Uh, there's a Biospherian on the phone?

I don’t know if you remember – or maybe ever even knew about – Biosphere 2, but it was a three-acre, glass-and-steel structure in Arizona where, back in the ‘90s, eight people sealed themselves inside for two years to see if they could create a self-sustainable environment for humans.

I remember it well because it was in the news a lot when I was in radio and TV. It was interesting (eight people locking themselves in a structure together)… it was new (nothing like it had been done before)… and it was controversial (scientifically). So it got a lot of coverage.

At first, news outlets ran story after story about it. They’ve sealed themselves in! They’ve come to one of the glass walls and waved! There are reports of difficulties!

And I specifically remember a news item about one of the Biospherians, Jane Poynter, accidentally cutting off part of her finger… the group's physician trying to treat it inside… and her finally having to have to come out of Biosphere 2 for a few hours to have it taken care of by medical professionals.

So it was a little weird when – something like ten or fifteen years after all the Biosphere hoopla – my phone rings and the person on the other end says, “Hi, this is Jane Poynter.”

Jane Poynter“Jane Poynter,” I thought. “Where do I know that name from?” (I could feel my brain doing that searching thing: Jane Poynter, Jane Poynter, Jane Poynter…) Luckily, my brain cooperated quickly, and I said something like, “Jane Poynter? The Biospherian?”

It was her. And it was just kind of surreal for a moment.

Now, it’s not that I haven’t spoken with celebrities and people who are – or have been – in the news. As part of what I do, I’ve sat face-to-face with big names like John Travolta and interviewed them… I covered a Pope’s U.S. visit (and, to this day, have a strangely clear memory of standing a few feet off to the side as Pope John Paul II visited with several small schoolchildren)… so I’m completely comfortable covering stories about – or talking to – well-known people.

But this was still odd. Anyway, it turned out that Jane was in the process of writing a book about her experiences in Biosphere 2 and wanted to talk to me about helping to promote it.

Working with her was great: she’s smart, strong, quick thinking, fast moving, and seemingly fearless. And she’s had tremendously interesting life experiences.

Among the things I did for Jane was produce a four-minute promotional video about her and her book – it was primarily to show media people how great she is on camera (so they could confidently book her for interviews) and get them interested in her book. It was, by necessity, simple – no big-budget affair and we only had still pictures to work with. But it was enough to show how compelling Jane is.

One of the funniest moments I had working with her was when I flew out to Tucson to produce the video (that’s where she and her husband – a fellow Biospherian – live and work). She took me on a tour of Biosphere 2, telling me all kinds of information and stories that only a Biospherian would know.

At one point, we got stuck behind a tour group. I heard the tour guide give part of a (clearly often-spoken and not particularly compelling) speech on what life was like for the Biospherians… while Jane and I stood behind the group, waiting to pass. As Jane shifted from one foot to the other, the tour guide looked up.

“Let’s let these ladies pass,” he said, and the small group moved to the right to let us by. And then he continued talking about what life was like for Biospherians… as Jane, a Biospherian – unrecognized by the guide or any of the tourists – zipped on by.

Here’s the video of Jane, if you’d like to see it: Jane Poynter video (runs about four minutes).

Note: It could take anywhere from a few to (a possibly frustrating) several seconds to load, depending on your connection speed.