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Earth Day 2019 and Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day 2019 and Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day 2019 & Protecting Our Biosphere

Earth Day began on April 22nd, 1970, as millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development. Earth Day offers an important opportunity for us to acknowledge the relationship between humanity and the earth.

Earth Day now serves as a day to reflect and cultivate awareness for the responsibility that we have towards our planet and the interconnected web of life that it sustains. It is similar to Mother’s Day in that it involves the cultivation of gratitude for the Source, Mother Nature, which gifted us with this precious life. However, it also encourages us to come together, get creative, and start enacting change.

The national theme of Earth Day this year is ‘Protect Our Species’. Human activity on the planet has irreversibly upset the balance of life and, as a consequence, the planet is facing the largest rate of extinction since the loss of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago. Unlike the fate of the dinosaurs, the extinction of species today is a result of human activity rather than of a force of Nature.

The Anthropocene Era

In our industrialized, globalized paradigm we have become increasingly disconnected from the natural world at our own peril, with the problems being numerous and multifaceted. Ecologically speaking, we live in turbulent times with the Anthropocene era being one of rapid change. We currently inhabit a world where our oceans are filled with plastic, a world where the problems of deforestation and climate change are becoming a looming reality, a world undergoing a dramatic loss of biodiversity, with new problems arising every day.

From Micro-to-Macro; You Make a Difference

Getting stuck in sentiments of hopelessness and disempowerment, while feeling that our voices and actions do not matter, is all too easy. However, Earth Day offers the opportunity to reflect on our actions and implement changes that enable us to carve out a symbiotic paradigm between our species and the biosphere.

In line with the words of the great primatologist, Jane Goodall, we need to recognize that the choices we make have an impact and that what we do in our personal lives makes a difference on a global level:

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”

To help you along the way, we have included two simple things that you can implement into your life on a daily basis as methods to combat this ecological crisis:

1. Boycott single-use plastics:

Plastic was invented in 1907 and popularized in the 1960s as a high-density polyethylene that was inexpensive to manufacture. Its inventors could have not predicted its catastrophic effect on our Biosphere and the biomes within it. Plastic is a major threat to our environment, with plastic pollution being particularly problematic to aquatic life.

The problem with plastic is that it does not biodegrade, instead breaking down into microplastics which are consumed by other organisms. In recent years, there have been numerous cases reported in which whales have washed up ashore dead due to the ingestion of plastic. Moreover, plastic ends up in the digestive systems of smaller organisms like fish which inevitably end up in our food chain.

Although it can be difficult to boycott plastic altogether, we can take small actions on a daily basis to minimize our consumption. For instance, remembering to bring a reusable bag or reusing one we already have, saying no to straws, sourcing environmentally friendly toothbrushes, owning a reusable water bottle, buying biodegradable bin liners, bringing a food container and buying plastic-free cosmetics all make a huge difference.

A report from the World Economic Forum calculated that if plastic production continues at its current rate that there will be more plastic in the ocean, pound for pound, than fish by the year 2050. Reducing our plastic consumption and making informed, sustainable choices is one of the most effective ways to protect our species.

2. Eating less & better quality meat:

A report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Administration in 2013 found that livestock and poultry make up roughly 14.5% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, estimated as 100-year CO2 equivalents. Methane has a global warming potential estimated to be 35 times that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, in the Amazon “around 17% of the forest has been lost in the last 50 years, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle ranching.” The Amazonian rainforest is the world’s largest, sometimes referred to as the ‘lungs of the Earth’ because it is thought that more than 20% of the world’s oxygen is produced there. Moreover, the Amazon is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions. It is estimated to be home of 390 billion trees, among them 16,000 different species, and is the tribal home of 1 million indigenous people.

Cattle ranching alongside the production of soya as cattle feed is a major contributor to deforestation, the displacement of indigenous groups, and the destruction of entire ecosystems. Moreover, the production of factory-raised cattle is often associated with toxic fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in an even more damaging carbon footprint.

These crucial forests are not only incredibly biodiverse but also serve to absorb carbon dioxide and have a cooling effect on the earth. In order to protect them, it is important for us to be aware of the source of our meat. Grass-fed cows have a symbiotic relationship with the land that they graze, clearing pastures to encourage new plant growth and helping build productive soil with nutrient-rich compostable manure. Fertile soil helps to keep carbon monoxide at bay, decreasing methane emissions.

