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Biosphere 2

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The Biosphere 2 is an experimental laboratory in Arizona that was used to test if and how people could live and study in a closed ecosystem, while carrying out scientific experiments. The project conducted two sealed missions, the first from 1991-1993, the second for six months in 1994. During the first mission, oxygen and carbon dioxide fell. Oxygen and other supplies were provided, and the project lost some credibility with the scientific community.

After those missions, the Biosphere 2 decided to open up to outsiders. Since 1996, over 1200 graduate students have spent a year in the Biosphere 2. Biosphere 2 also functions as a hotel and conference center. The Biosphere 2 and the 250-acre Biosphere 2 Center built around it is owned by Columbia University. The name comes from the idea that it is modelled on "Biosphere 1" - Earth.

An interesting consequence of the experiment is that it proved that no amount of infrastructural capital constructed by humans at present technology can actually replace the natural capital of the evolved Earth biosphere. Despite expenditures of hundreds of millions of dollars, the new biosphere could not sustain even eight humans, for a limited time, while the original sustains billions of humans, and shows little sign of failing any time soon. Some economists have used the price of the Biosphere 2 project as an input to value of life calculations, and attempts to calculate the total value of all natural capital on Earth: given that it does at least as good a job at sustaining humans as Biosphere 2, it should be worth at least as much per resident. This leads to a rather large, but finite, price of Earth itself.

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