According to Wikipedia:
Biosphere 2 is an American Earth system science research facility located in Oracle, Arizona. Its mission is to serve as a center for research, outreach, teaching, and lifelong learning about Earth, its living systems, and its place in the universe. It is a 3.14-acre (1.27-hectare) structure originally built to be an artificial, materially closed ecological system, or vivarium.Wikipedia
I confess I didn’t know about this until a few days ago. What stroke me about this was something seemingly insignificant that happened during the project: the trees in the vivarium started to fall down or grow up etiolated (high and narrow). After a while, scientists concluded that the cause for the falling was the lack of a specific type of structure in the trees, named stress wood.
Here’s a short explanation of that type of structure, again, from Wikipedia:
Reaction wood (stress wood) in a woody plant is wood that forms in place of normal wood as a response to gravity, where the cambial cells are oriented other than vertically. It is typically found on branches and leaning stems. It is an example of mechanical acclimation in trees.Wikipedia
In layman words, trees were falling because, in the absence of naturally occurring winds, they were growing weak. Without a constant stress that they have to manage, their supporting structures eventually gave up.
The Unquestionable Right To Comfort
Our modern world keeps comfort in a very high place. Almost to the point of making it a fundamental right. We have the right to drink our latte every morning at the conveniently placed Starbucks just around the corner. We have the right to readily available electricity, water and food. We have the right to complain just about everything.
All these comfort inducing rights are piling up to create a planetary scale Biomass 2 project, this time for humans. It’s a giant effort to create the perfect world, a world in which we can move effortlessly and without any resistance whatsoever. A world in which we will always be right about everything and everything will be just perfect, just as we all wish it to be.
Such a project may look incredibly beautiful from the outside, just like the picture above. Straight out of a SciFi fantasy, in which people live a perfectly balanced existence, with no climate change, no viruses and no arguing.
But, just as the Biomass 2 project proved to have unintended consequences, such a project will never be what we expect it to be. It’s an unnatural environment.
I don’t know any other way to put this, so I’ll put it very bluntly: stress is part of nature. Rightfully managed, stress is actually useful. It’s not the absence of stress that is making our life easier, but our capacity to manage stress better, with less toxic byproducts and less energy spent.
A stress-free environment will prevent us from creating defenses, from developing endurance, stamina and immunity. It will eventually make us too narrow and thin, which leads to an oh, so predictable outcome: falling down. Just like the trees in the Biomass 2 project.
The attempt to control the environment, making it perfect for our needs, will never work out. It will create weak, unadaptable individuals. Whereas the attempt to control our response to the environment, by accepting natural levels of stress, and learning how to cope with it, will produce stronger, more adaptable individuals.
Photo by DrStarbuck at Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/drstarbuck/3783804640/sizes/o/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7883193