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About the Author
Abigail Kingsley Alling co-founded the non-profit organization, Biosphere Foundation (BF), in 1991 while living inside Biosphere 2 and continues today as its President and Chief Executive Officer. Biosphere Foundation’s primary goal is to inspire intelligent stewardship of our biosphere. At present, BF’s projects are based onboard its research vessel, Mir, where its team has initiated coral reef, sea turtle and marine mammal conservation programs in Asia. At Biosphere 2 (1986-1994), Abigail managed its research program and created&operated the largest artificial ecological marine system – a 1,000,000-gallon mangrove marsh and coral reef.
Sally Silverstone is currently vice-president of Agricultural Systems for Cyberspheres, Inc. and the CFO and VP, Director of Agricultural and Forestry Systems of the Biosphere Foundation. She has worked for Tropic Ventures on a 1200 acre rainforest enrichment project, of which she is now the Executive in charge for EcoFrontiers Company. From 1987 - 1991 she was responsible for the management and coordination of the architectural division operations, financial administration, and cost control for Space Biospheres Ventures, the company which built and operated Biosphere 2. In 1991 she joined the first team of eight researchers as co-captain and food systems manager for the historic two-year mission living and working inside of the Biosphere 2 facility.
Table of Contents
Foreword to the Second Edition Sylvia A. Earle 11
Foreword to the First Edition Joseph P. Allen 14
Introduction: Looking Back on Living in Biosphere 2 21
Chapter 1 The Adventure Begins 37
Chapter 2 A Day in the Life 49
Chapter 3 Monitoring the Environment 65
Chapter 4 Growing Your Own 81
Chapter 5 Hunger and Resourcefulness 99
Chapter 6 The Doctor Is In 109
Chapter 7 The Wild Side 117
Chapter 8 The Technosphere 139
Chapter 9 Animal Tales 151
Chapter 10 The Three-Acre Test Tube 163
Chapter 11 Communication Through the Electrons 181
Chapter 12 After Hours 193
Epilogue: The Adventure Never Ends 205
Research Highlights 231
What People are Saying About This
Life Under Glass details an extraordinary scientific experiment, one in which a handful of idealistic citizen scientists, at considerable personal risk, volunteered to enter a closed system, Biosphere 2. The audacity of the effort brings to mind that famous quote of Teddy Roosevelt in which he hails not the critics, but those in the arena who strive valiantly, who spend themselves in a worthy cause, and who, if they fail, do so while daring greatly, their faces marred by dust and sweat and blood.
Life Under Glass remains unique: the only first-hand account of the biospherians as they evolved, individually and as a team, written by three of them while all eight were still enclosed and occupied with their scientific work, daily lives and interpersonal camaraderie and tensions. This second edition, with a new introduction and afterward and further documentation, makes for compelling reading, a special record of a special experience.
Life under Glass offers us a unique opportunity to understand how life is interconnected and how we need to live and behave if we want a sustainable planet. This book should be read by everybody in order to understand that we are biological beings and depend on the health of the biosphere. In this book, Mark Nelson, Abigail Alling and Sally Silverstone introduce us to the everyday life of a biospherian and the knowledge and sensitivity we need to be good stewards of Nature.
I am a huge fan of the Biosphere 2 project, and was fascinated by the first edition of a book by three of the eight biospherians, Abigail Alling and Mark Nelson with Sally Silverstone, Life Under Glass (1993). Appearing shortly after the two-year closure, it was justly praised as an honest report on the epochal experiment. Recently, this inside story was extended by another essential book, Mark Nelson’s Pushing Our Limits: Insights from Biosphere 2. (Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2018.) This one includes an abundance of technical detail on the design, operation, and maintenance of the support systems of the two ecosystems, Biosphere 1 and Biosphere 2. Both books are thrilling reads.
And now we have a new edition, Life Under Glass, Crucial Lessons in Planetary Stewardship From Two Years in Biosphere 2. (Santa Fe, NM: Synergetic Press, 2020) by Abigail Alling, Mark Nelson and Sally Silverstone. This edition includes 50 pages of material new this year, 2020. A new foreword, retrospective Introduction and Afterword, a historical note from the publisher, and a 12-page research report replete with technical details, graphs, and diagrams.
