The new undiscovered world captures the imagination and calls to explorers and scientists alike. The “New World” for Europeans in the 1400s didn’t just bring us Columbus, Vespucci, and colonization, but it also brought the scientists, the travel journals, and the botanists. Today, environmentalists, naturalists, botanists, hobbyists look to enclosed systems for study. On a small scale, a terrarium can show kids how a world might begin, change, grow. (If you’re interested in this science experiment, take a look at the article on Lifehaker & the Instructions at Instructable.)
On an even larger scale, we have the Biosphere 2 in Arizona and BIOS-3 in Siberia. These are large bio-domes with not only enclosed ecosystems, but human habitation as well. Biosphere 2 has been considered a failure. It failed in the ability for humans to live in the dome for long periods (as you might expect, there was infighting of the full-on soap opera sort). It failed in a business sense, and as the ecosystem didn’t sustain itself, it failed in the scientific sense. Both of these projects are no longer sustained.
All that aside, it does bring the question of how man approaches the new world and new ecosystems. Must man colonize and overtake, as the example of the Americas so well represents? Can man create a livable ecosystem for space travel, exploration, and settling?
The most recent and most notable look at this concept is the movie Avatar. The idea of Earth and how it approaches the resources of a un-plundered new world.
Two recent science fiction romance reads are also wonderful looks at the concept of a future Earth/Human kind and their approach to new worlds and indigenous people. Take a look at Close Encounters by Katherine Allred, a prime example of an indigenous people endangered by the corporation (advanced civilization). And The Host by Stephanie Meyer, where the concept is turned on its head. Humans are the “backward” indigenous and a more civilized alien race comes to call.