Still from "earthrise" episode "Food for Thought"
S1 E10: Eco Burials & Protecting The Great Barrier Reef

Eco Burials & Protecting The Great Barrier Reef

Green Goodbyes 

Death is a messy business. In America alone, 1.6 million tons 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 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 realized 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.

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.

Reef Killers

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 fertilizers 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.

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2019-07-17T00:00:00-07:00

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Land: Gaining Ground

The survival of people and wildlife depends on the health of the land. The economic prosperity of a country is linked to the richness of its resources. But our demand for these is destroying the land and all it harbors.

Our consumption of the earth's natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years. Now, a third of the planet's land is severely degraded. Each year, we lose 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil. And at least 10,000 species go extinct every year.

Coping with Extremes

"earthrise" travels to southern Kenya and to Myanmar to see how the locals in these areas are coping with extreme weather.

  • 2020-04-02T18:00:00-07:00
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Air: Changing the Atmosphere

Every year seven million people die from air pollution. It's the world's biggest environmental killer.

Italy is Europe's most polluted country: in 2012, more than 84,000 people in the country died prematurely owing to bad air quality. To combat this, scientists have developed a new type of photocatalytic cement that absorbs pollutants and turns them into harmless salts. 

Antarctic Sanctuary

For centuries, mankind has been hooked on the concept of a mysterious continent at the end of the world. Ancient Greeks and Romans called it "the unknown southern land" and a century ago, Captain Robert Falcon Scott paid the ultimate price on his famous South Pole expedition.

Antarctica, the planet's southernmost continent, is home to spectacular biodiversity — from emperor penguins and blue whales to krill. But climate change, oil drilling and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening this undisturbed land and its iconic creatures.

  • 2020-04-09T18:00:00-07:00
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Food: Farming for the Future

Climate change has disrupted weather patterns across the globe, destroying farmland and increasing pest outbreaks. As a result, both the livelihoods of farmers and food supplies have been pushed to breaking point.

"earthrise" sets off to South Africa and Nepal to see how some newly developed solutions are helping farmers to produce food for a growing population as conditions change.

Human-Wildlife Conflict: Learning to Live Together

A look at how locals are finding ways to coexist with their animal neighbours in Australia and Bangladesh.

  • 2020-04-16T18:00:00-07:00
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Winds of Change

A look at how communities in India and Denmark have adjusted their way of living, turning it into a greener alternative.

In Denmark, see how a 100%-renewable community on Samso Island is investing in its own green society. In India, a new method of cremation is helping Hindu tradition become more environmentally friendly.

Antarctica on the Edge

Antarctica, one of the most remote and desolate locations on Earth also functions as one of the world's main cooling systems. However, after decades of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, parts of the continent are now warming faster than anywhere else on the planet. 

Over the years, climate change has led to increased erosion of the continent, altered ocean currents and affected wildlife. Warmer currents are now flowing further south, towards the icy terrain, contributing to glacial melt, rising sea levels and drastically changing habitats.

  • 2020-04-23T18:00:00-07:00
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Fighting Insectageddon: Why Bugs Matter

"earthrise" travels to the U.K. and New Zealand to meet the scientists trying to stop the decline of insect populations.