Taken together the original text, fresh from the experiment, and the new reflections after almost 30 years this is a tremendous contribution to the literature on biospheric ecology, and the entire history of science.
The task of recreating some of the most important of Earth’s biomes in Biosphere 2 was a remarkable, exciting and memorable challenge, one which a very dedicated international team accomplished with great success. Today, some of the lessons learned are providing insights into the restoration and preservation of wilderness biomes, regenerative agriculture, and atmospheric management. Perhaps most importantly, Biosphere 2’s story as captured in "Life Under Glass," shows in dramatic fashion new roles for humans who recognize their dependence on and responsibility for protecting our living world.
The Biosphere 2 closure experiment in 1991-1993 is, to this day, the most successful closed environmental system test ever performed. The Biosphere 2 was created by a group of dedicated private ecology and space enthusiasts who designed, fund raised, built and instrumented the structure, identified and supplied the plants and animals that made up the biome, and then lived for 2 years in their built creation: a fully self sustaining closed environment. The 2 year period was chosen to demonstrate the surface stay of a typical Mars conjunction class mission. The 8 person crew that performed the mission did all the hard work that it took to keep their biome and complex machinery functioning, while suffering from calorie restriction and the associated weight loss, and a slow decline in oxygen concentration in their air supply. None of them were under any obligation to complete the 2 year stay but all of them did. It stands as a testament to human ingenuity and shows that the CAN DO attitude of private space enthusiasts is one of the most powerful forces that can propel humanity to the stars.
Life Under Glass is a great illustration of human creativity in extreme environments...the biospherian thinking process was an example of the emergence of a noosphere so that technics, or in my terms: art, science, and technology, reinforces life and life reinforces the arts, sciences, and technics in an evolutionary sustainable way.
I am delighted to see a second edition of this important book that tells the true and, frankly, honest account of the Biosphere 2 experiment. It is important that the project has been so fully recorded here in what is also a most enjoyable read.
Life Under Glass is a thrilling account of the daily life in Biosphere 2 and first and foremost a precious testimony on a unique experience that can teach humanity how to live in a small world, act as steward and feel interconnectedness. This book contains the keys to unlock the 21st century.
Life Under Glass is a massively important and inspirational book about a great experiment that will be regarded as a cornerstone in the human quest to understand the Biosphere and ecology itself. Anyone who wants to understand what innovation actually is must read this book and whisper a hushed vote of thanks that people like this exist!
Life Under Glass is a special present not only for me but for all the people who want to know, from real protagonists, the great history of Biosphere 2. The stories recounted here are extraordinary, beautiful, and dramatic at the same time. A must to read.
Biosphere 2 is a ‘vision’ and Life under Glass is a scientific treat and vicarious experience, beautifully written and amply illustrated with truly unique photographs. Without question Biosphere2 is an architectural masterpiece - an extraordinary engineering feat hidden within an artistically inspiring monument to the future. If Biosphere 2 is the heart, then the biospherians are the soul, giving meaning and purpose to their mission. Dedicated to understanding (and measuring) such a complex system, they struggled through the tedious and yet exciting workaholic days, forced to come up with new and creative ideas to solve seemingly unsolvable problems while documenting their complex biomes’ evolution. See their world and relive their experiences through their eyes - enrich your life and join the biospherian explorers in their two year emotional scientific journey, with all their hardships, challenges and successes, having lived through experiences that we, the readers, can only imagine.
Life Under Glass is an honest, first-hand account of an innovative experiment. Biosphere 2 itself was visionary...the subjective experience in undertaking such an experiment makes enjoyable and inspirational reading for anyone eager to learn about exploring and discovering a new frontier where knowledge, skills, technology, and organization are key in managing self-organizing systems.
Life Under Glass tells the story of an important experiment which has contributed to the void of neglecting ecological large-scale issues. These authors are explorers in the very best sense, storytellers at the finest. Life Under Glass hence allows a truly enjoyable read, accompanied by eye-openers directly from the authors' hearts.
I have known for five decades these deep, audacious, visionary nomads, walking the waves of the Heraclitus, creating Biosphere 2 to reflect our world, more real than true. Life Under Glass chronicles step-by-step a journey worthy of including in the Arabian Nights...braving the vivid unknown!