Death is a messy business. In America alone, 1.6 million tonnes of cement and over 870,000 gallons of embalming fluid – commonly containing formaldehyde – are buried along with 2.5 million caskets every year.
“What you have here is a landfill … a toxic landfill,” says Glen Ayers of the Green Burial Committee as he looks around a traditional graveyard in Massachusetts.
Proponents of natural burial want to reduce the pollution and resource waste associated with funerals, which also includes burying masses of hardwood and steel.
One solution is to use eco-friendly biodegradable coffins made out of cardboard or even banana leaves. Campaigners also hope to increase the number of natural burial sites, where plots blend in with the natural surroundings. There are currently fewer than 40 in the US.
Russell Beard travels to Massachusetts, US, to meet the people hoping to bid the world a green goodbye.
How it works: Fixing the ozone layer
Declared as “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date” by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the 1987 Montreal Protocol has helped protect life on earth.
The treaty saw world leaders come together to stop harmful chemicals destroying parts of the ozone layer.
The ozone layer formed around the earth after aquatic bacteria began to release oxygen through photosynthesis 2.4 billion years ago. This protective layer keeps out the sun’s most harmful UV rays and helped life on earth to emerge from water onto land.
But scientist discovered a hole in the earth’s ozone layer in the late 1970s and they soon realised that it was created by man-made chemicals.
Present in everything from fridges to fire extinguishers, chlorine based gases known as chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs) were damaging the ozone layer, and as a result harming plantlife and exposing humans to a greater risk of skin cancer.
Today, all 196 UN members have ratified the protocol to restrict CFCs and the ozone-damaging emissions that peaked in the 1980s are now on the decline.
In this earthrise animation, we look at how the ozone layer works and how international action was able stop damage to the earth’s protective layer.
Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral since 1985 and around 40 percent of this is believed to be down to the venomous Crown of Thorns starfish.
Scientists believe that a combination of global warming and nitrogen-based fertilisers from on-shore agriculture may have created the perfect conditions for the coral munching starfish, which are breeding in massive numbers.
Tamara Sheward heads to the Great Barrier Reef to meet divers culling the starfish – a painstaking process in which the creature’s stomach and each of its limbs is injected with a dry acid.
She also meets Dr Jairo Rivera Posada from James Cook University in Townsville, who has developed a potential new weapon against the starfish – a protein solution derived from Ox bile and which kills the starfish in just one hit.