real reasons are 1 & 2 and an unlisted heeby- jeeby factor.

          Everyone's innocent of some crime.

          by The Geogre on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 10:52:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I guess we all are walking toxic dumps (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            The Geogre

            I believe in the resurrection of the dead too -- I kind of like the idea my corpse being transformed into a vulture!

          •  Wouldn't it me interesting to be an organ donor (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zen sparky

            and arrive on the other side only to be told, "You don't get back what you donated"?

            •  For Egyptian pharoahs, yes (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zen sparky

              The Christian doctrine is that at the resurrection, people will be in new bodies. This is the Big One -- after the end times, the grand judgment. At that point, Christians believe that they will rise with perfected flesh -- a body that represents a pre-Fall, Edenic version of the human body. Therefore, since it's brand new and a body for the soul, it won't matter what shape or place or state the old flesh was in.

              "The seas shall give up her dead," for example.

              This belief in a general resurrection is present in Jewish tradition long before Christianity, too. Even though it's "inter-testamental" in its composition, 1 Enoch has a repeated reference to the dead resurrected in various places at the end of time.

              I think the Mormons have something a bit weird, though, that doesn't have this resurrection. The Scientologists maintain that you don't die in the first place, because you're a space alien brought to this planet on a DC-10-looking space ship by Xenu, and you only think you die.

              Everyone's innocent of some crime.

              by The Geogre on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 07:35:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Right...but it'd stink to donate one's kidneys and (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                The Geogre

                then be told, "You gave yours away, so you get to spend eternity with no kidneys." Sounds like a stand-up comedy idea.

                As for Jewish ideas of resurrection, I wasn't aware of what you mentioned, having only looked at 1 Enoch a little bit.  I converted from Judaism some years ago and at my father's funeral, my sister told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to say anything about resurrection or that otherwise might reveal that I was now a Christian. What's odd is that some of the things the rabbi said implied a belief in an afterlife, whereas the funeral home had literature about explaining death to children: "They will never see Grandma again." Even the bible is ambiguous; Sheol is the abode of the dead, and all dead people go there, where they do not praise God and their existence is not described. I was told growing up that for Jews, the greatest thing is to serve God on earth and after that, there's nothing.

                Then Jesus comes and every other word out of his mouth is "hell". How dis Jewish thought change to include an afterlife?

                •  OT, but. . . (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ahianne, zen sparky

                  There are loads of references to the Judgment and to Judgment Day and the "sleep in the bosom of Abraham" in the early books. Reformed Judaism has downplayed any such discussion, although I don't know if there is a genuine denial of a resurrection or not.

                  When the prophetic books talk of the Day of the Lord (which is pretty terrible for the bad) when all are judged, it seems like you have a choice of believing that that is a messianic moment or a moment of judgment at resurrection. (Ezekiel 13 vs. Isaiah 2, and, of course, the New Jerusalem descending from the clouds in Isaiah.)

                  There wasn't, though, a worked out idea of particular judgment, so far as I know (you die, and you go up or down). At the time of Jesus, the dominant sects were messianic. They were expecting a Davidic messiah. Jesus taught a Kingdom of God of the spirit.

                  (BTW, Jesus really doesn't mention 'hell' very often. There is "wailing and gnashing of teeth" and "outer darkness," but anything like "hell" is . . . slim.)

                  Everyone's innocent of some crime.

                  by The Geogre on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 06:21:38 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  There's some reference to God's wrath burning to (0+ / 0-)

                    the depths of Sheol, but I can't recall anything about eternal punishment until Jesus. It threw me for a loop, since it so contradicted the "you die and that's it" idea.

                    •  Please look again at the 'eternal punishment' (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      zen sparky

                      Translations matter in this regard, and so I would say use the RSV or the boring NEB. Look at any reference from Jesus that seems to indicate Hell. Note the references in each Gospel and count the synoptics and John a bit separately. I certainly will not say that there is no Hell, but I don't think there is very much of or about it from Jesus.

                      Everyone's innocent of some crime.

                      by The Geogre on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 10:36:21 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Here's what just one site on the Intertubes (0+ / 0-)


                        How can there be any doubt about eternal punishment? Or here:

                        Revelation 20:10 (ESV)
                        10  and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

                        And of course a few verses later:

                        Revelation 20:15 (ESV)
                        15  And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

                        Not to be burned up and destroyed, however.

                        •  I repeat: Words of Jesus on the matter (0+ / 0-)

                          The Revelation of St. John has a great many things in it. Paul has much to say. However, if we look for Jesus speaking of eternal damnation in a place of damnation, the references all but dry up. Again, translations do matter, because some will take "Sheol" and turn it into "Hell," which is an unwarranted leap.

                          Again, I'm not denying a Hell, but when you said that it seemed to you as if Jesus spoke of it often, it struck me as peculiar, since most of the Hell-talk comes from churches, not scripture.

                          Everyone's innocent of some crime.

                          by The Geogre on Mon Jul 08, 2013 at 07:16:15 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for reading (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shrew in Shrewsbury, Ahianne

      and commenting

    •  I can think of only 2 words (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zen sparky

      Soylent Green.......

