Eden in Brisbane: Engaging community in sustainability
A joint initiative of
Prelude: an extract from Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit
I. The 21st century and the challenges ahead
II. Interpretation at the Eden Project
III. Minds-On: Hearts-On
Interlude: Why it’s important to play
I. Eden’s interpretation principles
II. Eden’s community engagement principles
III. Working with artists: the Eden approach
Interlude: the Heart and Soul of Rock ‘n’ Roll (a questionnaire)
I. The point of what we did
II. The programme
III. Exercises and outcomes
IV. Brisbane: Islands and ‘Road Maps’
There are times when it seems as though not only the future but the present
is dark: few recognise what a radically transformed world we live in, one
that has been transformed not only by such nightmares as global warming
or global capital, but by dreams of freedom, of justice, and transformed
by things we could not have dreamed of. What accretion of incremental,
imperceptible changes made them possible, and how did they come about?
And so we need to hope for the realisation of our own dreams, but also to
recognise a world that will remain wilder than our imaginations.
Cause and effect assumes history marches forward, but history is not an
army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away
stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one
person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later; sometimes
a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass
movement and millions do; sometimes those millions are stirred by the
same outrage or the same ideal, and change comes upon us like a change
of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they
begin in the imagination, in hope. To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the
future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty
is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it is the
opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.
I say all this because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on a sofa
and clutch, feeling lucky. I say it because hope is an axe you break down
doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door,
because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from
endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding
down of the poor and marginal.
Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not
guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.
Anything could happen, and whether we act or not has everything to do
with it. Though there is no lottery ticket for the lazy and the detached, for
the engaged there is a tremendous gamble for the highest stakes right
now. I say this to you not because I haven’t noticed that the US has strayed
close to destroying itself and its purported values in pursuit of empire in
the world and the eradication of democracy at home, that our civilisation
is close to destroying the very nature on which we depend – the oceans,
the atmosphere, the uncounted species of plant and insect and bird. I say
it because I have noticed that wars will break out, the planet will heat up,
species will die out, but how many, how hot and what survives depends on
whether we act. The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the
womb as the grave.
Stories trap us, stories free us, we live and die by stories, but hearing
people talk of [the certainty of despair] is hearing them tell themselves a
story they believe is being told to them. What other stories can be told?
How do people recognise that they have the power to be storytellers,
not just listeners? Hope is the story of uncertainty, of coming to terms
with the risk involved in not knowing what comes next, which is more
demanding than despair and, in a way, more frightening. And immeasurably
We thank Rebecca Solnit for permission to reprint these edited extracts from her book
Hope in the Dark: The Untold History of People Power, published by Canongate Books.
Our lives will change in the years ahead in ways that may not totally
be within our control, but in ways that we can influence. This century
is going to demand the best of us. It will demand the best of our
innovation and imagination, our justice, our creativity, our community
resilience, our humanity. We will need flexible, innovative, inspired
and strong individuals and communities, ready to respond to the best
of their abilities to the challenges ahead and fully aware of the need
to support each other. We will need to examine our core values, and
place the worth of things above the costs of things.
Eden Project exhibits, our educational programmes and our events
address many of these issues, and increasingly we have also increased
the opportunities for community groups, local and national, to use us
as a meeting and learning place and as a stage to let their voices be
heard, to express their values, hopes and ambitions for the future.
We see this work as having national, and international, relevance
but it has its roots in Cornwall – our community. This is a county
that has seen great wealth come and go, intimately related to
natural resources; it is a county that encompasses the extremes
of natural beauty and dereliction; it is a county rich in creativity
and with a strong sense of identity; it is a county with a strong
history of invention and enterprise; it is a county that has seen the
industries that helped define that identity collapse leaving fractured
communities and a devastated economic base behind. The Cornwall
experience therefore has much to say about the challenges of radical
transformation and change, of sustainable use of resources, and of
how communities find the strength and inspiration to move forwards.
Eden Project is also open to ideas,
voices and inspiration from people across
the globe that have been working to solve the challenge of
how the future might be better than it could be – and finding
real solutions that deserve to be shared. Our partnership with
Brisbane City Council is teaching us much about what a 21st-century
city might look like, and about the values and behaviours we will
need to propagate for our communities to survive and thrive.
Every day we use plants from every continent. We eat them, drink
them, take them as medicine, clothe ourselves with them, build our
furniture and houses with them, perfume ourselves with them.
They put colour in our fabrics and our food, they make up most of
our paper and packaging. They stop us from getting pregnant and
from getting our feet wet.
They intoxicate us; they give us cancer when we smoke them.
And even things we think aren’t made of plants – oil, petrol, coal,
plastics – have their origins in the great primeval forests.
