This week’s episode is the conclusion of a special two-part conversation with Dr. Mark Nelson, one of the eight “biospherians” who lived for two years inside the closed ecological network Biosphere 2 – one of the most ambitious experiments ever performed, the reproduction of five distinct biomes inside a building in the Arizona desert.
Mark is the author of the newly-published history of his experience in Biosphere 2, called Pushing Our Limits – he’s also the author of The Wastewater Gardener, which applies the same closed-loop, full-system ecological thinking to more easily attainable forms of agriculture. I know Mark through my lucky acquaintance with Synergia Ranch just outside Santa Fe (where I am right now, editing this episode) – the home base for The Institute of Ecotechnics, the group that pioneered the discipline of “Biospherics,” and the hub for a planetary network of brilliant, passionate, eclectic individuals whose stories never cease to blow my mind.
Mark’s tale of his two years living under glass with seven other brave souls is powerful, inspiring, and full of potent lessons – both for our present on Earth and our future in space…
“Learning to Live Intelligently, Coming of Age in the Anthropocene – This is the Challenge of Our Life.”
– Why did Biosphere 2 get so much attention?
– What is the legacy of Biosphere 2? Biosphere J and The Eden Project and Q Gardens…the proposed but never-built, polluted Russian Biosphere 3…
“I think that optimism is a yoga. You want to do your hatha yoga and keep in shape. Despair is like screwing off and not meditating, and forget the physical exercise. Optimism is important psychologically, because it tells you, ‘I can make a difference and this is all going to work.’ Now it may be irrational, but if you give into despair, all of the hormones and emotions are going to tell you that it doesn’t matter. So forget about separating the recycling.”
– Living in the small tight loops of controlled ecosystems.
– Empowering ourselves with new senses so we can see the impacts of our actions at the planet scale.
– Pollutants from different countries where they are not banned yet as a kind of “living fossil” in the flesh of world travelers.
– The Anthropocene and The Noosphere. Human activity (and thus human cognition) as geological force.
“It’s not rocket science to redesign our technosphere.”
“There are consequences to the type of technology that we permit to operate on Planet Earth.”
– What’s wrong with Modernity and what Modern People suffer.
– Wastewater gardening in Mexico in exchange for cultivated coral.
– Using the soils to purify the air.
“Our farm was the most productive half acre ever run by humans! Of course, we had some advantages.”
– The four great taboos of science broken by Biosphere 2.
“To get into space, we’re going to have to be superb ecologists.”