One of the places we visited in Cornwall was the Eden Project, which is located in an abandoned 170-year-old china clay quarry. One of the friends who was travelling with us wanted to go there because she remembered that (part of) one of the James Bond movies, “Die Another Day,” starring Pierce Brosnan, was filmed there in 2002. And, since we all like plants, plus I was curious to see a real live turmeric plant (see photo no. 3 below, left), off we went.
In a nutshell, the Eden Project is the world’s largest greenhouse. It has been called the eighth wonder of the world, I read this morning. Its two massive, weird-looking, artificial, covered “biomes” (see my first two photos–the one with Honey gives an outside view, the other, an inside view) host and protect a huge variety of plants from all over the world…The Rainforest biome contains tropical plants; the second biome contains plants from the Mediterranean/South African/Californian area.
These two “domes” are made of hundreds of huge hexagonal and pentagonal plastic bubbles (that’s what they look like, at any rate) supported by steel frames. There are no internal supports, as far as I could tell. Bizarre. But it works.
We spent most of our time inside the Rainforest biome, which is 3.9 acres (55 metres/180 feet high, 100 metres/328 feet wide, and 200 metres/656 feet long…ah yes, it’s BIG). Boyohboy is it hot in there! And it gets progressively hot as you wander up the path leading towards the panoramic platform. In fact, it got to be so hot and damp up there that our camera lenses clouded over (so we couldn’t take any more photos), we began sweating madly and one of my friends started feeling a bit ill, so we stopped to rest in an air-conditioned chamber so that she could recover.
In the end, we didn’t quite make it to the top of the biome…the heat and damp were too overwhelming (I mean, after all, the four of us went to the UK in part to escape from the Tuscan summer heat…!). But even though we didn’t get to the panoramic platform, see photo no. 2, we found what we were looking for—namely, the cocoa plant (yeah, chocolate! Photo no. 4), the nutmeg tree, the curry leaf plant, and various other spice plants, from paprika to cinnamon…And we had a very nice baobab smoothie, made with baobab pulp, coconut milk, pineapple juice and some mint.
At one point, I came across a plant that I’d never heard of—Devil’s Tongue, or Amorphophallus konjac. It’s an eastern Asian edible plant. I took a photo of the sign describing its medicinal properties, and here follows the transcription: As it contains no fat and is low in calories it is suitable as a diet food. Due to its high fibre content it can help reduce the causes of cancer, heart disease and gallstones. It is also used as a treatment for wounds, tumours, skin diseases plus snake, insect and rodent bites. Interesting. The photo came out a bit too blurry…sorry about that.
For me, the most interesting part of the second biome, the Mediterranean area one, was the area devoted to chilli pepper varieties (see photo no. 5). I had no idea there were so many. One of the hottest chillies in the world is called Dorset Naga (Capsicum chinese)…On the Scoville Scale of Heat, it measures 1.6 million. YIKES! If you eat an entire one of these chillies, you will probably end up in the hospital, so beware! Compare that to cayenne pepper, which is “only” 400,000. Wow, I cannot even imagine…and I really enjoy hot, spicy food, mind you…
By the way, the Scoville scale measures the amount of capsaicin (=the myeloma killer, yeah!) present in the fruit. And here is a bit of trivia: pure capsaicin measures 15 MILLION units on the Scoville scale…YIKES!!! And did you know that law enforcement grade pepper spray measures 5 million units? That’s the equivalent of more than three Dorset Nagas! Ouch.
Now we get to the controversial part of this post.
I was fascinated by the Eden Project, and in a way I still am, but I have to admit at being absolutely horrified and shocked by what I read a short while ago on various websites…for instance, one of the EP’s partners is a British mining company (!!!!!!) called Rio Tinto. What the…??? This company is supposed to begin (or perhaps has already begun…) mining in Madagascar for titanium dioxide, which means that a large area of that splendid coastal forest will be devastated, with unimaginable consequences for the local flora and fauna. Helloooo????? Where is the positive, environmental friendly message in that??? 🙁
I also read that the Eden Project accepts funds from some rather nasty corporate environmental offenders/polluters such as the Syngenta Foundation, which was founded in 2000 by Novartis (hmmm, where have I heard that name before? 😉 ) and AstraZeneca, both promoters of genetically modified technology (HORROR!!!!!!). Both of these companies manufacture hazardous chemicals, such as paraquat…No, I’m not kidding…and, to be honest, I didn’t know that Novartis was involved in crap like this…not that I’m surprised, eh…! Not at all.
And then I read that the Eden Project, which is supposed to make the world into a better place, hah, has not taken a position on genetically modified foodstuff. HRRRUMPH!!! Shame shame shame!!!!! 🙁
My post began as a celebration of the Eden Project but has turned into a partial condemnation, due to the EP’s ties to the evil, polluting corporate world…I am verrrrry disappointed, to say the least…
Oh, I wanted to mention one more thing. Out of curiosity, I read the biographies of a few past and present members of the EP’s board of trustees, and I was most definitely not impressed—defence contractors as well as Nestlé (evil Nestlé!) and chemical industry executives…simply incredible. Or perhaps not, come to think of it. Well, there is a lot more information online, if you are interested in reading more about the EP’s corporate ties…
In retrospect, had I known about all of those negative corporate polluter connections, I probably wouldn’t have gone there at all. But I have to admit that it was interesting to see a real, live turmeric plant as well as other tropical spice plants that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise…And it’s also true that the EP has provided jobs for lots of people in an economically depressed area…
But now I very much doubt the EP will change the world, which is what it intended to do…originally…theoretically…
Well…who’d have thought my post would take such a disappointing turn…
Eden may change the world, but who knows how? With the backing, I suspect the purpose of Eden is to develop certain plants and then somehow try to put a patent on them so they can assure themselves of the control and distribution of the plant or plant properties. I am EVER suspicious of any corporate involvement.
….hummmm…Rio Tinto Co “mining in Madagascar for titanium dioxyde…” if I’m right, that’s what they use as nano particles in cosmetics and lots of other things which we should keep off our bodies( just one of the articles warning us: http://www.news-medical.net/news/20091117/Titanium-dioxide-nanoparticles-causes-systemic-genetic-damage-in-mice-say-researchers.aspx )
So, in a way, EP may well “change the world”!:::
Well thanks a bunch for that! I’ve always thought the Eden Project looked a great place to visit. Having recently found out about a much loved bath time treat company taking an outrageously wacky stance on immigration I now find out that Rio Tinto, the great strip miner, and Nestle! are part of this. I’m off for a Cadbury’s Wispa bar (if you know anything about Cadburys I’d be glad if you kept it to yourself!) ;D
Dear Margaret, I found your post today after having visited EP yesterday (4th Jun 2012) – and having started all excited about this visit I ended up very deluded and disillusioned indeed when towards the end of my visit I found out their relationship with Rio Tinto…
I have even written to them about this, but then I found out about all other stuff (their trustee board of directors for example) and I am even more sad – the place is interesting, what they say is something I agree with, but how comes then they mix with such companies?
A charity? How can such co. claim to be a charity? This should not be allowed…
Anyway, thanx for the post which really is exactly what I felt yesterday myself.