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Travel | Greenhouse Effect

With the opening of the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, a former pop-music producer named Tim Smit has become one of the most visible advocates of thoughtful eating in Europe. "We buy prepared food in great variety, at relatively low cost, every day," Smit says, "but do we know or care where it comes from or how it's produced?"

Smit's $130 million creation is more than just the world's largest greenhouse; it's a spectacular theater telling the story of human dependence on plants. The exhibits, representing major ecological zones, are contained within a cluster of seven gigantic geodesic domes in a former clay mine almost 200 feet deep; the Tower of London would fit inside the Humid Tropics Biome, which houses a global range of plants. A snaking path climbs high into the curve of the dome, through cocoa trees, banana palms, scarlet-berried coffee plants, sugarcane, pineapples, trees heavy with mangoes and custard apples.

Throughout the complex, sculpture, poetry and paintings remind us that virtually all our food comes from plants. A gold mosaic path evokes the long tradition of olive oil as a symbol of light, life and divinity; a spice galleon made of scented wood tells the story of the sixteenth-century's nutmeg wars. Eden delivers a passionate message about the planet (Smit hopes the project will lead to ideas for improvements in farming and food production), but there's no hair-shirt environmentalism here; it's all put together with wit and fun.

--Jessica Palmer

Published August 2001
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