SGO: The launch of WHOLE EARTH? and the SOS at the Eden Project, Cornwall – a student review

One Thursday night back in October I was minding my own business getting ready to go out. As I checked my laptop, I had received a message from Alex (our Sustainability Projects Officer) asking me if I was interested in an event near me that wouldn’t cost me a penny.

Intrigued, I questioned it further, knowing Alex, it had to be something relating to sustainability. As I’d guessed, he announced that it was the WHOLE EARTH? exhibition launch party taking place at the Eden project in Cornwall. Several students, SU Sabbatical Officers and staff were going down there to attend the launch and someone had dropped out very last minute – Alex wondered if I would like to take their place. As a student studying plant science it was a rare opportunity to attend such a prestigious event. Unable to say no, I dropped everything in a heartbeat and agreed to go. After a few phone calls and text exchanges I was in and registered. The meeting point was at the University at precisely 7:30am the following morning, where we’d be travelling by car. That night I cancelled my plans to go out in exchange for a good night’s rest.

Friday morning I set my alarm for 6am and was out of the house by 7am. The early morning air was cold and frosty as I made my way to the rendezvous. I was the first to arrive, swiftly followed by Sustainability team staff member Stephen Scoffham, and before long Sophie, SU President of Student Activities arrived and was followed by Peter Rands, Director of Sustainability Development. Lastly, Education Studies students Jack and Affie arrived together.

Driving past rivers, the countryside and Stonehenge, we finally reached the Eden Project, bursting with excitement with an hour to spare before the party began, we went to go find the registration office, where we were greeted by two foals made out of driftwood. I remembered the Skywire ride had opened when I last visited the Eden Project and with an hour to spare we decided to go on that ride. “Why not?” we said, “we’re never going to have this chance again…”, which eventually became our group motto.

We rode the Skywire ride with a rush of adrenaline, and then hurried back to meet the supervisors, just making it back in time to collect our name tags and wrist bands for the workshop. We helped ourselves to free refreshments (including big chewy cookies that were crunchy on the outside, gooey in the middle), and after introductions from the people who had made this exhibition possible, it was time for us to go to our workshops; I chose the economics workshop. The speaker was a very enthusiastic person. We started with a short, fun activity to ‘break the ice’, followed by group work to discuss and trade opinions, which enabled us to gain new insights on each topic.

After the workshop it was already late in the evening and we were ushered to the dining hall and given motivational and awe inspiring speeches. Table by table we were called up for dinner and welcomed by a wide variety of vegetarian food, choosing our mains, salad and dessert. Whilst eating we had lively music playing and met more interesting characters.

After dinner we moved into the Mediterranean Biome where we were greeted by slow, almost operatic kind of music which had a sustainability theme. The Biome was lit with lights that were dotted around, hiding in-between plants, the reflection of them causing the Biome to look like the night sky littered with stars. The atmosphere was tranquil, peaceful, mesmerising with a dash of romance. It was a moment where you can turn round and explain to a friend that if you had to describe the feeling of falling in love, this would be it.

Exploring the Biome at night with music was a very unique, surreal experience. After the music finished we were herded to listen to another speech, an artist describing her work of wooden dominoes, the message being that, like the dominoes, once we past the tipping point there is no going back.

Lastly, we were hurried to the Rainforest Biome. We came across several art pieces portraying an artist’s views on the world of sustainability, wooden huts, stalls containing bag of spices, big descriptive posters, hanging bananas on a conveyor belt and a great gushing waterfall, the splashes of droplets cooling us down from the humidity.

We ventured on to the canopy layer and followed the lighted path in the darkness. It was a magical feeling, almost like being in a different world, as the luscious green plants covered everything. We were in our own place and went at our own pace, the more we walked the more new paths opened up for us to explore.

When the Biomes finally shut, we met up with our staff supervisors and made our way back to the youth hostel.

By 8am the following morning we were out of bed. We went to browse the shop and grabbed some breakfast, and after sitting down and talking about the previous night’s events, we split off from Peter and Stephen and explored the Biomes again, but in the daylight this time. We discovered the waterfall from last night could be used as a wishing fountain and we all tossed our coins in simultaneously, making our wishes. There sadly wasn’t enough time to fully explore, so we we skimmed through the Biomes and made our way back to the meeting point.

As we said our last goodbyes to the place we began our journey back to Canterbury.

Being a part of such an amazing adventure was a wonderful experience and I have definitely made some friends who I’ll be keeping in touch with. It was a unique opportunity and we definitely bonded, being together almost 24/7, sharing many new experiences. It has definitely inspired us to work harder with our sustainability goals and even inspired Jack to start a film society!

I hope there’ll be more engaging projects like this where students can learn through hands on experience. It has definitely inspired me to work harder on my course and hopefully go on to a career working in this field.

whole earth

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