Producing one calorie of meat requires nearly twenty times the amount of energy as one plant calorie. Thus, by cutting down on meat consumption and sourcing locally raised, grass-fed meat we can reduce the carbon footprint of the planet drastically.

 

To help you deepen your understanding of our beloved planet, we are offering 25% on all books in the field of ecology & sustainability. Browse titles here.

Save 25% from now until April 30th with the coupon code: Earth2019

 

Get Involved!

Local Events this Earth Day 

Earth Day Celebration in Santa Fe’s Railyard Park, April 27th @ 12:00-4:00 PM

Join the Railyard Park Conservancy in for a free day of learning, games, workshops and family-friendly fun!

Enjoy an illuminating day in the sun at Santa Fe’s award-winning green space, The Railyard Park, to celebrate the Earth and local biodiversity in honor of 2019’s national Earth Day theme: Protect our Species.

We will be joining together to learn about the unique biodiversity of New Mexico and its treasure trove of plants, animals, and geology with a number of interactive activities. Workshops include: making seed balls with the SFPS Sustainability Program, learning how to plant a native garden with the SF Botanical Garden, and learning about local dairy production with Camino de Paz School, just to name a few.

Keep up to date with the Railyard Park’s cool and interesting events through their Facebook @railyardpark or webpage.

Earth Day Cleanups

The Earth Day Network is coordinating volunteer cleanups across the US for Earth Day 2019. They are working with grassroots organizations and community members to clean up green spaces, urban landscapes, and waterways. With cleanup locations in cities across the U.S., the Earth Day 2019 Cleanup will build an army of volunteers and make a tangible impact on waste in our environments.

Find a cleanup near you! Learn more about Earth Day Network events @EarthDayNetwork.

‘Biosphere 2: Lessons & Relevance to Global Ecological Challenges’ with Dr. Mark Nelson & Sir Ghillean Prance

‘Biosphere 2: Lessons & Relevance to Global Ecological Challenges’ with Dr. Mark Nelson & Sir Ghillean Prance

September 11th, 12:30 pm, Seminar Talk @ The Linnean Society of London

Biosphere 2 was the world’s first experimental laboratory for global ecology. Sir Ghillean Prance, working with NY Botanic Gardens and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in London, was allocated to design Biosphere 2’s unique rainforest biome, testing strategies important for preserving rainforest biodiversity. Dr. Mark Nelson was a member of the original 8 person biospherian crew for the daring 1991-1993 closure experiment. Biosphere 2 demonstrated important lessons relevant for improving our relationship with Earth’s biosphere (Biosphere 1): the technosphere can be designed to support life without harming it; new roles for humans as atmospheric stewards; innovative bio-technologies to recycle wastewater and purify air; high-yield regenerative agriculture without use of chemicals set world records; humans as keystone predators, intervening to protect biodiversity; shared dependence on the biosphere overrides group tensions and subgroups.

UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

A recent landmark report from the United Nations unnervingly warns of a strong risk of global crisis as early as 2040. The report was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and was written and edited by 91 scientists from over 40 countries analyzing more than 6000 studies. Their findings suggest that if we do not change our global economic system drastically in the next few years, and we keep continuing to let off large carbon emissions into the atmosphere as well as using coal as an energy source, we will begin to see the worsening of food-shortages, wildfires, the mass die-off of coral reefs as well as the beginnings of coastal flooding.

The Need for a New Direction

With the current paradigm of ecological catastrophe in mind, we find ourselves losing hope and it becomes increasingly more difficult to imagine a future in which we coexist symbiotically with our biosphere. Although the biospherians were sealed in the closed ecological framework of Biosphere 2, lessons learned from the experiment and teachings gained have escaped far beyond its physical structure, leaking out into the lives of its inhabitants and many that came into contact with it, encouraging them to live out a path aligned with planetary needs. The experiment’s surprises underscored how much is still unknown about biospheres at large. Biosphere 2 caught the world’s imagination, tapping into the desire of people to reconnect and forge a new relationship with our planetary biosphere. Its lessons are increasingly relevant in the Anthropocene era as we find ourselves desperately in search of a new direction.

