ecosphere vs. microcosm (distinction from Whole Earth Review):
Right off, to avoid confusion, the Ecosphere is not a "microcosm." It is not an aquarium or a farm in the woods or a greenhouse. Microcosms are small biological samples of the planet, physically removed from their natural surroundings, but not completely isolated from global matter exchange. Microcosms can be affected by the great material gifts that buffer the planet: water, vitamins, minerals, oxygen, carbon dioxide, chlorophyll, etc. The Ecosphere has no buffer, no huge water cycle or feedback loops outside its two-print interior. We may pretend to dwell in an isolated volume of the biosphere -- call it a watershed, a biogeographical region, a county, or a nation -- but compared to the Ecosphere, our lives are inseparable from wildly open-ended material influences.
The Tucson company Eco Sphere makes successful ecosystems. The Tucson experiment Biosphere II built a failed ecosystem. Anybody can make a successful (or unsuccessful) microcosm in an aquarium. Which is a good model system?