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ME AND THE BIOSPHERES:
A MEMOIR BY THE INVENTOR OF BIOSPHERE 2

By John Allen

Read the Table of Contents, Preface, and first chapter of Me and The Biospheres

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: A Memoir by the Inventor of Biosphere 2, by John Allen

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 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 

 

John Allen belongs to the great and noble tradition of Transcendentalism, the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson, of R. Buckminster Fuller and Frank Lloyd Wright. His whole existence, his studies, work, and interests are moved by a few fundamental principles. In John Allen, these principles share an organic, total ecologic structure that intimately combines land, nature, air and art with philosophy, theater and spiritual aspirations. The particularity of his work and life is that this combination has brought amazing results on the highest levels of achievement in science and engineering such as Biosphere 2. He has also realized small but extremely vital projects such the October Gallery in London, the Synergia Ranch in Santa Fe and the vessel Heraclitus that has been sailing the world since 1975. John Allen’s stature is that of a Nobel prizewinner.  For the reader of this book, there unfolds an unforgettable, stimulating and fascinating account of freedom and the possibility of human creation when it is nourished by profound reason.

Antonino Saggio, Editor of The IT Revolution in Architecture book series,
Professor of Architecture, University of Rome

 

Me and the Biospheres is the autobiographical memoir of a visionary who has embodied "The Meeting of East and West" (F.S.C. Northrop), has vigorously participated in "The Two Cultures" (C.P. Snow) and has been a leader in the engineering reification of "The Biosphere" (V.I. Vernadsky).  Now, that is a book worth reading.

                                                           Harold Morowitz, Ph.D., Robinson Professor, George Mason University

 

Now the inside story of Biosphere 2 is told by the man who created it. A fascinating and insightful read into the origins of one of America's most ambitious ecological experiments and the journey it took to get there, much of it starting right here in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Richard Polese, Publisher, Ocean Tree Books,
Executive Director, New Mexico Book Association

 

Biosphere 2 is the most important human/environmental experiment of the 20th century. It brought to public attention for the first time that we live in a closed environment and that the fragility of our environment is affected by such factors as CO2 accumulation and interplay of human ecology of environmental scientist and corporate America whose motivation was and is the accumulation of knowledge for profit.  What a pleasure to savor this history as a piece of art and culture from the genius mind of John Allen, the dreamer/creator of Biosphere 2. Follow the raga of John's exploration as he fugues from the wisdom of Walt Whitman through the jazz refrains of Ornette Coleman. From the coffee shops of the Haight Ashbury to the Promethean construction of the legendary research vessel Heraclitus, to the exploration of the Amazon searching for shamans and their plant allies with Dr. Richard Schultes, to dada theater, in Zurich, to the amazing human, ecological and geological experiment that was Biosphere 2, Me and the Biospheres is a book not to be missed by the intelligentsia of the 21st century.  John Allen is the proof of Robert A. Heinlein's dictum, "Specialization is for Insects."

Ramon Carr, Environmentalist, Co-Director, Sage Center for Alternative Healing

 

John Allen can daily create with his thoughts, spoken words and writing pen. His visionary, innovative and synergistic ideas help humankind understand its capabilities to advance towards a more enlightened world. This book gives us a deep look into John’s life, loves and achievements. Dig it.

Lisa Law, photographer, videographer, historian,
author of Flashing on the Sixties and Interviews with Icons

 

Me and the Biospheres is an excellent and highly inspiring book, showing in a fascinating way what single humans can accomplish with like minds, and how important and trend-setting far reaching holistic thinking and consciousness change is for human evolution and survival of our species within a livable environment, the gaian biosphere.

Dieter A. Hagenbach

Gaia Media Foundation