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More About Dr. Mark Nelson

Dr. Mark Nelson is a founding member and Chairman of the Institute of Ecotechnics (UK/USA) which consults to innovative field projects in challenging biomes around the world. Such projects include the world city project, the October Gallery or the ocean biome project, the R.V Heraclitus. Nelson’s research includes closed ecological systems, ecological engineering, restoration of damaged ecosystems and wastewater recycling. He was Direction of Space and Environmental Applications for Biosphere 2, and a member of the eight-person ‘Biospherian’ crew for the first two-year closure of the experiment, 1991-1993. His latest book, Pushing our Limits: Insights from Biosphere 2, tells of his experiences and lessons learned during his experimental enclosure. He is also the author of The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving our Planet One Flush at a Time, and Life Under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2 (with Abigail Alling & Sally Silverstone).

More About Sir Ghillean Prance

Sir Ghillean Prance FRS PPLS has conducted 39 expeditions to study the Amazon flora. He is a former Director of  Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, author of 24 books and monographs and extensive papers on the taxonomy of tropical plants, ethnobotany, and conservation. He was involved with the development of rainforest biomes at Biosphere 2 and at the Eden Project. Most recently, he worked at co-editor of the landmark academic volume, Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: 50 Years of Research.

 

Polymath John Allen Interview in Mousse Magazine

Polymath John Allen Interview in Mousse Magazine

“The Search for a Unique, Non-repeatable Experience”

Interview with John P. Allen, Kathelin Gray & Hans-Ulrich Obrist featured in Mousse

John P. Allen, author, poet, and visionary inventor of the Biosphere 2 project talks with director, writer and curator, Hans-Ulrich Obrist in an interview featured in the Italian contemporary art magazine Mousse. The full interview can be read in Mousse 57, February-March 2017.

Within the interview, Obrist sets out to unravel the foundational epiphanies that served as the springboard for the conceptualisation of Biosphere 2. Further discussing the major ideas, philosophies and great thinkers that filled Allen with the inspiration that fed into this milestone project. The primary epiphany being Allen’s realisation “that humanity is part of the biosphere and the biosphere is the dominant overall unity that comprises everything.”

Me and the Biospheres: A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2

In today’s world, where the problems of climate change, pollution and ecological destruction become ever more pressing, we often tend to forget about the things which have already and are still being done for the environment, in attempts to align man with the natural world.

For those wishing to learn more about John Allen, his singular life, and the field of Biospherics, we recommend checking his definitive autobiography and memoir: Me and the Biospheres; A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2. Me and the Biospheres is a fervent call to reawaken to the blessing of our beautiful home, Biosphere 1, the Earth.

More About John P. Allen (nom de plume Johnny Dolphin)

John ‘Dolphin’ Allen is an Oklahoma-born author, poet, playwright, engineer and metallurgist who invented, envisioned, and co-founded the Biosphere 2 project. Biosphere 2 was the world’s largest laboratory for global ecology, comprising of a series of airtight chambers making up a closed life systems ecological unit where eight people took up an experimental residence for 2 years in order to better understand how to live sustainably within a closed system.

Allen also conceived and co-founded nine other projects around the world, pioneering in sustainable co-evolutionary development. He is currently Chairman of the Institute of Ecotechnics (IE) Corporation. IE is an International Non-Governmental Organisation which owns and operates innovative sustainable ecological projects in different biomes worldwide such as the R.V. Heraclitus, or Las Casas de la Selva, among many others.

A Miraculous Conversation: John Allen and Hans Ulrich Obrist

A Miraculous Conversation: John Allen and Hans Ulrich Obrist

Let’s begin with the beginning… that’s how this captivating conversation between two remarkable minds begins. As part of the Serpentine Gallery’s 2016 Miracle Marathon, Hans Ulrich Obrist speaks with John Allen and goes directly to the source of his life-changing epiphany about the biosphere.

[su_vimeo url=”https://vimeo.com/186148609″]

For a fifteen minute conversation, these two cover a lot of ground. From discussing Benoit Mandelbrot’s epiphany about fractals to Albert Hoffman’s discovery of LSD, John tells Hans about how he began understanding the biosphere through his discovery of humanity. When we understand that humanity is part of the biosphere, we understand that we are part of the overall unity of all the kingdoms of life.

According to Allen, the study of biospherics forms a separate line of planetary evolution. Biospherics studies the systems of the earth that support and include life. Buckminster Fuller influenced John to consider life from the perspective of total systems. Allen was inspired by Fuller to use synergy in bringing together technics, or advanced technology, with biospherics. The result was Biosphere 2, which made a model of the Earth’s biosphere (or Biosphere 1).

