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A Great AridnessClimate Change and the Future of the American Southwest$
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William deBuys

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199778928

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199778928.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 22 June 2021

Oracle: Global-Change-Type Drought

Oracle: Global-Change-Type Drought

2 Oracle: Global-Change-Type Drought
A Great Aridness

William deBuys

Oxford University Press

In the sprawling, climate-controlled, glass- and steel-ribbed tent of Biosphere II, Dave Breshears is killing trees. Together with Henry Adams, his graduate student accomplice, he arranged to have piñon pines dug up and hauled in from northern New Mexico. Next he saw to their replanting and watering, got them rooted, growing, and happy, and then—for some, but not for all—shut off the water. Breshears wants to find out what makes them die. Biosphere II is an unlikely setting for controlled experiments in tree murder—or for anything else. Rising from the Arizona desert like the main terminal of a misplaced airport, its design sexy and futuristic, it is full of the pride of technology and the promise of discovery. In its integration of multiple volumetric forms and vast banks of windows, it might be the architectural love child of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum and a backyard greenhouse. A scanty procession of tourists detours from the beaten path to pay twenty dollars a head to enter the structure, which was meant to be an indoor replication of everything outdoors. It is a proto–space station: Biosphere II was conceived as a living and breathing microcosm of Biosphere I, the planet Earth. Bankrolled by the Texas oilman and investor Edward P. Bass, the creators of Biosphere II hoped that it would serve as a laboratory where earthlings might learn to package (and eventually export) their bubble of life to distant planets and solar systems. Toward that end, in September 1991, with much fanfare and not a little criticism, eight so-called biospherians, four men and four women, were sealed inside the three-acre complex for a two-year stay. Socially and biologically, the expectations were utopian: they were to grow their own food, maintain a life-supporting atmosphere, and get along as a team. Functionally the results were quite different. After thirteen months, said one, “We were starving, suffocating and going quite mad.”

Keywords:   Bandelier National Monument, Chediski Fire, Douglas-firs, Indians, Mogollon Plateau, Native Americans, Rocky Mountains, Social Darwinism, ecology, junipers

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