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Another beautifully written natural history from Bernd Heinrich
on March 17, 2012
This book is not really about "the animal way of death" but about the way that each animal's death helps renew the life of other animals. That is, it is not about dying - - a good thing, I think - - but about rebirth.
As you may know from his other books, Heinrich is a very close observer of the natural world. He's also a very fluid and engaging writer. He'll introduce you to beetles that bury mice for food, the many animals that consume a dead deer, vultures, dung beetles, the ecosystem around the salmon who die after spawning, and other topics. It's all fascinating, and presented in a way that does not require a particularly strong stomach.
He frames the book in the story of a dying friend who was seeking a more natural way for his body to return to earth, It seems the choices are a waste of wood and metal in an airtight coffin or the fossil fuel and carbon emission disaster of cremation. Heinrich doesn't preach, but his sensibility is right: American society needs a more natural way to return our earthly remains to earth. Every other species already does it.