Sunday, March 19, 2006

Community - Biosphere 2

30 miles north of Tucson, near Oracle, Arizona, in the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains sits Biosphere 2 - a steel and glass configuration that occupies 3.15 acres of desert. This enclosed environment includes seven ecological zones: a tropical rain forest, a savannah, a marsh, a desert, and agricultural area, a human habitat and a 900,000 gallon ocean. When the first mission crew went into Biosphere 2 in 1991, there were 3,800 living species sharing the space with them.

The mission one crew consisted of 4 men and 4 women, and they began their Biosphere 2 experience with utopian dreams. They hoped to learn enough during their 2 years in the 7.2 million cubic foot sealed glass complex that a future crew could begin the colonization or the Moon or Mars. The eight biospherians embarked on what one member of the team, Abigail Alling called in her book, Life Under Glass, a "journey in time" with elements of past and future intertwined.

The Biosphere 2 story was chronicled as it went on by tele-video conferences, telephone calls, emails and contact with the outside via face to face meetings at the windows of the glass structure. This outside contact was good commented one observer since "several members of the group were no longer on speaking terms."

Social problems developed in this small community that included:
-power struggles
-lots of bickering
-sexual tension
-behavior that has been described as "catty and perverse"

The goal of this expedition was for the chosen eight person to live peaceably together for two years as they gathered scientific and technological data. On the social level, if not the scientific and technological, the crew failed miserably.
Five of eight of the participants counted the days until they could leave the biosphere. This unhappiness was present despite the fact that the eight members of the Mission I team had worked harmoniously together for the five years prior.

Donella Meadows of Dartmouth University observed that the real challenges of Biosphere 2 were not scientific or technological. The real challenges were: human relations, human communications and human organization. Her conclusion after the two year experiment: "It's not the planet that's out of control, it's us. It's not the biosphere we have to understand and manage, it's ourselves."

Community is difficult. Our parish community has several advantages over the biospherians. Our first and greatest advantage is Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Our second great advantage is the Spirit of Jesus Christ that lives in all His faithful followers.

[Note: this was the introduction to a sermon on Phil. 2:1-11]

References: all the material in this illustration was gathered by googling Biosphere 2.


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