Spaceship Earth – Review

Steve Bannon really is a piece of shit, isn’t he?

Spaceship Earth is a documentary from filmmaker Matt Wolf that attempts to make sense of the 1991 ecological experiment in the Biosphere 2, an experiment that involved what was purported to be a fully enclosed and fully sustainable ecosystem led by eight volunteers. What he’s put together more resembles the madness of documentaries like Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU than it does anything scientific. I was only five years old when the experiment ended and have no recollection of it outside of the smear campaign levelled against its creator. I grew up in a house that saw science as an affront to God and intellectualism as a form of thievery that scientists practiced to cheat good, upstanding, polluting corporations out of their semi-earned billions of dollars.

Steve Bannon really is a piece of shit, isn’t he?

In the 60s a man named John Allen began studying the idea of climate change and whether or not humanity could escape it by simply leaving. His efforts to learn about multiple cultures and regional ecospheres have led to a preserve in Australia, an art gallery in London, and several different projects that culminated in the unfortunate Biosphere 2 experiment. 

The idea was simple: lock a few people in an eight-story biosphere for two years. In that time they would be living in a completely sealed environment, using plantlife and animal life to create what would essentially be a portable slice of Earth that could be transported to other worlds. What came of the experiment was a lot of drama, scientific skepticism, and a whole lot of misinformation being spread by dissenters and supporters alike. The entire ordeal was a complete and total failure, but the bonds it created and the lengths these people went to in an effort to show the world the importance of our fragile ecosystems was fascinating. It’s a shame it went down the way it did. 

John Allen was seen by the world as a cult leader, a quasi-Jim Jones that put people in danger while he played puppet master from the outside. This is, unfortunately, quite true. Allen hid many things from the public, several of which involved the physical harm of the inhabitants. This cobbled-together family was brought to the brink of destruction after those living in the biosphere requested complete transparency and those without decided against that. This information was always going to get out, and when it did it completely wrecked anything about the experiment’s validity. After that Ed Bass came in with Steve Bannon, covering up what little real data on climate change the group had gathered and looking for things to patent and sell. 

Spaceship Earth is less about what was learned as it is about those gray areas involved in research when no one participating has any true scientific background. This was a group that were jacks-of-all-trades and masters of absolutely nothing, self-taught and working together in an effort to make something beautiful. They were backed by someone with an obvious financial agenda and were, after all of their suffering and mistakes, destroyed by someone that still causes America devastating problems to this day. It’s a documentary about who you put your faith in, about how quickly integrity can be questioned, and about how the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions.

Spaceship Earth is asking hard questions and offers very few answers. It’s a sweet and loving documentary, at the same time enamored with the lifestyles of the subjects while not hiding the rough realities that led to their peak and quick descent. It’s hard to consider it riveting, but I found it beautiful and honest and I hope many of you will give it a bit of a chance.

Oh, and Steve Bannon really is a piece of shit.

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