Sailing the Amazon River on RV Heraclitus, a ship that Allen helped to design and build

Sailing the Amazon River on RV Heraclitus, a ship that Allen helped to design and build. Photo from Me and the Biospheres: A Memoir from the Inventor of Biosphere 2.

John also discusses how he was influenced by Amazonian explorer and ethnobotanist, Richard Evans Schultes. Inspired by Schultes, Allen traveled the Amazon River by boat and drank ayahuasca with a traditional shaman. The experience changed his level of consciousness and communicated to him the objective truth of the biosphere.

One of the most poignant moments in the conversation is when Hans asks about miracles:

Hans Ulrich Obrist: What is a miracle to you?

John Allen: A unique, non-repeatable experience.

Our entire lives are made up of unique, non-repeatable experiences. Understanding our lives like this adds a miraculous quality to each moment. John goes on to say that all of modern life is based on miracles, but in modern life we have separated ourselves from the larger system of the biosphere. Instead of thinking about the environment, as something external that is around us, we can shift our thinking to a biospheric perspective, to seeing ourselves as part of the miraculous system of life.

In its eleventh year, the Serpentine Marathon series continued on its exploration of activism, art, anthropology, architecture, literature, music, philosophy, theology and science through a specific theme or topic of particular relevance in artists’ practice and in the wider contemporary context… the 2016 Miracle Marathon focused in on ritual, repetition and magical thinking to consider ways in which the imaginary can not only predict, but also play a part in affecting long-term futures.


You can hear more from John Allen in person at the Synergetic Symposium and Salon at the October Galley on 5 November. This Symposium and Salon on Understanding Ayahuasca brings together diverse perspectives on this sacred plant medicine from the Amazon. The event is celebrating the release of the new edition of Ayahuasca Reader: Encounters with the Amazon’s Sacred Vine, a collection of  shamanic stories, myths, research, songs, poems, and art that share the wisdom of ayahuasca.

You can get your tickets to the Symposium and Salon here, and you can get your copy of Ayahuasca Reader here.

  • John Allen, conceiver and co-founder of major projects bringing together ecology and technics around the planet
  • Jeremy Narby, an anthropologist who studies the worldwide revival of shamanic cultures
  • Martina Hoffmann, a visionary artist inspired by expanded states of consciousness
  • Françoise Barbira Freedman, a medical anthropologist promoting women’s health through shamanic plants
  • David Luke, a psychology professor focusing on transpersonal experiences and altered states of consciousness
  • Terry Wilson, who apprenticed under the accomplished shaman of the avant garde, Brion Gysin
  • Peter Moore, a mystical poet who brings together inner and outer worlds
  • with music by ELSTIR, blending Amazonian field recordings with ambient electronic sounds
ayaeventimageLondo
Twenty-five years of Science and Imagination at Biosphere 2

Twenty-five years of Science and Imagination at Biosphere 2

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Biosphere 2

This year the revolutionary laboratory on earth sciences, Biosphere 2, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. The initial experiment began in September of 1991 when eight pioneering individuals were enclosed inside of its glass walls for two years. The existence of Biosphere 2 and the research conducted there continue to gain attention, as it fuels understanding of planetary systems and calls attention to the realities of our circumstances on the original Biosphere, the Earth.

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In 1993, in the first moments when the human experiment was coming to a close, the biospherians re-entered the outside world after two years of stewardship in their enclosed home. Mark Nelson, who managed the wetland sewage treatment system inside of Biosphere 2, shared a few words on the experience:

Mark Nelson in the wastewater treatment marsh of Biosphere 2

Mark Nelson in the wastewater treatment marsh of Biosphere 2. Photo from biospherics.org

“We’ve come out of another world. Through that thin airlock there is another world living… What’s been surprising and profoundly wonderful is that operating Biosphere 2 has changed the way I operate my organism. To live in a small world and be conscious of its controls, its beauty, its fragility, its bounty and its limits changes who you are.”

Mark Nelson, PhD, one of the original Biospherians and author of The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a Time

Several recent articles have revisited the story of Biosphere 2, while highlighting the role that the facility continues to play in inspiring a new generation to be ecologically minded.

