This is part 4 in the series: RESILIENCE

Stress is necessary

Have you ever heard of the Biosphere 2? There was a movie with Pauly Shore about it, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a documentary. The Biosphere 2 is this giant gazillion dollar facility out in Arizona. The builders wanted to make this self-contained environment to see if we could sustain life on another planet.

Could we create a self-contained environment where people could live for a long period of time?

So they created this huge facility and it’s like a giant habitrail for hamsters, except this one is for people. They put people in there for a year to a year and a half, and see if they could live in this closed environment. In order to create water, oxygen and food, the designers had these different areas to mimic the Earth’s environment. They have a desert area. They have a savannah area. They’ve got a jungle room because they love Elvis so much. They created all these little different micro-eco systems in order to keep everything going (at least in theory). In the savannah area, they planted Acacia trees, which are an African hardwood tree. They created all the right eco-systems, they sealed up the thing, & they get it up and running. They locked some volunteer scientists in the Biosphere 2 and waited to see what happened.

About mid-way through the year, the top branches of the hardwood Acacia trees start to break off and fall to the ground. Well this didn’t make any sense to them. They asked “Why are these top branches breaking off?”  The volunteer scientists have got nothing better to do since they are in a giant terrarium, so they collect these broken branches; they thin slice them and put them under the microscope to look at the cell walls.  When they compare these to the cell walls of Acacia trees on the outside and what do they find?  That the cell walls on these Biosphere 2 Acacia trees are thinner, significantly thinner, than the cell walls on Acacia trees growing outside. Why is that?

Where’s the wind?

The maximum speed of the wind in the Biosphere 2 was five miles an hour. They’d had fans blowing five miles an hour. The Acacia trees break under their own weight if they are not stressed by high winds. An Acacia tree needs the stress of the wind in order to support its own weight. Without the stress of high winds, the tree crumbles under its own weight. In other words, trees don’t grow tall without the stress of the wind.

Many of you reading this have said, “Man, I wish I could get some stress out of my life. I don’t need any more stress. I need a completely stress-less life.” What would happen if you had a completely stress-less life? You would die. As kids, we all thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool not to have gravity?” One of the unanticipated effects of living in the International Space Station is that human organs and muscles start to atrophy without gravity. Our internal organs and muscles need the stress of gravity in order to function well. Stress is necessary for success.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons – File:Biosphere 2