Most of us in the developed world now live in happy ignorance of
the processes and people that bring us the amazing products that
give us our standard of living. And the cost of this ignorance is an
irresponsible, inequitable and unsustainable use of the
We care not what the life expectancy of a banana plantation worker
is, poisoned by pesticides, providing we can have cheap bananas.
We must have chocolate, not understanding that the price of
our sweet tooth is many acres of rainforest turned over to
cocoa plantation, some of it harvested by child slave labour.
We no longer respect the seasons, expecting mange tout
peas to be flown to us from Africa in midwinter. We have
become disconnected in a fundamental way from nature
and natural processes and cycles.
This is not healthy.
In the gentlest of ways, without making people feel depressed or
guilty, at the Eden Project we are inviting people to engage with
these ideas, to celebrate our dependence on nature and on each
other, and to start recognising the power and responsibility we have
to respect our resources and share them.
So this then is the content of the Eden Project, its meaning.
But it has another healing mission too: the regeneration of our home,
Cornwall. We have taken a big hole in the ground, stabilised it,
drained it, landscaped and planted it, and given it a contemporary
role and meaning.
We currently employ 500 people all the year round in real jobs. In
our first year of operation 2 million people visited us, four times what
was expected. It is estimated that more than £900 million has now
been put back into the local economy. New businesses have started
and are thriving, many picking up on Eden themes of sustainability;
restaurants cooking and serving locally grown food, recycling
companies collecting and processing waste, other gardens opening to
the public, plant nurseries growing unfamiliar plants associated with
familiar products – bananas, coffee, papaya – for people to buy and
nurture at home.
We talked about the nature of experience, learning
and behaviour change, and the relationship of
emotion to these things.
When we started on this journey, we did some field research. We
went to the other science parks, museums and galleries and watched
visitors’ behaviour around the exhibits. We watched people
not reading text panels. We watched people not watching
films, no matter how beautifully produced. We saw a child
playing with one of those interactive exhibits in the
London Aquarium. You had to push the right buttons
and the display panel would light up showing you where fish lived,
or what they ate, or some such. He was having a great time hitting
the red buttons, but no connection was being made with the content
of the exhibit. But we saw the same child later queuing to touch the
back of a real stingray in a pool.
We started playing the ‘Day Out’
game inviting people to describe
encounters and experiences that
had stayed with them, changed them
in some way (see ‘A Day Out’).
At Eden we have taken the idea of these transformative moments
and turned them to the purposes of education. And now we have to
unpick our assumptions about what constitutes education.
Each exhibit has behind it mountains of data about the history,
botany, politics, science, economic significance, myths and legends
of the plant in question. And the temptation when you have this
knowledge in the bank is to tell it all, to transmit it. But that isn’t
education. In a world where information is only a Google mouse-click
away, it seems less and less important to focus our resources and
visitors’ time on the delivery of pure facts.
Understanding patterns, making connections with one’s own life,
provoking curiosity seem much more significant. And sometimes
simply getting out of the way, resisting the temptation to mediate, to
interpret, to tell…
We recently undertook a review of the Eden Project guides, observing
them at work, and as a result developed a kind of ‘triage’, a hierarchy
for the content they might deliver. Here are some examples to
illustrate the different levels.
At the bottom level is
buzz of irrelevant information. One guide told us, ‘Spain produces
12 million litres of olive oil a year.’ This fact is only remotely
interesting if you are an olive oil producer. And if you are you
probably already know it. Delete.
information that carries a freight
of understanding or revelation. For example: ‘The amount of
government subsidy received by cotton farmers in the USA is greater
than the entire GNP of Burkina Faso, whose main export is cotton.’
Highest in the hierarchy comes
stories that bring
human content, create empathy, carry an emotional charge of some
kind… ‘An Aid NGO was engaged in work in Senegal. In one village
the women had to walk 6 kilometres to the nearest safe well to fetch
water. The NGO sank a borehole right in the middle of the village.
Two weeks later it had been vandalised. They returned and repaired
the damage. Two weeks later it happened again. Mystified they
returned to the village to find out what was going on. The women
were vandalising the borehole. The 6km walk to the well was the only
time they had to themselves, away from the demands of their children
and menfolk. At the well they would rest, talk, tell stories, gossip.’
This story gives us that precious thing, a window on other people’s
lives, and a reminder not to assume that everyone else shares our
values and our conceptual framework.
So this is the balance we try to strike between ‘sense’ and ‘sensibility’,
between information and experience. We don’t always get it right,
but it’s a very interesting process… And some visitors want factual
content. The gardeners who visit would like every single plant
specimen labelled. We choose not to label everything, on the basis
that we would end up with a veritable graveyard of labels. So we’re
experimenting with other ways of targeting this information –
booklets, people, web-pages, even audio guides.
On the other hand we are extremely opportunistic in our
appropriation of every available encounter or transaction
as a means of engaging and communicating.
