Documentary Review: ‘Spaceship Earth’


In the late 1980s a group of people – free-thinkers they liked to say – found themselves drawn together in San Francisco. They were from all over the place, each one was looking for something different in their lives. They wanted to make a difference.

The group, led by an eccentric, almost cult-like figure named John Allen, begin doing avant-garde theater in the city and soon, all over the world. Then, through sheer ambition and will, they designed and built a ship that they sailed all over the continent. They’d stop in ports and perform to make money and give back to that local community. Eventually, Allen and his cohorts came up a brilliantly crazy idea: to create their own world.

What if a group of people could sustain life inside of a man-made ecosystem? They would be self-sufficient, perform experiments and live their lives in what would famously be called, Biosphere 2. It was two because biosphere one was earth (duh).

What the help of an environmentally friendly billionaire, they design and build the a giant living space in Arizona, and in 1991, eight people move into the experimental world.

Directed by Matt Wolf, the film is at times a fascinating look at people who feel determined to change the world for good. And how pure will can lead to a massive undertaking like this. Unfortunately, it also shows the greed and capitalistic side of people who are able to fund these sorts of endeavors. It also does a nice job of showing the in-fighting going on inside (and outside) the group and the people determined to make money off of them and their research. And get this: one of those people is a young Steve Bannon, aka, Satan’s Favorite Minion.

I did wish the film showed more of life inside the biosphere. These eight people lived inside from 1991 to 1993. How was their life? Their interactions? It would have been interesting to delve into that a bit more.

Once the grand experiment ended, most would think that the group would have disbanded and go their separate ways. But, as it turns out, most are still living on the compound and working on various projects for the good of the world. It’s nice to know that altruism is alive… and living in Arizona.

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