Here’s an interesting question I never thought to ask before: How fast does B5 bleed resources?
The station was obviously intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, and it comfortably supported a population of a quarter million humans and aliens. However, it was a port of call, which meant that a lot of resources were coming and going all the time, a lot of people were coming and going all the time, sometimes there were far larger numbers on the station (Such as taking in Narn refugees, 20,000 Gropos, or various other refugees in the shadow wars) and no system is ever 100% efficient. Hell, the earth itself is gradually bleeding resources into space, albeit verrrrrrrry slowwwwwwwly.
They make it very clear in the course of the show that the station does have to import resources, though it’s as self-sufficient as they could make it when it was being built. This didn’t pose a problem until the civil war when the suply lines from earth were cut, and the station had to live off of only what they could grow, beg, or steal. Since the station’s allies had problems of their own, they weren’t (Apparently) bringing in shipments of food. They make it pretty clear that had they not cut deals with some smugglers, the station would have been in trouble.
This implies that the station was bleeding resources. The question is how fast? Can we figure it out, knowing as little as we know?
Firstly, we know the station was 5 miles long and 2756 feet wide. It’s not a perfect cyllender. In fact, it’s needlessly irregular, but for sake of argument assume it is: This give us an internal space of 5,965,520 square feet, or 136 square acres. They make it clear on the show that nearly all the space in the internal atrium is used for growing food, and it’s grown on the surface, one layer only. We know they don’t grow animals, since they talk about importing steaks (Which are insanely prohibitive) and there’s no mention of farms, chickens, fish, things that actually would be pretty easy to grow, oddly. In fact, we never see fruit trees (Odd since…well, wait on that for later). We do see what’s obviously grain being harvested.
So let’s assume they’re using every internal acre to grow wheat. They’re not – they have some buildings, a garden maze, a zen garden, a baseball diamond, etc, so not all the space is used, but let’s pretend it is.
Wheat gives us 4 million callories to the acre. That means B5 grows 23 trillion, 862 billion, eighty million calories of food a year. (Conversely, apple trees can generate 23.6 million calories per acre!)
Now, the standard population of the station is a quarter million humans and aliens, divided about 50/50. Just as a starting point, let’s assume (For no reason whatsoever) that all those biologies have roughly the same caloric needs as humans (Demonstrably many of them don’t, but this is a rough assumption here). Nobody on the station appears to be starving, few appear fat, and those are mostly tourists, so figure 2500 calories a day x 250,000 people = 635 million calories a day.
My thinking is that we’d subtract the annual caloric need from the maximum caloric production, and the difference would be the rate at which the station bleeds resources. That is to say, how long it could continue to function until its food production facilities fall apart.
This is where my inadequate math abilities break down: I assume if I divide the big number by the little number, that should give me the number of days the people on the station can survive from that one harvest, right? The answer I keep getting is 38,179 days, or about 104 years.
So whatever the smugglers were bringing in, it damn well wasn’t food.
All these numbers are over-generous, since the actual atrium space on the station is considerably narrower than the external dimensions, and I’ll try to get more accurate numbers later on. This’ll do for an absolute-upper-end extimate, however. A theoretical maximum.