Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life
Unlike other issues throughout this book, death does not involve much choice. Nevertheless this does not mean that there are no choices to be made. Indeed those making decisions about the disposal of their body, or of a relative’s body, are faced with a growing range of options if they wish to be ‘green in death’. These are choices about the treatment of bodies prior to burial and where to place the body or the substance to which it has been reduced for burial. Associated activities such as flower-giving and transport to funerals are also significant. No different from other decisions or dilemmas discussed in this book, such choices involve the intersection of cultural, economic, and environmental issues. Indeed the deep and diverse cultural significance of death – of bodies, of graves, memorials, of beliefs about the afterlife or life after death, or indeed of one’s legacy beyond life – makes this particular intersection striking for the dilemmas it engenders. DEATH AND ENVIRONMENTALISM: IS DYING GREEN THE NEW ‘DYING WELL’? The disposal of the dead varies enormously over time and both between and within societies. What is constant is that bodies are never treated simply as waste (Davies 2005). Body disposal occurs through rituals that embody and demonstrate ‘significant social values and…express how a people view the world and themselves’, the nature of life and death, and the proper place and treatment of death among the living (Davies 2005, 55; Jalland 2006). This chapter focuses on death in Western cultures rather than attempt to cover the global diversity of practices and issues.
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