Recreating Eden. A controlled growing world.

controlled environmental agriculture, biosphere, greenhouse, permaculture, EDEN
16C illustration - Beyond the Stars [depicting the universe beyond the firmament]
16C lithograph - Beyond the Stars [depicting the universe past the firmament]

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.”  Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. - Genesis 1.6-8 KJV

Regardless of how you feel about the bible or any religious texts; Abrahamic religions and the many who preceded the monotheists were unified in how they depicted the world. This realm was seen as a contained dome. A closed environment, one enormous ecosystem with absolute interdependence and connection! This perception dominated human consciousness for aeons. The ancients believed that within the controlled biosphere were all the contained requirements for life.

Tropica geodesic dome filled with palm trees and cactus - Aneese @iStockPhoto
Tropica geodesic dome filled with palm trees and cactus - Aneese @iStockPhoto

These days under the Heliocentric model, we call the firmament something else, while still recognising that our world is a closed system operating within many spheres. This is why it’s so successful. We are all part of an enormous cycle and indelibly interconnected. Only when disconnection occurs is the cycle corrupted and imbalance ensues.

Moving on to the mid 20th century; futurist Buckminster Fuller borrowed this knowledge to create a macro world conducive to optimising life within. Bucky's Dome was made from welded steel tubes and acrylic cells to create hundreds of tetrahedrons coming together to create a giant ball. It was launched at 1967’s World Fair in Montreal. A giant snowdome! Thus the geodesic dome was unleashed on the public, tangibly materialising the metaphor of a closed loop system. Becoming the stuff of science fiction, whilst ironically being modeled from our very own living one.

Buckminster Fuller’s Bio-Dome - Alex Fradkin
Buckminster Fuller’s Bio-Dome - Alex Fradkin

By virtue of their nature and dimensions, domes are architecturally sound and stable enabling the circular biosphere to securely operate. A beautiful miniaturised metaphor. Within these incredible geo-structures, biomimicry can run amok as witnessed far & wide. Domes’ inherent strength can be evidenced today by the still standing Pantheon in Rome. Estimated to be over 2000 years old and perfect.

Further inspired by our own earth system; Biosphere 2 was created in Oracle, Arizona last century as a living research facility. Diverse climatic environments are researched here within multiple transparent structures covering over 13000m2, maximising light whilst recreating biospheres within.

The 8 original Biospherians lasted for 2 years [experiment was cut short] - Biosphere 2 1991
The 8 original Biospherians lasted for 2 years [experiment was cut short] - Biosphere 2 1991

Biosphere 2, is the largest closed-system experiment in history [apart from recent lockdowns]. It has seen several people live within for several months to two years consecutively. A real-time testing laboratory to determine feasibility, operating as sustainable mini-me Earths. This included non-polluting agricultural systems; methods to cleanse air and water and recycle wastewater.

Run by The University of Arizona, Biosphere 2 is open to the public for tours and workshops. Not just a dome, it explores other contained glass shapes which create many closed environments under the sun.

Biosphere 2 - William Wetmore
Biosphere 2 - William Wetmore

Beyond research mode, controlled environmental agriculture [CEA] has been with us for decades, sans acronym. My parents would have simply called it growing under a glasshouse or shadehouse! The closed structure integrated into the garden, all grown via saved seed, ongoing observation, and handed down knowledge.  Successfully grown backyard crops all year round without any top-down agrochemical interference. Where we live or what we choose to grow, determines how much light is required to be captured and stored ie. clear or shade. Organic inputs result in minimal inputs/output waste. Everything used and reused. Over and over again!

These days the analogy could be a bit like obstetrics, where the control of a natural process has been wrested away from the mother and into tech institutions by cloistering the arena with a range of sciences [spot the home birther]! We are ultimately disempowered. In agriculture, we are told this by 'experts' that it is to create scaleable solutions to meet head-on the perceived food crisis. I would argue: there is none. More of a grotesque distribution issue really. How many hungry billionaires do you see? But that’s another story…

Despite 71 billion USD losses in 2022, Mark Zuckerberg is worth over 50 billion USD. - META
Despite 71 billion USD losses in 2022, Mark Zuckerberg is still worth over 50 billion USD. -META

Agtech represents the further centralisation of our food supply and with it a monopoly on food [in]security. It is up to us to adapt; utilising both tech and the much maligned old ways. Essentially smart permaculture.

Remember Victory Gardens? Society survived wartime food shortages by everyday people growing their own food and sharing the harvest. Starvation was averted by our Nan + Pop's backyards. Now place them indoors, or in a closed space where we can regulate climate when confronted with an increasingly chaotic external environment. Integrate a simple aquaponics system or a couple of wicking beds with a pond. Why would we ever relinquish our Godhead to a corporation or any autocrat other than to ourselves?

Victory Gardens Front Cover -  Australian Womens' Weekly 1940
Victory Gardens Front Cover - Australian Womens' Weekly 1940

We can grow food intensively in controlled environments without falling prey to the mystification of the process beyond us. It is simple. By paying homage to the cradle to grave life cycle assessment [LCA]; we minimise embodied energy and waste. This positively impacts financial and environmental costs. Enter your DIY compost and hothouse!

We can scale from an apartment windowsill in symbiosis with a simple bokashi benchtop composting system extending over and above. Reduce, reuse, recycle... We have the technology and know-how to be our own personal Jesus's.

Life Cycle Assessment [LCA] - Cradle to Grave Diagram
Life Cycle Assessment [LCA] - Cradle to Grave Diagram

We don’t have to be billionaires to ensure our food security or play God because we already have the power, and need to own it. Be the creators of our own destiny, reality and food security. If we want to be. Moreover taking self-responsibility and working within our local environment, beyond ourselves, ensures resilience and healthy communities. Act local [within our own sphere of influence] and the butterfly effect will ensure our actions flutter exponential waves into the very depths of our shared aether.

Wandjina Dreamtime Rock Art

Biospheres may be as old as time itself. Check this: The Wandjina creation mythology talks of a time when there was only darkness until the Father Spirit [Baiame] awoke Sun-Mother. These stories and songlines are interwoven with multiple dimensions of reality as is all Aboriginal Dreamtime.

As Sun-Mother opened her eyes across the flat circular expanse of Earth which was covered by a concave sky reaching to the horizon, light flooded the space and life began. With the aid of the rainbow serpent, emu and others they taught the people how to live and occupy space in symbiosis with the surroundings, as one.

A view of the greenhouse and gardens of the Yreka Community Gardens - Flickr
Yreka Community Gardens - Pacific Southwest Forest Service, Flickr

There is a lesson here which we should pay attention to. We can all do this. It is increasingly important to have control over our own lives as our greater biosphere deals with geo-based challenges and climate mods. We can take control back. Of our own food, our own realities. In our own backyards/biospheres. Independently yet coming together as a community.

Let there be light! Let there be life! And most importantly, let you and your plants be fruitful and multiply. We are creators. Let us create our own domes. In our own Edens. In whichever size or shape we choose [watch out for snakes].

Mini Greenhouse - Karolina Grabowska, Pexels
Mini Greenhouse - Karolina Grabowska, Pexels
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About Victoria Waghorn

Storyteller + Designer of Permaculture, Aquaponics, Film and Buildings