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

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

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

By John Allen

Anyone suffering from the Global Warming Blues will cherish this uplifting account of the most ambitious environmental experiment of our time: Biosphere 2, a miniature Earth under glass, the world’s largest laboratory for global ecology. John Allen’s memoir, Me and the Biospheres is a rich and complex narrative, filled with rollicking adventure, exceptional camaraderie and mind-bending science.

Covering three acres of Arizona desert, Biosphere 2 contained five biomes: a 900,000-gallon ocean with coral reef, a rainforest, a savannah, a desert, a farm and a micro-city, all housed within an air-tight, sealed glass and steel frame structure. Eight people lived inside for two years (1991-1993) setting world records in human life-support, monitoring their impact on the environment, while providing crucial data for future manned missions into outer space.

Almost as astonishing as the structure is the story of how it came to be. Back in 1969, Biosphere 2 was a mere seed in the luminous mind of writer, actor, philosopher, inventor, and scientist John Allen. He prepared for the manifestation of Biosphere 2 by assembling smaller projects: the creation of a ship to study ocean and river ecologies and cultures; a rainforest enrichment project; a theater group; a world-class art gallery and more. As awe-inspiring as the great cathedrals, Biosphere 2’s building and operation demanded the efforts of the most diverse team of scientists, engineers, artists and thinkers from around the world with whom John Allen worked closely for decades.


Me and the Biospheres also is an account of the singular life John Allen has led: his travels to Egypt, Vietnam, Nepal, Tibet and India, his meetings with people like Buckminster Fuller, William Burroughs, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman. From building developments in Iran to adobe houses in New Mexico, from Harvard Business School to cafés in Tangiers, from board meetings in Fort Worth to mystical moments with Sufi sages, John Allen has impacted millions of people with manifest integrity. His humorous and Whitmanesque memoir is a tribute to the ingenuity and dauntlessness of the human mind. Me and the Biospheres is a passionate call to reawaken to the beauty of our peerless home, Biosphere 1, the Earth.


Praise for Me and the Biospheres

Mark Twain once famously said that reasonable men bend themselves to the ways of the world therefore it stands to reason that only unreasonable men can change it … John Allen is an unreasonable man, a visionary, a poet and a true polymath which makes him a square peg in a very round hole and this gets up the noses of people who want business as usual even if what they are doing quite plainly doesn't work.

This book should be read by all those who believe as I do, that for great things to work you need to harness all the talents, you need to leave no stone unturned in your quest for knowledge and enlightenment. It is one of the tragedies of our age that those who champion science and the arts are so often blinkered by their need to conform.

This brilliant book tells a story that is both a warning and a call to action. There is nothing more dangerous and uplifting than a visionary who does stuff rather than talk about it. These are the "movers and shakers" of our world and as we face possibly the greatest threat to mankind in the form of climate change, peak oil, food and energy security and the need to create resilient communities, John Allen's brilliant book opens up a world of opportunity and the joy of seeing challenge as we face our greatest test - are we worthy of the name we gave ourselves, Homo sapiens - the wise hominid, or are we evolution's greatest example of self delusion. The court is still out, but John Allen's book gives us reason to hope. 

Tim Smit, Founder and Chief Executive, Eden Project, Cornwall, England


The Biosphere 2 project was surely one of the great scientific and technological enterprises of our time. Building a working model of the Earth’s biosphere is essential preparation for the coming era of space travel and manned exploration of other worlds.

In this memoir by the multifarious genius inventor/explorer  John Allen, we learn how he used his knowledge and experience in engineering, metallurgy, design, ecology, large-scale organizational finance, agriculture (and other fields), to draw together and inspire an extraordinary team of highly skilled and knowledgeable collaborators from a wide range of scientific and technical disciplines.

He relates amazing stories from his years of travel in all parts of the world, doing ecosystem restoration projects, building a research ship that (still!) sails the seven seas and co-creating a travelling theatre in which he and his friends explored the mythic and moral dimensions of the multifaceted adventure of life in the biospheres. An astonishing book! Inspiration guaranteed!
Ralph Metzner, Ph.D., Author of The Unfolding Self and Green Psychology


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