Kurtis Baute has left his homemade greenhouse, just over 14 hours after he sealed himself in.
A cloudy day resulted in carbon dioxide levels rising quicker than expected, creating a dangerous environment for the Vancouver-based Youtuber.
“The air feels sort of thick,” said Baute an hour before leaving the confines of the cube, built on his brother’s property in Courtenay. “I feel not at my normal high energy, witty self. I feel kind of slightly stupider.”
Baute sealed himself into the 1,000 cubic foot airtight “biodome” at midnight on Wednesday to raise awareness and start a discussion about the impacts of climate change.
With a Master of Science, Baute has always been passionate about the environment and this experiment was meant to be a tiny example of what is currently happening to the earth.
The biodome was filled with over 200 plants to produce oxygen, including sunflowers, corn, and evergreens. Throughout the experiment, Baute measured levels of oxygen and CO2 inside the cube to determine how long he could safely stay inside.
Through his calculations, Baute estimated he would be able to stay in the biodome for 21 hours, but adds there were so many variables, it was difficult to predict. However, the lack of sun was perhaps his biggest issue.
“Sunlight is essential for plant photosynthesis. Without photosynthesis, the plants aren’t taking in carbon dioxide and they’re not putting out much oxygen,” he said. “Without any photosynthesis, they’re actually going to be competing with me for oxygen.”
Baute’s friend and paramedic, Mark Van Eijk, was on hand to make sure nothing went wrong during the experiment.
An hour before Baute exited the biodome, Van Eijk said measuring the levels of CO2 and oxygen was vital because it can be difficult to tell when the levels are too high. In Baute’s case, his oxygen levels were okay, but the CO2 levels were concerning.
“In terms of re-oxygenating… really all he needs to do is come out and take a few big gulps of air and really breathe out. Once he breathes outsides of the box, he should be fine,” said Van Eijk.
Baute’s “abort level” of CO2 was 10,000 parts per million, which was reached just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
“My issue with carbon dioxide is a slightly different and much smaller example of what’s happening globally,” he said.
To put it into perspective, Baute says the earth’s atmosphere currently has 400 ppm of CO2, or 500 ppm in an urban environment, compared to 300 ppm 60 years ago.
“It’s 0.04 per cent of the air – it’s a tiny amount, but a small increase makes a big difference,” he said.
But though Baute did track the oxygen and CO2 levels throughout the night and day, the real reason for the experiment was to engage people on the topic of climate change and inspire lifestyle changes.
“There’s tons of data, and scientists know and are at a consensus that climate change is happening and it’s caused by humans. I don’t need to contribute to that data set with an experiment I did in my backyard. But hopefully I can engage people and get them on board with making lifestyle changes.
“We need to eat less meat, we need to drive less and we need to vote and we need to have conversations about [climate change].”
Baute documented his experiences and will be posting his videos on his Youtube channel with the same name.