Most of the time, I feel like a misfit. Once I developed an interest in the environment, I stepped away from mainstream culture – the culture that’s constantly trying to sell us something, with businesses that don’t care who or what they destroy in their pursuit of profit. Even before that I was geeky, and I just seem to feel more different with every passing year. I love the internet, and its ability to bring likeminded people together; all of the gardeners I have encountered online have been lovely people, but because I focus on growing edibles in an organic, peat-free and wildlife-friendly way, I still don’t feel part of the mainstream.
That feeling disappeared on Friday morning, when Ryan and I arrived at the Eden Project in Cornwall. I love the Eden Project, and I have visited several times over the years. Ryan and I have been there together once before, three years ago.
The Eden Project was built, and is run, by people just like me. People who love plants, and who live to showcase how important plants are to humanity and the planet. People who believe that the environment should come first, and that sustainable, ethical business can and should support the local community. In a giant bubble in Cornwall I can shelter from a world where people think it’s OK to drop litter, put nappies in recycle bins (or flush them down the toilet), stop supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities, chop down ancient forests and fly to the Moon and back five times a year for holidays.
At the Eden Project, everything I believe in is laid out, and feels so natural. It’s not rammed down anyone’s throat, it’s packaged in a way that it’s in the background while you’re enjoying yourself in a lovely setting. It’s partly a botanic garden, where you can see plants that don’t normally grow in this part of the world, and partly a theme park. But it’s 100% a showcase of humanity’s best efforts, which makes it a wonderful place to go to escape from that constant nagging feeling that the world is a horrible, unkind place.
I have always wished I live closer to Eden. But I will visit when I can, to breathe in its spirit of renewal, bring back ideas to build my own mini Eden, and remind myself that – all across the country – there are people like me trying to grow a better world.