Picture of Martyn Overy
Our lifestyles and our planet: Biosphere 2
by Martyn Overy - Saturday, 5 July 2003, 11:42 AM
 
Launched in 1990, with a vast amount of global publicity, Biosphere 2 is now an established research, teaching and public learning centre.

Located 30 minutes drive north of Tucson, in majestic settings, overlooking Canyon del Oro and with glorious views of the Santa Catalina Mountains, it looks like you are driving onto a set for another Hollywood Science Fiction film...


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Yet, there is serious reason for such a construction. The main goal behind the project has been to teach everyone to be aware of the possible consequences of the ways in which we live, and to become more responsible stewards of our planet, Earth.

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Biosphere 2 is used to explore the complex interrelationships between our environment and our activities on this planet.

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Our biosphere is considered to consist of air, water, the thin outer crust of the Earth's surface, and all life contained within this zone. This includes animals, plants and people. Yet, it is not a closed system. The biosphere receives heat and light from the Sun, and heat is lost from the Earth by radiation from the surface. However, the rate at which heat is being transmitted away from our planet is under constant threat by our activities and lifestyles.

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Between 1991 and 1994 groups of people lived inside the Biosphere 2 structure. They grew all the food within the sealed structure, and recycled the air, water and the waste. Apart from the odd medical emergency, requiring exit from the structure, everyone was considered to be part of Biosphere 2. There are two massive 'lungs' connected to the main areas of Biosphere 2 . These take up the expansion of the air during the day, and send it back at night, as the structure and its contents within cools.

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Today, under the leadership of Columbia University, New York, Biosphere 2 is thriving with national and international research programs relating to the environment and global sustainability. The University organises extensive and wide variety of educational programs for students and the public. Everyone can take part, to study, discuss and inform other of the best ways to manage life on our planet.

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Biosphere 2 consists of a number of different Biomes, including Rainforest, Savanah, Marsh, Ocean , Intensive Agriculture, and a Human Habitat. There are nearly 2, 000 species of plants and animals. A certain type of ant, however, is beginning to establish itself firmy in virtually all of the Biomes. Is this a clue to the future ?

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The Human Habitat was designed to accommodate 10 people. It supplied all their everyday needs in one zone. In the construction of this living area, no artificial substances were used, and no solvents and glues were used in the construction of the furnishings and living areas. This ensured that no contaminants were brought into the 'natural' environment of Biosphere 2.

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You can find out more about Biosphere at their website www.bio2.edu