Views from Another World: Biosphere 2 Was One of the Most Ambitious Experiments in Biospheric Science. 25 Years Later, One of the Original Team Members Looks Back on the Project and Examines Its Legacy

By Nelson, Mark | Geographical, September 2018 | Go to article overview

Views from Another World: Biosphere 2 Was One of the Most Ambitious Experiments in Biospheric Science. 25 Years Later, One of the Original Team Members Looks Back on the Project and Examines Its Legacy


Nelson, Mark, Geographical


Astronauts experience the 'Overview Effect' seeing Earth from space. I was fortunate to explore the 'Innerview Effect' as a member of the biospherian crew for the 1991 to 1993 closure experiment in Biosphere 2. This expedition in another world, with all its emotional highs and lows, has deeply shaped my vision of the human relationship with our global biosphere (Biosphere 1).

I graduated university in 1968 when the 'environmental movement' was brand new. Awareness was growing of the unforeseen consequences of modern technologies, the vast population increase and our collective impacts on the Earth. I wanted something different than a conventional career, to take on the challenge of developing innovative approaches to living. I wanted more than Kerouac's On the Road--I wanted to explore new terrain, 'off the road.' I had no idea 20 years of work on the ecological frontiers with my small Institute of Ecotechnics would eventually lead me through the airlock into Biosphere 2. We coined the term 'ecotechnics' to denote a harmonisation of the worlds of eco and techno.

Biosphere 2 was ambitious, some thought we were 50 years ahead of our time. We had to learn to become the natives of a new techno-living synthesis, the worlds first laboratory for studying the global ecological processes. There was no operating manual for our experiment in biospherics.

The endeavour had multiple goals: advancing the science of biospherics, developing eco-technologies, public education and as an early base-line experiment for systems needed for long-term habitation outside Earth's biosphere.

We hoped Biosphere 2 would fire public imagination, so our architects designed a spectacular structure. The facility covered about one hectare with roofs as high as 23m and included a wilderness wing with rainforest, savannah, fog desert, mangrove/marsh and a coral reef ocean. The other wing housed the intensive farm and farm animals, workshops, laboratories and the human living area. We became headline news around the world. Millions made the pilgrimage to come see Biosphere 2; a billion followed the experiment even though the internet was years in the future. The projects legacy of biospheric education is profound. When we started, even the word 'biosphere was little used. Seeing our mini biosphere it was easier for people to understand the human relationship with the world of life.

Biosphere 2 revolutionised the field of experimental ecology, a far-reaching experiment in ecological self-organisation. The crew of 'biospherians' had to keep the machinery going, tend the farm, collect data and conduct research and intervene in the wilderness biomes defending biodiversity. A new role for us humans--keystone predators in service to the life inside. It was a great ecotechnic laboratory and challenge.

Our wilderness biomes thrived, trees grew from small seedlings to towering size. We had packed the biomic areas with many species since it was unknown how many would be lost. The crew controlled invasive species and the biomes maintained high biodiversity the biomes despite being rather small. The desert changed from the system originally designed, a fog desert, to a more chaparral ecosystem. Its ecological self-organisation showed us how it best adapted to the environment inside Biosphere 2.

Inventive environmental engineering helped the young biomes develop with their own character, not becoming one urban weed-dominated system, nor the algae-infested soup some had predicted. Though we learned more from the unexpected, such as the oxygen disappearance, it was remarkable how well the engineering and life systems meshed and worked as planned. Our engineers had to learn ecology and our ecologists, engineering. What would happen if we did that everywhere?

Our farm was extremely productive without using anything that might pollute water, air, soil or food. It went beyond organic; we recycled all our nutrients back to the soils. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Views from Another World: Biosphere 2 Was One of the Most Ambitious Experiments in Biospheric Science. 25 Years Later, One of the Original Team Members Looks Back on the Project and Examines Its Legacy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.