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Inside The Giant $160 Million Greenhouses Where Björk Sings And Dreams Greater Than Elon Musk’s Grow

(Source: www.forbes.com)

Photo courtesy of the Eden Project.

Earlier this year Elon Musk rocket-launched a Tesla car into space playing one song on repeat—Space Oddity by the late musical legend David Bowie.

Today, however, world-leading artists like Björk, Jack Johnson and Queens of the Stone Age are supporting a more Earth-focused mission.

All have chosen to perform at a very unusual gig venue in the British countryside called the Eden Project, where giant $160 million domed greenhouses nestle into the rolling hills and are home to millions of plant species.

“Eden was once a postindustrial wasteland in the clay mining part of Cornwall,” the Eden Project’s CEO Gordon Seabright says of the 88-hectare site, now sprinkled with wildflowers.

“If we put as much energy into looking after our wonderful planet as some people are putting into sending cars to others, we’d have a much better chance of solving some of our biggest problems.”

Photo courtesy of Eden Project/Credit Santiago Felipe.

Why Björk and Jack Johnson are playing at Eden

Around 40,000 people come to the so-called Eden Sessions every summer, with Take That’s Gary Barlow, Brit Award-winners Massive Attack and Mercury Prize-winners Young Fathers having already taken to the stage this year.

These artists have headlined the first of eight gig sessions throughout June and July—all of which take place in Eden’s outdoor amphitheater, a landmark left behind by the mining industry.

Behind the stage, revelers are treated to a view of Eden’s 180-foot-high “biodomes” magically pulsating light to the music (180 feet is the height of 12 double-decker buses stacked on top of one another).

But perhaps the best bit is the fact that Eden’s £40 ($53) gig tickets also include a day pass to the wider site.

Photo courtesy of the Eden Project/Credit Hufton Crow.

Before or after watching their favorite bands play, music fans get to explore Eden’s great bulbous greenhouses (home to the world’s largest indoor rainforest and a seasonal Mediterranean climate) and an exciting education center called the Core (this is housed in an incredible spiked building reminiscent of a spiral shell).

“One of my favorite memories is when Motorhead played their last ever U.K. gig here,” Seabright recalls.

“The next day, the site was absolutely rammed with leather-clad rockers going around smelling the flowers, learning about the crops we need to feed us and the value of the rainforest—exactly the kind of light touch learning that’s so important for the future of our planet,” he explains.  

Photo courtesy of the Eden Project.

Regenerating the planetand the Cornish economy

Over the past 16 years, everyone from Elton John to Oasis and Lionel Richie has played at Eden, with Blondie (rather appropriately) even bringing her Pollinator tour to the idyll last year.

But the Eden Sessions are just one highlight in the Eden Projects’ year-round season which includes events like the Penguin Pride literary festival, the Eden Project Marathon and various rowing and cycling competitions.

Many visitors come to wander through Eden’s plush biodomes, to traverse a walkway over its 50m high tropical rainforest canopy, and learn what resilient plants can survive long dry summers.

But lots of people also come purely to see Eden’s sci-fi domes themselves. Designed by Grimshaw architects—and showcased last year on Britain’s Royal Mail stamps—these impressive structures are held up on clay foundations by 5,000 rock pins, and are lighter than the very air inside them.

Photo courtesy of the Eden Project/Credit Hufton Crow.

Since it opened in 2001—off the back of $160 million funding from the likes of the National Lottery, the EU and Cornwall itself—the charity has attracted over 20 million visitors.

It generates a surplus of funds each year (which it reinvests) making £24 million ($32 million) in revenue for the year ending March 2018, up from £23 million ($30 million) the year before.

In all, the biodiversity project has breathed new life into Cornwall, injecting around £1.7 billion ($2.3 billion) into the local economy since opening, says Seabright, and today around 2,100 jobs depend on it.

Eden is even embracing geothermal energy to cut its Co2 emissions, and power and heat local homes (and possibly a new sustainable hotel).

“Cornwall, like many parts of the U.K., is proving there’s no good waiting for London to fix your problem,” Seabright observes.

Photo courtesy of the Eden Project.

Don’t be daft

On a broader level, the future isn’t entirely rosy for this beautiful corner of England.

Seabright notes how “profoundly important” EU funding has been for Cornwall and how difficult some will find it once Brexit sees that funding cut.

But at least Eden is “all about people coming together,” adds the CEO positively. “Our mission has never been more important than at a moment when there’s a global sense of people moving further apart.”

It’s this ethos that today sees the Eden Project working with global partners around the world to open new “Edens” in China, Australia and New Zealand.

Unannounced projects are also being finalized in the Middle East and the U.S., where perhaps Seabright might get a chance to tell Elon Musk how he really feels.

“You can imagine that if humankind ever does colonize other planets they will probably do it with something that looks a bit like the Eden Project,” Seabright says of Musk’s galactic ambitions.

“But how daft we are as a species if we decide the solution to our problems is not to look after the planet we’ve got, but to go haring off after another one.”

Could Eden’s mission be more important than Elon Musk’s? You could always follow Björk and Jack Johnson to its giant domes to find out.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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