Non-fiction – paperback; Corgi; 286 pages; 2002.
The Eden Project is a series of man-made biomes built in a disused clay pit in Cornwall, England. One of the British Government’s much-lauded Millennium Projects, it opened to critical acclaim in 2001 and has been on my list of places to visit for many years.
Designed to educate the public about plants and our dependence on them, it features the world’s biggest conservatories, the first of which emulates a tropical environment, the second a warm temperate Mediterranean environment. Both biomes are made out of “bubbles” — sturdy plastic, air-filled hexagons — which interlock to form a series of gigantic greenhouses that are home to thousands of plants from across the world.
I visited the complex last month and was so in awe of its scale and beauty that I purchased this book, by the project’s founder, in the souvenir shop because I was keen to learn more about the project’s inception and difficult birth.
Reading Tim Smit’s account it’s hard not to feel inspired by the positivity that pours off every page. This was a project so ambitious in size, scale and concept that few people thought it would get off the ground. Indeed, at every turn, there was opposition from every front, whether it be finding a suitable site, getting the money to build it, convincing local communities that it was going to be good for the area or finding architects that could design something workable.
If nothing else Smit’s book — and the Eden Project itself — reveals that a diverse group of people working together with a common vision can pretty much achieve anything if they put their minds to it. Smit also argues that finding reasons to do things rather than finding reasons why they can’t be done was the secret behind the project’s success.
This is a wholly readable account of a complex project coming to fruition, although the endless cast of characters that Smit name checks — and then praises — does get a little confusing after awhile. (You almost wish he’d start dishing the dirt on those who didn’t co-operate or played hardball, if only to make the story an even more intriguing one.)
I found it a thoroughly absorbing read and one that enhanced my understanding of the project in ways that weren’t apparent when I was actually wondering around the biomes on foot. In short Eden is an uplifting human success story, one that drips with inspiration without being too preachy or too earnest.