2013-06-10. A Second Act for Biosphere 2.

posted Jun 11, 2013, 9:00 AM by Alan Gould

For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 1. Excerpt:  In the fall of 1991, eight men and women marched into a glass and steel complex that covered three acres in the Arizona desert and was known as Biosphere 2. Their mission: to test whether they could be self-sustaining in this sealed-off environment, with hope that the model would someday be replicated to colonize outer space. ...The original idea was that the inhabitants would grow all their own food, and that the wilderness areas would naturally recycle their air and water. ...Early on, there were problems. One Biospherian accidentally cut off the tip of her finger and left for medical care. When she returned, she carried in two duffle bags of supplies to the supposedly self-sustaining environment (which presumably would not have been feasible on, say, Mars). But the most damaging discovery was that a carbon dioxide scrubber had been secretly installed to protect the occupants from dangerous levels of the gas. By the end, as one of the Biospherians put it, they had been suffocated, starved and gone mad. Clearly, Biosphere 2 was not ready to sustain life on Mars or even a vacant lot in Phoenix. ...Columbia University, then the University of Arizona, eventually took over the mammoth space to conduct earth science research, and nearly 150 papers have been published. In 2006, The New Yorker reported, “much of what is known about coral reefs and ocean acidification was originally discovered, improbably enough in Arizona, in the self-enclosed, supposedly self-sufficient world known as Biosphere 2.”.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/booming/biosphere-2-good-science-or-bad-sense.html. Michael Winerip, New York Times.