John Polk Allen
John Allen, inventor and investor, conceived and co-founded Biosphere 2 – the world’s first and by far largest laboratory to study global ecology. Biosphere 2 set world records in closed life system work: sealing tightness, 100% waste recycle and water recycle, and duration of human residence within a closed system (eight people for two years).
To build knowhows required for Biosphere 2 Allen first conceived, invented, co-founded, and managed start-up of nine other multi-vector projects, from tropical forests to savannahs to desert to ocean to world city, around the planet, based on sustainable biomes (biomes: level of organized complexity of life systems below biosphere).
Allen manned the first Biosphere Test Module experiment in September 1988, residing in a one person closed, recycling ecological system environment for three days, setting a world record at that time, proving that properly designed closed ecological systems with humans inside can regenerate themselves.
As Inventor, Executive Chairman, and part owner of the project, Allen and team created the science, engineering, management, and business plans to create this complex materially closed life system, which has led to developing important spin-off technologies such as its complete sewage recycling system.
In the early sixties, Allen worked on complex regional development projects inspired by the Tennessee Valley Authority, with David Lilienthal’s Development Resources Corporation in the U.S., Iran, and Ivory Coast as expert in complex regional ecologies and economics. Before that he headed a special metals team at Allegheny-Ludium Steel Corporation that developed over thirty alloys to product status. He led several expeditions studying ecology, particularly that of early civilizations: Yoruban, Iraqi, Persian, Afghan, Uzbekistan, Tibetan, Turkish, India, Mayan, and Altiplano.
He currently serves as Chairman of Global Ecotechnics Corporation, whose Biospheric Design Division has begun designing and experimentally operating a second generation of advanced materially closed biospheric systems and enriched biomic systems (www.biospheres.com). GEC’s EcoFrontiers Division, which he co-founded, owns and operates innovative sustainable ecological projects of which he was chief designer: restoration of a farm in Provence, a 5000 acre savannah regeneration project in Australia, a 1000 acre sustainable rainforest timber project in Puerto Rico, a London arts, theater, and seminars building in Bloomsbury (www.ecotechnics.edu).
John also, together with colleagues, especially William Dempster and Margret Augustine, designed and built an ocean going research vessel, the R/V Heraclitus, to sail and study the world’s oceans. Built in 1975, the ship has sailed over 250,000 nautical miles, including up the Amazon and into the Rio Napo, and to Antarctica. The ship, currently in the Western Mediterranean continues its ecological and oral history work while breaking in new people to the ocean world. See www.rvheralitus.org for more information.
A Fellow of the Linnean Society, Allen graduated in Metallurgical-Mining Engineering with honors from Colorado School of Mines, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School with high distinction in Finance as a Baker Scholar, and an Advanced Physiology Certificate from Michigan University. Before engineering, he studied anthropology, classics, writing, and history at Northwestern, Stanford, and Oklahoma universities. He served U.S. Army’s Engineering Corps as machinist; rated as a sharpshooter.
An accomplished speaker, Allen has spoken at a variety of international forums on the emerging science of biospherics; implications of Biosphere 2 for health, environment, science, and culture; the key role of space biospheres to create data needed to understand Earth’s biosphere; and on the necessity for humans to create harmony between ecological systems, world market, and military technics.
Allen has over two dozen publications to his credit, half scientific, the remainder in poetry, drama, essays, short stories, two novels, and ten half-hour film documentaries.
Scientist, poet, playwright, entrepreneur, savant, he put his New York international projects career on hold in 1963 to make a two year journey around the planet on three thousand dollars to experience ground truths of different cultures’ ways of life.
He began with avant-garde and Berber cultures in Tangiers, Morocco. They untwisted his knots. Then, clad in jelaba and yellow Moroccan slippers, he hiked and hitched across N. Africa, explored ancient and modern Egypt, apprenticed to tribal chiefs and shamans journeying south on the Nile through Sudan to Lake Victoria and Mombasa. Then continued south to the Zambian Mining District and on forest trails tracked giant Kudu around the Zambezi Falls, then hitched back to Mombasa to take third class passage to India, where, after apprenticing to Anil Thakkar, he made his way by truck and foot to Nepal and Bengal, then via Burma to South Vietnam to work as field correspondent with Special Forces and Chopper Units, and to assist Project Concern’s medical mission with Montagnards, then lived on a Junk working with Hongkong boat people, then visited Manila and Kyoto, Japan, to meet present day zen masters hip to contemporary tempo.
Allen emerged “after seventeen years and over three hundred thousand warm-up words” as an accomplished writer in Tangiers, age thirty-four. Since then, he portrays personal and cultural history with poetry, short stories, books, and plays. His autobiography, Me and The Biospheres, won the Franklin Award for best biography of 20l0.
Under nom de plume, Johnny Dolphin, he reads his poetry and prose in many places around the world including twice at George Whitman’s Shakespeare & Co. in Paris, Green Street Cafe in New York with Ornette Coleman accompanying on the saxophone, October Gallery in London, and Caravan of Dreams in Fort Worth, Texas. His plays have been staged in many countries on seven continents, from ICA in London and Theatre du Soleil in Paris to Amazonian villages and hip California venues, from Wroclaw to Oshogbo, to a ship in the Antarctic. A teacher of acting (Stanislavsky, Brecht, Artaud influenced his methods), he has worked with over 200 actors and founded ten studios.
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