In week 1, I was interested in the intersection of biotechnology and art; however, due to COVID-19, there were interesting perspectives and projects I became interested in that did not fit my original view of what biotech and art really consisted of.
By watching the film, Spaceship Earth, I was fascinated by the beauty of the geometric shapes that were used in creation of Biosphere 2. It is truly encapsulating to see the creator of this research center, John Allen combine both beauty, imagination and science in his work. Although there was some "tampering" of the experiment which included the exit and re-entrance of one of the original 8 'biospherians', this experiment brought to my attention how fascinating this center must have been to scientists, visitors and those watching on television.
In the movie, Spaceship Earth, towards the end of their two-year experiment, they had difficulty continuing to fund the project. As a result, the major contributor to the project, Ed Bass, took over the company and sought out people who could focus Biosphere2 on short term profits and gains. In a similar manner, there are many scientific research projects that are either funded or not funded based on short term profits and gains. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it definitely affects the way scientific research is conducted.
The film Spaceship Earth relays the story of a project in many ways stranger than fiction. While I was skeptical of the project going in, I was surprised by the credentials and impressive careers of the individuals involved. John Allen pursued higher education at Harvard Business School and the University of Michigan. Roy Walford was a UCLA pathology professor with hundreds of published works. The crew consisted of several corporate chief executives and founders of companies.
One of the many things I found so interesting about the documentary was the effect of CO₂ on the biospherians. They had low energy and reported to be in a constant state of negativity and had a hard time breathing properly.
In watching Spaceship Earth that documents the prospects of artificial nature in an experiment known as Biosphere 2, I became interested in the human desire to replicate the natural process.
I had a great time watching SPACESHIP EARTH. It was truly fascinating to learn about this dynamic intersection between ecology, psychology, nutrition, art, expedition and business. I loved learning about the idea of being connected to the process of growing food, not just consuming it. It was very inspiring that some of the people involved had limited scientific knowledge, yet they still managed to learn so much because they learned by doing and they pushed their limit of skills to make a project happen.
Gardening has always been a secret hobby of mine. Being able to nurture something that provides both physical and mental nourishment has kept allowed me to become more patient in other aspects of my life. Yet after watching Spaceship Earth (2020) this weekend, it made me realize the much more practical side of my tiny project.
When watching Spaceship Earth, a perpetual thought kept circulating in my mind: we are living in Biosphere 2. With the advent of COVID-19, many individuals around the globe have been asked to seek shelter in their homes, quarantining and sustaining their lives within their own domestic spheres.
The documentary, Spaceship Earth, directed by Matt Wolfe, presents an experimental project Biosphere 2. Started in the late 80s by John P. Allen and his team, the project attempted to create an enclosed self-sustaining environment, meant to become a basis for human extraterrestrial colonies on Moon, Mars, etc.
In the 2020 documentary Spaceship Earth, the Biosphere 2 project faced a wide range of problems. With increasing carbon dioxide levels and limited oxygen, most of the animals and insects they brought into the biosphere with them perished, and as their crops failed to produce, they began to starve. The Biospherians found themselves tired and irritable from hunger and oxygen deprivation. But outside of Biosphere 2, the project faced a different beast: the public eye.
Amidst trepidations in venturing into a synthetic “biodome,” a group of pioneers, known as the Synergists, isolated themselves from the rest of the world for two years in “Spaceship Earth” (Tangcay, 2020). With the romantic idealization of a self-sufficient community followed a flurry of media criticisms on the scientific aspect of the project.
“Spaceship Earth” definitely presented interesting topics that relate to what we are currently living with at the moment. Something I thought was well connected to our current situation is Dr. Roy Walford’s (one of UCLA’s own faculty members) belief that a low calorie diet is the secret to longevity. Dr. Walford came to this conclusion by understanding mouse models. Restricting caloric intake by 50% in mice almost doubles their lifespan.
By definition, a self-sustaining system is one that can operate independently and can maintain its status quo (or even thrive) without any external support. That was clearly the expectation for Spaceship Earth’s Biosphere 2 (Figure 1), the science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona, in the late 1900s (University of Arizona). It was built as a ‘bubble’ that artificially enclosed all of Earth’s seven biomes, from rainforests to deserts, and attempted to mirror the natural phenomena of Earth, or Biosphere 1.
Spaceship Earth details the unbelievable events leading up to, during, and after the Biosphere 2 sustainability project. Amazingly, though the experiment transpired nearly 30 years ago, there are lessons to be learned from the events surrounding the creation, management, and actual outcomes of the experiment of Biosphere 2 that uniquely parallel the times in which we are living in Biosphere 2 (our planet Earth).