Much existing interpretation employs the values and approaches
in the left-hand column. Indeed if you want to educate to a specific
output (e.g. knowing how to re-wire a plug or the detailed processes
of photo-synthesis) you will need to use some of this more linear toolkit. However if you seek to create a fertile learning environment, the
right-hand side becomes more interesting.
This binary list was created by Dr Ian Russell,
leading science educator and exhibit inven
What do you remember about your childhood? Making dens, climbing
trees, playing outdoors with friends perhaps? What did it do for
you? Fond memories possibly but play has also helped all of us to
become more rounded citizens; happy, fulfilled, able to interact with
others, communicate, understand our environment and live, survive
and contribute to a positive society. Today more children play indoors
rather than out and take part in solitary rather than social activities,
children are suffering from stress, are less fit and parents are
concerned about safety … so how on earth can they learn the things
we learnt through play as children?
The situation is getting serious.
Play occurs in all cultures and persists in the most adverse
circumstances; a drive to play is innate. However:
‘Children’s natural propensity to play has been impaired by the loss
of suitable public space, the impact of technology, such as television,
the personal computer and the motor car, and the changing attitude
of society towards children, reflected, for instance, in the increase in
parental anxiety about child safety. Play provision should compensate
for this loss.’ – Best Play, National Playing Fields Association,
Play Link, Children’s Play Council. (2000)
Open-ended learning through play is linked to psychological,
personal and social development, as well as the acquisition of skills
‘A Swedish comparative study of “standard” v “outdoors in
all weathers” nurseries shows significant differences in child
development: children were less sick, motor development was
more advanced, power of concentration was heightened, play
activities were more diverse, especially in the affective,
imaginative and social domains.’
– Natural Learning Initiative, NC State University.
Through play children explore social, material and imaginary worlds
and their relationship with them, elaborating all the while a flexible
range of responses to challenges they encounter. Good play
experiences support the development of autonomous adults, with
a strong sense of personal identity, who are effective in society as
parents, workers, informed consumers and active citizens.
Without play children may lose the chance to develop their emotional
intelligence, independence, self-esteem and self-confidence,
acquisition of self-management skills and much more.
Eden aims to reconnect people with the natural world, and each
other, working towards a positive future for all. Our children will soon
be the decision makers in this world so it is vital that we provide
dedicated inspirational experiences for them on site. Eden is not only
a vehicle for education and communication but also explores ways in
which people learn and develop. We aim to share this knowledge with
educators, museums, science centres, botanic gardens, schools etc.
That is, all those involved in formal and informal education.
Research has shown that knowledge alone does not lead to behaviour
change and that changing values alone does not lead to
behaviour change. What does work is connectivity,
re-connectivity, experience and participation.
Play is the first step.
Through play children develop a range of skills that equip them
for life; physical skills, language and social skills, positive attitudes,
increased concentration, tolerance, perseverance and much more.
Through play children learn how to learn, how to solve problems,
how to string bits of behaviour together.
These were the interpretation principles we developed at Eden
Project, which informed our choices:
• We want to generate
in our visitors.
To provoke joy and curiosity. To break through cynicism.
• We want to make exhibits and spaces that will generate
as well as excitement and inspiration.
• We will try to encourage
rather than just
transmitting facts, to illuminate connections between our daily
choices, and the effects those choices might have on the planet
and our futures.
• We want the exhibits to be
made of tactile materials. With such sensational cutting-edge
architecture, we don’t need to convince anyone that we are
• We want the visitors to be active, navigating the site in their
own way, making their own
joining things up.
Some things will remain unmediated.
• We want the exhibits to be
and conversation, not one person at a time interacting with a
screen or panel.
• We won’t cover the site with text, which can actually stop people
from experiencing things. Apart from the purely factual text (e.g.
plant labels) we will play with other forms:
• We want to the exhibits into the landscape and
planting, so that people don’t feel they are walking through a
museum or a sculpture park.
• It is counter-productive to make people feel guilty or preached
at, so as far as possible we will celebrate the good things that are
happening rather than focusing on the bad.
• Nudge rather than bully! How do you make people do what you
want them to if you don’t believe in bossing them around?
(The example given in the book Nudge is taken from Amsterdam
airport. You can’t ban men from peeing on the bathroom floor, but
you can encourage them to indulge in a little point-and-shoot play
by printing a small fly on the urinals!)
• will be a key part of our toolkit.
• The art will be accessible but not dumb; nobody should be made
to feel stupid by it. We will play with
(hence narrative automata,
storytelling, puppetry etc).
• The deeper levels of information and understanding will be
– Guides, Storytellers and Pollinators.
• We will make visible our own processes as models for good
– local sourcing, use of recyclates,
water harvesting etc.
• We will create opportunities for visitors to
in a meaningful way, contributing their stories, ideas and opinions
to the mix. The most powerful and memorable experiences are
created when people place themselves in the frame. And after
all, if we are seeking behavioural change in order to live within
our means on our planet, then encouraging activity rather than
passivity is a vital part of our toolkit.