      As soon as corporations can figure how to make big profits from it they will think of a way......

      Hmmmmm.... could be part of the new GOP SNAP program.

      Politics is the entertainment branch of industry. Frank Zappa

      by Da Rock on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 04:58:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I've read a couple of Bernd Heinrich's books (6+ / 0-)

    He's always fascinating. Sounds like this book is no different. Thanks for your synopsis.

    “Parties do not lead revolutions. They follow them. And then only when forced to.” Joe Bageant

    by tgypsy on Sat Jul 06, 2013 at 09:49:05 PM PDT

  •  Parsees traditionally leave their dead in open air (12+ / 0-)

    Parsees, a Zoroastrian religious group in India leave their dead open to the environment in Towers of Silence so that bugs and vultures can feed on them.

    The pollution that is associated with death has to be handled carefully. There is a separate part of the home designated to house the corpse for funeral proceedings before being taken away. The priest comes to say prayers that are for cleansing of sins and to affirm the faith of the deceased. Fire is brought to the room and prayers are begun. The body is washed and placed in clean in a sudre and kusti. The ceremony then begins and a circle is drawn around the body in which only the bearers may enter. As they proceed to the cemetery they walk in pairs and are connected by white fabric. A dog is essential in the funeral process because it is able to see death. The body is taken to the tower of death where the vultures take care of it. Once the bones are bleached by the sun the bones are pushed into the circular opening in the center. The mourning process is four days long, and rather than creating graves for the dead, they make charities in honor of the person. The reason for the Tower of Silence is to contain the pollution
    I was being given a tour of Mumbai (Bombay) by a Parsee, and he drove me past one such Tower of Silence on a hill in the centre of the city.
  •  Superstition? (5+ / 0-)

    That's another odd and insupportable thesis.

    Anthropologists recognize contagion and pollution responses as necessary social skills, especially for settled communities. Therefore, burial or incineration or separation onto a sacred land seem to be necessary. For early hominids in a hunter-gatherer society, perhaps it would be possible to let 'em lie.

    Embalming, too, seems to be something associated with population density. We have to remember that it was not always thus with westerners. However, with natural decay including methane and other accidents, civil authorities were, as they still are, the barriers to a natural burial.

    (The Egyptians weren't the only embalmers, and we have to take into account that, of all the ancient lands, they probably had the highest population density.)

    Everyone's innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 06:49:28 AM PDT

    •  Denying our corpses to predators means they won't (5+ / 0-)

      develop a taste for our living as prey. The "tower" method mentioned above (and once practiced by some native Americans) is interesting. It allows only the birds to utilize our dead, because they do not pose a threat as predators. Vultures are welcome. Lions and tigers and bears... not so much.

      “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
      he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

      by jjohnjj on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 09:32:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the comment (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Geogre

      You make some important points that the author did not address. At the same time, I contend that superstitious belief is there as well.

    •  Some cultures do like to keep them closer (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, zen sparky

      Mesoamerican cultures like the Classical Maya buried their ancestors under where they lived.  To keep the family together, the living and the dead.

      Folks like the Jews of the biblical period fit better into your theory.  The concept of t'umah.-- ritual impurity -- is an idea that works a lot like a theory of contagion.  Dead things are a potent source of t'umah, and the Torah has elaborate rituals to rid one's self of it.  But many cultures either do not share the concept, or at least think that pieces of the dead are worth keeping around as tokens, as the Aztecs and Medieval Christians liked to do.

      Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

      by mbayrob on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:48:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Embalming made the funeral industry possible. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, zen sparky, soarbird

    People had to be buried quick without it.  When embalming was not available, people were buried just fine without it.

    All of the state laws were probably the result of industry lobbying.

  •  Great review, thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zen sparky

    The "alpha" and the "ohmega" of everything is waste, isn't it?

    Reading Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," about organic free-range chickens eating maggots from cow dung, something a bit odd happened. I started craving maggots. Freaky, I know. Some primitive part of my brain, unconstrained by the morés of modern civilization, kicked into gear.

    I never have tried maggots. I doubt I ever will. But, as the state-of-the art in ecological awareness advances, I think a lot of society's taboos are going to crumble.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 10:26:52 AM PDT

  •  I enjoyed the introduction to Heinrich as well (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zen sparky

    as your own great writing in the review.  I was surprised to see that your talent here has been mostly buried since you joined in 2004.

    I've been mostly interested in the cultural aspects of burial and funerals, which are gradually becoming more subject to critical analysis and independent decision-making.  I haven't thought so much about the biological/anthropological analyses though I was generally aware of the bases. On our present trajectory the future will necessitate dealing with those realities.

  •  Islamic and Jewish practice is pretty green (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zen sparky

    Basically, wrap the body in cloth, and put it as directly into the ground as local laws will allow.  "From earth you came, and to the earth you will return."

    I'm not sure where current US and European Christian practice comes from, but I'd be interested to hear.

    Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

    by mbayrob on Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 08:32:47 PM PDT

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