Down to Earth

Mark Nelson is an environmental engineer, author, and farmer at Synergia Ranch, in Santa Fe, NM, and he was one of the original participants in Biosphere 2, a two-year-long experiment in the early ’90s, during which eight people lived in a closed and sealed building for two years, grew all their own food, recycled water, air, and waste, and collected data about their experience. Mark is co-author of the book, Life Under Glass : Crucial lessons in planetary stewardship from Biosphere 2. He’s also in a new documentary about Biosphere 2, Spaceship Earth.
Starrlight Augustine is a scientist manager of the organic farm at Synergia Ranch. We talk about the experience and lessons of Biosphere 2, and their methods of farming in New Mexico.

2’14 how they decided what species to put into the Biosphere
4’17 a half acre of land used to feed eight people
4’55 test runs before the project
5’54 water in a closed loop
8’27 how they mimicked the earth’s systems in their contstructed biomes
8’49 getting scientists and engineers to learn each others’ language
9’55 technosphere and biosphere
10’43 earth is a very large closed system
11’42 toxins in one place on earth affects the whole system
12’41 what it was like for a kid growing up in this world
14’32 kids who wanted to be biospherians
15’02 the closed loop agriculture system within Bispshere 2
15’45 the daily diet—showing that living in a healthy biosphere is compatible with eating and living well
16’36 low-calorie high-nutrition high-protein diet
17’08 grew 83% of their own diet on a half acre
17’57 waste recycled through constructed wetlands
18’18 soils are great air purifiers
18’26 decided against hydroponics
18’47 no toxic chemicals, high soil fertility
20’08 how they did pest control
21’24 diverse crops
22’38 planting techniques for pest management
23’36 new ways of spacing vegetables in beds
24’23 using long beds with narrow paths between them
25’44 using perennial native plants as cover crops
27’22 dealing with pest problems and weed pressure
28’21 dealing with bindweed
29’17 creative life inside of Biosphere
29’26 water table in the Southwest is dropping
31’03 creativity at biosphhere
32’16 the takeover of Biosphere 2 by the investment bankers and their armed police forces
33’40 the data from Biosphere 2 was lost to science
35’03 being part of the northern New Mexico farming community
35’28 reinventing farming away from industrial agriculture, where farmers are most vulnerable
36’09 implication for space travel
37’54 focusing less on space now and more on the earth and what we can do
40’08 all human beings depend on a healthy biosphere, and we need to understand our interconnections
43’26 the value—and limitations—of science for regenerative agriculture