Dreaming the Biosphere
The Theater of All Possibilities
Winner of Foreword Reviews' 2009 Book of the Year Award for Environmental Science; Winner of the 2010 Arizona Book Award for Adult General Nonfiction
Narrated by Anne Hancock
Approximately 13 hours
Book published by University of New Mexico Press
"Biosphere 2" rises from southern Arizonas high desert like a bizarre hybrid spaceship and greenhouse. Packed with more than 3,800 carefully selected plant, animal, and insect species, this mega-terrarium is one of the world's most biodiverse, lush, and artificial wildernesses. Only recently transformed from an abandoned ghost dome to a University of Arizona research center, the site was the setting of a grand drama about humans and ecology at the end of the twentieth century.
The seeds of Biosphere 2 sprouted in the 1970s at Synergia, a desert ranch in New Mexico where John Allen and a handful of dreamers united to create a self-reliant utopia centered on ecological work, study, and their traveling experimental theater troupe, "The Theater of All Possibilities." At a time of growing tensions in the American environmental consciousness, the Synergians took on varied projects around the world that sought to mend the rift between humans and nature. In 1984, they bought a piece of desert to build Biosphere 2. Eco-enthusiasts competed to become the eight "biospherians" who would lock themselves inside the giant greenhouse world for two years to live in harmony with their wilderness, grow their own food, and recycle all their air, water, and wastes.
Thin and short on oxygen, the biospherians stoically completed their survival mission, but the communal spirit surrounding Biosphere 2 eventually dissolved into conflict—ultimately the facility would be seized by armed U.S. Marshals. Yet for all the story's strangeness, perhaps strangest of all was how normal Biosphere 2 actually was. The story of this grand eco-utopian adventure (and misadventure) becomes a parable about the relationship between humans and nature in postmodern America.
Rebecca Reider has worked and written on issues of human and ecological community around the world. Her projects have spanned from Biosphere 2 to indigenous communities in the Amazon, to New Zealand, where she currently works with organic farmers.
“... impeccably researched ... Reider sees Biosphere 2's complicated success and failure as far more than a clash of science and myth or data and personality. She writes a fable of epic dreams burdened by superegos and drama that could not be contained. Riveting, surprising, and in the end devastatingly human, this is a saga for the ages.”
“Dreaming the Biosphere is a wonderful read, offering both narrative pleasure and thought-provoking analysis. Arizona historians and environmental academics will appreciate a positive, but not at all hagiographic, take on this oft-ridiculed test outside of Tucson, while anyone with a taste for edgy nonfiction will love the Robinson Crusoe-like spirit displayed by the biospherians who have to ask themselves hard questions like: Do we rip out the rainforest so we can plant squash?" ”
“[Reider] passionately and honestly tells [this story] in a dramatic yet eloquent writing style that scientists, sociologists, engineers, teachers, and spiritualists—in short, any critical-thinking person with a hunger for making the world a better place to live—will enjoy....Inspiring, yet sad, this book will prompt countless hours of discussion and debate as the drama of people and the planet continues. Highly recommended." ”
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