From the Epilogue

Tony’s area of expertise at Biosphere 2 had originally been desert plants; he wanted to study the little ecosystems for detailed natural history lessons. But after twenty years there, Tony seemed more captivated by the project’s human lessons. Every year, he lectured Columbia Earth Semester students on “Lessons from Biosphere 2.” Though Tony was trained as a botanist, most of the lessons he named in that lecture were social, not scientific. . . .  Reflecting on the madness of attempts to control both people and ecosystems at Biosphere 2, he offered only humbling advice: “Primate group psychology seems to require and respond to a heroic leader, even if it’s an illusion”; yet “one person cannot sustainably manage Biosphere 2, let alone complex systems. We cannot all become heroes, and we should not burn ourselves out trying to be heroic for extended periods.”

For many young environmentalist students arriving at Biosphere 2, Tony was not just a professor, but a woolly-bearded guru in suspenders and a field vest. He seemed determined to convince his students that a healthier planetary future was really still possible, and that we ourselves could create such a future. In his “Lessons from Biosphere 2” lecture, he made sure to emphasize some hopeful patterns he had seen in the days of the place’s creation—patterns he hoped that students could apply to the Earth around us:

First: make a personal connection with some part of the Earth. If the connection is to endure long enough for you to gain valued knowledge, you must give it emotion and passion . . .

Understand dynamics of both ecological and social systems, so that you can eventually help them connect and function in tandem . . .

Create a social organization that can sustain your team’s purpose and attention. Experience with group dynamics is essential . . .

If you succeed, a dialogue will emerge, and from that interpersonal dialogue, a more encompassing dialogue between you and landscapes, ecosystems and the Earth may develop. This process will inspire great hope.

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