Reviewed by: Tami Smith, Film Reviewer for Shockya
Director: Matt Wolf
Editor: David Teague
Cast: John Allen, Tony Burgess, Freddy Dempster, Kathelin Gray, Linda Leigh, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Marie Harding, Kathy Dyhr, Larry Winokour
Release Date: May 8th, 2020
On an early dry Arizona morning during the first week of December 1992, we piled into a yellow mini rental car and took a thirty-eight-mile drive east, from Tucson. Our destination was Oracle, where the Biosphere 2 experiment has being conducted since September 1991.
Biosphere 2 was an experimental project, a three-acre structure that was meant to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in outer space. It provided living quarters for eight participants, an agricultural area for farming and animal husbandry, and many naturally enclosed areas that included a rain forest, a desert and an ocean with a coral reef. The participants, Biospherians, kept experimenting with different ecosystems, while growing plants and other foods for human consumption. The general idea was to create a high nutrient/low caloric food for isolated cultures, which will lead to longevity and weight loss, all designed by Biosphere’s doctor Roy Wolfert. Heating and cooling water were circulated through piping systems and electrical power was supplied from an onsite natural gas energy center. Since outsiders were curious about Biosphere 2 they started showing up for tours and the project became a trendy ecological entertainment.
While being used from 1991 to 1993 and again in 1994 Biosphere 2 ran into low amounts of oxygen causing health issues, including 16% weight loss among participants and death among animals and plants. There were also some tensions among the crew, which at times felt like those experienced by astronauts, and struggle outside over management of the project.
Biosphere 2 was supported financially by Ed Bass, a Texan oil billionaire that came from the fourth wealthiest family in the United States. He eventually made a U-turn when the media started to portray the Biospherians as a “wack cult”. Ed showed up with Steve Bannon from Goldman Sachs (yes, that Steve Bannon!) at Biosphere’s mission control offices and fired John Allen, the project’s Grand-Daddy. Bass wanted to stop the bad press and started to focus on short term money-making results. His first step was to make Bannon C.E.O., which resulted in data destruction and Bannon’s denial of climate change.
Director Matt Wolf created Spaceship Earth, a 115-minute documentary which exposes viewers to conflicts and problems that occurred during the Biosphere 2 experiment, focusing on the period between 1991 and 1993. He examines the history and backgrounds of the Biospherians by introducing viewers to the commune culture of 1960’s in San Francisco; the formation of the group by the charismatic John Allen; their move to a ranch in New Mexico; the establishment of an avant-garde Theater of All Possibilities that played in every continent including Antarctica; the creation of Heraclius, a sail boat, and sailing it around the world while starting businesses in Katmandu and London; and conducting conferences about climate change around the world.
The question before us is: did the Biospherians see things differently or did they recognize the issues of climate change and food sustainability on Planet Earth decades before most of us even paid attention?
Director Wolf takes us through this rocky journey augmented by Owen Pallett’s impressive futuristic music. Photography and great file editing were provided by Sam Wootton and David Teague respectively.
115 minutes Not Rated © Tami Smith, Film Reviewer