Earthly tales

A MINI-EARTH on earth. That was what Biosphere 2, the ambitious programme of an enclosed ecosystem, encapsulated. But with its ownership changing hands last month, the programme is also switching course. Bought by the Columbia University in New York, the 1.2 ha Biosphere 2, encased by glass walls, will no longer be manned continuously. Instead, Columbia University officials who will run all the scientific and educational activities of Biosphere 2, aim to 11 create an unprecedented laboratory that will attract scientists from around the world to study global climate change, biodiversity and sustainable agriculture". Biosphere 2 was an experiment which intended to combine both ecology and technology to create self-sustaining colonies which could exist in space. It contained a miniature ocean, a rainforest, a grass savannah and a desert among others. The programme ran into allegations of mismanagement forcing its owner, Ed Bass, a Texan oil billionaire, to sell it to Columbia University.