The Value of Biosphere Earth, pt. 2: A Self-Generating “Stack”

A “stack” is what software engineers call the layers of interacting technologies (they build) to make your phone work. “The biosphere” is Earth’s composition of life and living ecosystems.

“The Pale Orange Dot.” Microbial Earth roughly three billion years ago. (NASA, 2017)[1]

Biosphere Earth. How do the clothes you’re wearing right now relate to “the biosphere”? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the biosphere as “the regions of a planet occupied by organisms.”(2) But this definition is misleading. Earth’s biosphere is far more significant than that.

There is no other planet known to have life, at this time — not even a single microorganism.(3) So until further notice, Earth’s biosphere is the only biosphere. More importantly, Earth’s biosphere is what keeps us alive.

At its most basic level Earth’s biosphere is our oxygen tank, all you can eat buffet, fiber maker (for your clothes), sanitation provider, air conditioning unit, and frankly, your consciousness creator. Without life there is no consciousness, right?

Four billion years ago there were only microbes in the biosphere. (Pt. 1) Today, Biosphere Earth generates an unquantifiable diversity of organisms. If the clothes you’re wearing right now contain cotton, leather, wool, bamboo, silk, or even synthetic fibers (which come from fossil fuels), they exist because of other organisms. Everything we have, pretty much, is made by beings in the biosphere.(4) Our clothes, our existence, our thoughts, these things are a result of this particular biosphere.(5)

What’s the Smartest Thing in the Known Universe? How does your phone do all those amazing things? A software “stack” is an architecture of operating systems, databases, protocols, and so on, which work together to run a program or application.(6) Originated by human brains, software’s existence depends on its stack of intelligence and hardware and our ability to electrify it, to do its work. No mystery there.

But by contrast the origination, architecture, and generation of Biosphere Earth is, scientifically speaking—totally miraculous. No humans required.

Earth’s biosphere builds itself, organism by organism. The biosphere, Earth’s composition of life and living ecosystems, our only life-support system, is a planetary-scale life infrastructure; a self-originating, self-building, self-complexifying, self-resourced, self-integrating system I don’t think our brains can fully conceive.(7)

At its most basic level, “Biosphere Earth” creates and houses the physical bodies of all organisms. But how does Biosphere Earth know how to do that? And how do organisms know how to grow themselves? How is each member of the biosphere that smart? Genetic intelligence is a fascinating, under-considered aspect of our reality.

Our biosphere is made up of billions of years of iterations of life. Four billion years ago Earth’s biosphere was only microorganisms. Look at us now. Microorganisms are everywhere and they team-up with large organisms to co-create our clothing and our planet’s atmospheric composition, temperature, circulation, temperate weather, climate stabilization, life-support, and more, as well as to manage all biological wastes into assets for self-regeneration of more biosphere, more life-support system, more security.

Here is a diagram of Earth’s “life stack”:

What Can You Do With this Knowledge?

Engage in awareness of the intelligent life all around you and the systems intelligent life builds.

“Biosphere Earth” is our most powerful and essential climate stabilization resource. This series talks about why and how. Thanks for reading.

For a complete list of scientific citations for this post, click here.

Read part 1 of this series.
Read part 3.