“On a day by day basis I was very aware that the Biosphere, the plants, the algae in there, were providing me with my oxygen.”
By Linn Smith
January 13, 2018—–A visit to Biosphere 2 last week, which is the world’s largest science laboratory, revealed a site of many experiments, both past and present. Biosphere 1 is our Planet Earth. Biosphere 2, located in the desert of Arizona, emulates our planet, containing a rainforest, ocean, grasslands, desert and other earth replications. The mini earth also contains human living quarters and an agricultural area for growing food.
Biosphere 2 according to Wikipedia, “was originally meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in outer space. It was designed to explore the web of interactions within life systems in a structure with different areas based on various biological biomes.”
Life in Biosphere 2
In the 1990’s, eight people were sealed inside of Biosphere 2 for two years. The experiment was to study if conditions on earth could possibly be emulated and contained for living elsewhere—possibly the moon.
One participant, Jane Poynter, said, “We were recycling all our water, all of our air, and growing all our food. Nothing was going in or out. The Biosphere was truly hermetically sealed.” The experiment eventually revealed that the participants couldn’t get enough oxygen or calories, eating their emergency food supplies and getting oxygen injections.
When the experiment ended Poynter stated, “I walked out and the next morning saw a gigantic pile of garbage. We hadn’t had any garbage in the Biosphere, we recycled everything. And then you go to a store to buy stuff, and you’re like ‘holy cow, look at this!’ There’s not only tomato ketchup, there’s 17 brands of it! It’s the abundance of this world that we all take for granted which became so apparent!”
Interdependency of our Planet
Today, Poynter tries to live her life with as low a carbon footprint as possible. Life inside the Biosphere also taught her the value of food. “Today we pick up the phone and order a pizza, but in the Biosphere we had to plant the wheat, which would take about 120 days to grow, harvest it, grind it, turn it into flour and make dough. To get the cheese our goats had to be artificially inseminated and have babies to get our milk!” Similar to what life was like before the early 1900’s!
Even though the experiment failed in some areas, not only lack of food and oxygen, but also warring factions between participants, Poynter states, “On a day by day basis I was very aware that the Biosphere, the plants, the algae in there, were providing me with my oxygen, and I was providing them with their carbon dioxide. It was incredibly interdependent. It’s like that on Planet Earth, but it’s so big you don’t realize it, or think about it.”
Is it time to start thinking of where our oxygen comes from? How interdependent life is? The causes of extreme weather conditions and what our carbon footprint looks like? Will future generations lack food and oxygen? It’s time to look at the truth and the increasing data collected by scientists that will predict how comfortable future generations will be when occupying Planet Earth.