“Many older generations know of us thanks to the experiments conducted in the early 1990s,” explains John Adams, deputy director of Biosphere 2. “But we really want to engage with the younger generations.”

The experiments Adams refers to are two missions which saw a team of scientists seal themselves inside the laboratory. The first mission garnered the most column inches; four men and four women entered Biosphere 2 in 1991, vowing to stay inside the lab for two years, without any physical contact in the outside world. The team hoped to demonstrate the viability of closed ecosystems in maintaining human life, and also explore how such a closed biosphere could be used in space colonisation.

Huffington Post UK

Flowing Through Changes Over Time

Whenever there’s an experiment at Biosphere 2, it’s a big experiment. This summer, Biosphere 2 will be home to the largest study ever conducted on how water moves through a landscape.

Photo credit: Gil Kenny

Water is clearly vital to life, but so are the minerals and nutrients it picks up as it flows through rocks and soil. This process, called weathering, underlies everything else in an ecosystem, including microbes, plants, animals, agriculture and how the landscape changes over time. . . .

“Chemical weathering is the first thing you need in order to form a habitable planet,” says Dixon. But the process is still not well understood.

That’s where Biosphere 2 comes in.

New Scientist

Although weathering has been studied in laboratories, there is no other laboratory that can compare in providing such large-scale conditions with the benefit of being a controlled atmosphere.

. . . the University of Arizona is transforming part of the site into a “Land Evolution Observatory”—a 10-year, $5 million project to study how vegetation, topography and other factors affect the movement of rainwater through watershed to drinking water.

Newsweek

The substantial site provides a unique opportunity to see how water moving over the land causes changes over time on a real-world scale.  

Living in Harmony at the Heart of Biosphere 2

Aside from serving as fertile ground for conducting scientific research on how water and soils operate, Biosphere 2 provides an experimental mirror for the way humanity relates to the Earth. John Allen, the inventor, conceiver and co-founder of the Biosphere 2 project provided an unparalleled opportunity to reflect on our own lifestyles. He spoke at the re-entry ceremony, when the eight people who had dedicated two years of their lives to the ambitious project emerged back into the larger atmosphere of the biosphere that we all share.

Project founder John Allen inside Biosphere 2

John Allen inside the Biosphere 2 test greenhouse. Photo Copyright: © Peter Menzel www.menzelphoto.com

“The biospherians have shown in practice for the past two years the do-ability of a comprehensive code of ethical behavior in a new area in which we can no longer depend on the aesthetic interests of the few or the economic interests of the many to maintain proper behavior in humanity’s relationship to the very basis of our life, to the biosphere. The eight biospherians ate, slept, worked, dreamed, enjoyed and suffered, in short existed in harmony with their biosphere. Their biosphere flourished with their way of life, they recycled their food, their wastes, their water, their air. They protected biodiversity and enhanced the beauty of their landscapes. Their own bodies purified and their biosphere sparkles undimmed without a ghost-like fog of smog. They lived with high tech instrumentation and communications but in a non-destructive, ecotechnic way… Sophistication and love of wilderness blended and fulfilled their dreams. I appreciate the biospherians’ skill in operations, their integrity in research, their zest for exploration but I honor them for their ethical achievement, achieved at no small cost to their immediate gratifications, for having done what they perceived they ought to do.”

John Allen, Inventor, Conceiver and Co-Founder of Biosphere 2, author of Me and the Biospheres: A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2 

 To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Biosphere 2, we’re offering a 25% discount on The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the Planet One Flush at a TimeMe and the Biospheres: A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2, Life Under Glass: The Inside Story of Biosphere 2  as well as our other significant biospheric titles such as Geochemistry and the Biosphere: Essays by Vladimir VernadskyThe Anthropocene: The Human Era and How it Shapes Our Lives, What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees 

Use coupon code Bio25 at checkout from our Synergetic Bookstore for 25% off of these important ecological books!

Wastewater Gardner CoverMe and the BiospheresThe Inside Story of Biosphere 2geochemistry and the biosphere

anthropocene

What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Architectural Overview of Biosphere 2

And to read more on history of biospherics, the creation of Biosphere 2, and its continuing legacy from an architectural point of view, check out this paper written by Antonino Di Raimo, Architect PhD, Dean of Architecture at POLIS University from Tirana Architecture Week.

Allowing the Unknowable: The experience of Biosphere 2

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