scientists have tried and so far failed to recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth?
The complexity of Earth’s biosphere is illustrated by man’s inability to construct artificial, closed and self-sustaining ecosystems. The best known and largest of these experiments was Biosphere 2. From 1991 to 1994, scientists built a 1.6 acre glass dome housing a closed ecosystem acting as a life-support system for its inhabitants. This dome included varied environments such as rain forest, desert zone, swamp, an artificial ocean, agricultural areas, and human habitat.
Eight scientists were hermetically sealed inside the dome for a first 18-month experiment. Apart from rearing domestic animals and plants, they studied ongoing changes in the artificial ecosystems. The aim was to construct a fully self-supporting and regenerating system that did not depend on the input of material or energy other than sunlight. Such systems are a prerequisite for extended space missions, where continuous supply is impossible.
Contrary to the planned use for one century, only two enclosing experiments were actually conducted. The ecological balance in Biosphere 2 became unstable. The problems were caused by small details that had been overlooked. The harvest was lower than predicted and the team faced food shortages. Bacteria introduced with the soil produced nitrogen oxides, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, while lowering the oxygen levels. Cockroach and ant populations increased unchecked, but the bees necessary for pollination died. Both experiments were terminated prematurely. It all goes to show you can’t recreate a miniature version of ecosystem Earth. More details and lessons learned here.
Therefore, shouldn’t we do more to protect the Earth, the only viable ecosystem we have? Contrary to latest discussions, we won’t colonize Mars or other planet pretty soon, far from it. And even if we would, majority of people will still be bound to Earth, where even more inhospitable places are far more human survival friendly than other planets known to-date.
My take, in contradiction to Stephen Hawking’s advise*, I would say: Always look down at your feet before looking up! You’d avoid falling off a cliff before you learn how to fly!
*Stephen Hawking quote: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”