Waste is not waste unless it’s wasted

Biosphere 2: 3.5 acres of completely sealed off space, containing manufactured biomes capable of supporting the lives of 8 people for nearly2 years
Waste water garden at Mata Kail, north Bali. Solids are deteriorated by anaerobic microbes and nutrient-rich fluid is filtered through earth providing food and water to plants.

All disposing comes with the opportunity and indeed the obligation to make the waste beneficial in some new way. If this one principle alone was recognized by the human race, I think much of the damage we do and the disconnect we experience would abate. I’ve been thinking for some time about a precise way to effectively and widely communicate a coherent blend of sustainability, conservation, food awareness and waste reduction; what I see as four key elements to the salvation of humankind. Learning once more about the Biosphere II project might have illuminated an effective method. It occurred to me what a powerful teaching tool the experiment is, because it so effectively demonstrates the actions of a closed system, as Earth effectively is. By experiencing such a close relationship to each of the biomes within, the team of scientists demonstrated the necessity of each ecosystem and the delicacy with which their livelihood hung in the balance of ecosystem health. When people realize that this planet and its inhabitants share the same intimacy, then I think they become aware of the consequences of poor environmental management.

In Biosphere II (which I hope to write about at length soon), the intimacy with the closed system was glaringly obvious. There were glass walls separating 8 people from the outside world. Because of this, it was obvious that collecting waste in a bin to be carried away ambiguously was not an option. For the same reason, abuse of the systems providing necessary oxygen, fresh water, food and vital decomposition would result in immediate consequences for the biospherians, and a loss of sufficient life support. The way that they viewed their environment was as if they were a part of it, because they very literally were. Food grown was passed through their body and returned to the soil providing essential nutrients to the ground, allowing it to once more produce their only source of sustenance. Sierra Silverstone, caretaker of Mata Kail, where I now reside, is a founder of The Biosphere Foundation and has utilized this cycle in a wastewater garden, which represents an idea worth spreading.

More to the point, everyday we poison our waterways, butcher our forests, exploit our oceans and abuse our wetlands without thinking of the services they provide as immediately necessary to our well being. We are lucky that our childish blundering through valuable resources and habitats have thus far been absorbed by the immensity of our own biosphere, but that fact is quickly fading as these habits escalate.


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