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Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death
Synopses & Reviews
“Bernd Heinrich is one of the finest naturalists of our time. Life Everlasting shines with the authenticity and originality that are unique to a life devoted to natural history in the field.”—Edward O. Wilson, author of The Future of Life and The Social Conquest of Earth
How does the animal world deal with death? And what ecological and spiritual lessons can we learn from examining this? Bernd Heinrich has long been fascinated by these questions, and when a good friend with a terminal illness asked if he might have his “green burial” at Heinrich’s hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist and author to investigate. Life Everlasting is the fruit of those investigations, illuminating what happens to animals great and small after death.
From beetles to bald eagles, ravens to wolves, Heinrich reveals the fascinating and mostly hidden post-death world that occurs around us constantly, while examining the ancient and important role we too play as scavengers, connecting death to life.
"Despite focusing on death and decay, Life Everlasting is far from morbid; instead, it is life-affirming . . . convincing the reader that physical demise is not an end to life, but an opportunity for renewal."—Nature
“A worldwide tour of the role of death in nature that is consistently fascinating and fun to read.”—Seattle Times
"In this slim but moving volume, physiological ecologist Heinrich (Mind of the Raven) draws upon his intimate knowledge of the natural world to examine the role of death and decay in the earth's 'web of life.' Inspired by a friend's request to have a 'green burial' at the scientist's hunting camp in Maine, Heinrich riffs on the concept that 'we come from life, and we are a conduit into other life,' drawing anecdotes from his decades of fieldwork and academic research. Dead matter — the bodies of mice, deer, elephants, whales, trees — feeds vast populations of organisms: beetles execute their elaborate feeding and mating rituals on rotting corpses; roadkill feeds birds, coyotes, bears; primitive humans consumed elephants while dung beetles glean nutrients from their waste; insects and fungus turn felled trees into new soil. 'The metaphor that we are part of the earth ecosystem is not a belief; it is a reality,' Heinrich writes. This engaging and thoughtful book makes the case that this truth is not only scientifically relevant but personally, and spiritually, too: by looking to nature, humans can 'transcend individual deaths,' and find a deeper meaning in our earthly existence. Agent: TK. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Bernd Heinrich receives a letter from a severely ill friend asking if he might have a "green burial" at Heinrich's hunting camp, and the acclaimed biologist/author sets out to explore exactly how the animal world deals with the death-to-life cycle and what we can learn from the process, both ecologically and spiritually.
Praise for Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death
“If it has not been clear to readers by now, this book confirms that Bernd Heinrich is one of the finest naturalists of our time. Life Everlasting shines with the authenticity and originality that are unique to a life devoted to natural history in the field.”—Edward O. Wilson, author of The Future of Life and The Social Conquest of Earth
Praise for Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds
“Bernd Heinrich is one of the finest living examples of that strange hybrid: the science writer . . . No definition of God has ever made me feel as comfortable, small and important in the universe as Heinrichs insight into the mind of the raven.”— Los Angeles Times Book Review
Praise for Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival
“Heinrich, who combines his keen scientific eye with the soul of a poet, glimpses an entirely different realm, one filled with wondrous activities both above and below the seemingly lifeless countryside . . . Heinrichs descriptions of his travels in the forest are intoxicating . . . Each chapter in the book is a gemlike essay (beautifully illustrated with the authors own line drawings).”—New York Times Book Review
From one of the finest naturalist/writers of our time, a fascinating investigation of Natures inspiring death-to-life cycle
When a good friend with a severe illness wrote, asking if he might have his “green burial” at Bernd Heinrichs hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist to investigate a subject that had long fascinated him. How exactly does the animal world deal with the flip side of the life cycle? And what are the lessons, ecological to spiritual, raised by a close look at how the animal world renews itself? Heinrich focuses his wholly original gaze on the fascinating doings of creatures most of us would otherwise turn away from—field mouse burials conducted by carrion beetles; the communication strategies of ravens, “the premier northern undertakers”; and the “inadvertent teamwork” among wolves and large cats, foxes and weasels, bald eagles and nuthatches in cold-weather dispersal of prey. Heinrich reveals, too, how and where humans still play our ancient and important role as scavengers, thereby turning—not dust to dust—but life to life.
About the Author
Bernd Heinrich is an acclaimed scientist and the author of numerous award-winning books, including the bestselling The Mind of the Raven, Why We Run, and Winter World. He is a frequent contributor to national media, and professor emeritus of biology at the University of Vermont.
Table of Contents
I. SMALL TO LARGE
Beetles That Bury Mice 3
Sendoff for a Deer 21
The Ultimate Recycler: Remaking the World 37
II. NORTH TO SOUTH
Northern Winter: For the Birds 59
The Vulture Crowd 75
III. PLANT UNDERTAKERS
Trees of Life 99
Dung Eaters 127
IV. WATERY DEATHS
Salmon Death-into-Life 147
Other Worlds 153
Metamorphosis into a New Life and Lives 169
Beliefs, Burials, and Life Everlasting 179
Further Reading 195
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