Jeff Jorgenson, founder of Elemental Northwest – Elemental Cremation and Burial based in Seattle (USA) has very kindly submitted a review of the book I co-authored with Douglas Davies published as Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation.
Jeff’s review, which he wrote in Seattle in November 2012 is available to read below:
“When it comes to the topic of cemeteries and burial, two poles of writing exist. The first is the library of historical ramblings from those that are enamored by the mystique of years gone by and the curious practices of the Victorian era; the second, is the industry driven monthly and quarterly publications that do nothing more than serve the cemeterians a steady diet of “best practices” and merchandise. Largely missing from the canon is thoughtful and insightful research from academia. In Western cultures, the natural burial movement is undeniable and as yet has largely been left to the industry insiders to define the boundaries and the marketplace to divine their wishes. Fortunately for both the layperson and the industry insider, we have the brilliant work of Drs. Rumble and Davies.
Natural Burial: Traditional-Secular Spiritualities and Funeral Innovation is an academically appropriate prolix title that could easily have a more approachable title: ‘Natural Burial – Why It’s Cool’. To the authors’ credit though, this is well designed doctoral research that is very accessible to those of us mere mortals that hunger to know more about the anthropology and underpinnings of the natural burial and the care for our dead. They bring the foundational definitions that have challenged people inside the industry and confused the consumer and take us through every conceivable associated topic that has challenged anyone who has tried to understand the green burial movement. This exploration of topics such as: ‘Body as waste – body as gift’, ‘the therapeutic natural place’, and ‘Simplicity, no frills and back to nature’ all reveal key insights as to how these emotive elements play into the application and growth of this segment of our society. The concise and thoughtful research that Rumble and Davies have put into this text is engaging and helpful for those who have a desire for a philosophical and critical evaluation of this fascinating topic.
It is my opinion that a review or blog post on a book or product that has nothing but effusive praise and glowing regard is essentially useless. To that end I will warn you that this book is serious business. It is an academic text and, as such, is a fairly dense read. It should be. These are topics that are existential in nature and have great cultural anthropological significance. If you are looking for a book that feeds a romanticized notion of death or conversely, a professional document that gives you ‘green burial practices to maximize profit’, this is definitely not your book. With such gems as: “But there would also seem to be a case for seeing the natural burial context as an example of what some linguists see as a ‘four-place verbal construction in which a tritransitive verb is employed” (Nutshell: The act of green burial can be seen to benefit three [tri] things – yourself, your family, and the earth.) this 146 page book is not one that you are going to flip pages like with Harry Potter or Michael Crichton.
Anyone with a keen interest in the direction of environmentally aware funeral and cemetery practices needs to put this book on a must read list. We have so few texts to turn to that have something meaningful to add to the discussion that it bears reading one that gives us so many perspectives to contemplate as we move forward in this exciting arena. I hope that you enjoy the book as thoroughly as I did.”
(All that remains to be said is: “Thank you Jeff!”)