Food Shortage Fed Tension in Biosphere 2

From Associated Press

Seal a group of scientists inside Biosphere 2, the futuristic glass-and-dome experiment, for two years and what do you get? Fights over food.

Botanist Linda Leigh said personality differences and crop failures made life difficult for the eight crew members who were encased in the 3-acre mini-world from 1991 to 1993.

"Food distribution became a very tense issue," Leigh said. "I think that made us all a little cranky, always being hungry.

"Some of us would sometimes hand out portions that were purposely uneven to see if the first people served would take the biggest ones or would try to even it out among the others," Leigh told the Arizona Republic in a recent story.

"In looking back, I guess it's pretty remarkable all eight of us came out alive."

The mini-world near Oracle, about 30 miles northwest of Tucson, is financed by billionaire Edward Bass of Fort Worth, Texas. Meant to be a self-contained environment, it includes plants, trees and climates of various regions, such as rain forest and desert.

Even as she cited the many problems her group went through, Leigh, 44, said she was glad that she participated in the historic experiment.

"I think it pains all of us, really, but I hope we have learned something from it," she said. "If we ever all start talking to each other, that would be a major accomplishment."

The Biosphere was plagued by roaches and ants that swarmed over workers, and insufficient air, Leigh said. It also produced far less food than projected because of crop failures.

But the most difficult part remained "dealing with seven other people," Leigh said.

The project ultimately came under fire by the scientific community and media. After a management shake-up, two crew members broke seals and opened doors to the complex. They were fired. The two, Abigail Alling and Mark Van Thillo, later sued for breach of contract and won.

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