• There will be an emphasis on , ephemeral
installations, events and exhibits, expressing change
• We will be a place of , non-corporate and
without a party-line on controversial issues. Our tone of voice will
be questioning rather than assertive. We will not provide badge or
advertising space for sponsors, guarding our independent stance.
will play a significant role in the
rhythms of our year.
you can collect excellent data or narrative, and at the same time
enroll people in the most compelling way, by encouraging them to
contribute their ideas or opinions. We are increasingly becoming
involved in public consultation and engagement processes and
have been evolving a series of principles for creating
stimulating environments in which people feel more confident at
expressing their true feelings, opinions and beliefs:
• Most of the professional and proprietary engagement tools are
very direct – asking questions like:
They often only engage the usual suspects; the people who would
make their voices heard anyway. A sideways approach is more
creative and stimulates a broader response and we have found
is more likely to lead to community cohesion and a willingness to
• Different types of engagement are appropriate at different stages
in a project.
is a great way
to kick off a consultation process. A community event that creates
cohesion and team spirit before dealing with the harder questions.
This will be particularly important for resource/sustainability issues
where collective action is essential to make a real difference.
• The questions and approaches should be tailored to the outcome
or audience. It’s good to devise questions that are open
and that require a
response – ‘Your
community has been given a disused clay-quarry to develop. What
would you like to use it for?’ for instance.
are a good
place to start engaging. Memory triggers imagination and
planning – and research has found that it employs the same part
of the brain.
• For public engagement/consultation, people are giving up
– value and respect this. Don’t waste
• Explain clearly and what happens next.
• Don’t assume too much about what people know about the subject
you want to engage them on (they’re the experts!). Make the
and use understandable language.
• Don’t assume that people can read and write – not all can. Include
• Create a
to appeal to a wider range of people.
and with familiar cultural references.
(in England), flowers, images. Create an inspirational environment –
a formal room does not inspire!
• Plan the session well to create an
• Images and artifacts are useful to
to provoke more creative, imaginative responses.
is important – collaboration and
brainstorming sparks other ideas. It also reinforces the idea that
you can achieve more working as a team.
is powerful – it works well if recorded as
direct quotes, video etc.
• It’s vital that people feel like they are
Demonstrate you’re listening by
notes. We often take a laptop and scanner to
capture peoples’ images and memorabilia.
treat the material you are given or loaned with the utmost respect.
is important – it’s sometimes useful to
have an independent third party in a debate between community/
council. Similarly, independent facilitation can be valuable.
• This type of engagement technique ( , )
may seem informal but the results can, and should, still be
recorded and evaluated.
• Celebrate – this creates a positive mindset.
At Eden, we started with possibly the most exciting challenge in
the world: to find new ways of communicating the intimacy of the
. We made
an early decision to commission artists to create the exhibits,
rather than a corporate design house. This sowed the seeds for
a completely unique approach to interpretation, and did so for a
fraction of the price of a design company.
Unlike most other publicly funded projects we decided not to employ
a competitive tendering system. To get the best work and integrate
it well into the site, it was vital that artists engaged fully with the
ideas and mission, and were able to work closely with Eden science,
horticulture and landscape teams. We identified interesting artists in
a wide range of media, and gave them a small amount of no-strings
‘play-money’, usually in the region of GBP 600. The ‘no strings’ deal
meant that there was no obligation on Eden’s part to commission a
final piece of artwork, but equally there was no pressure on the artist
to deliver a polished proposal.
The idea was to make the process as open-ended, open-minded
and creative as possible. The artists were then assigned to particular
exhibit ideas and areas of the landscape or Biomes, given a pack
of research material (including social, historical, horticultural and
economic data) and a scientist or horticulturalist to work with.
After an agreed period of time they would present the results of
their explorations. This proved to be a very productive process –
artists returned buzzing with ideas and often with multiple proposals,
designs and maquettes. We moved to full commission in around 70%
A note of caution – commissioning a design company is relatively
simple; you establish the brief, budget and programme. You get what
you ask for/pay for, no more, no less. Working with artists is different!
Every artist has a different approach, methodology and timescale,
and makes widely differing demands on the client. Managing these
relationships requires flexibility, patience, energy and love. But we
believe the richness and quality of the work make it worth the effort.
We sourced artists initially from Cornwall and the South West’s wealth
of visual arts talent, and allowed the artists to make their own, very
personal responses to the ideas and spaces.
amongst many others, have helped to create the strong house style of
the Eden Project – its distinctive personality.
Working with artists means that their exhibits tend to feel
handmade and friendly, human – they have handprints all over them.
They help to make our gobsmacking, awe-inspiring architecture more
approachable. Setting artists to work with scientists, horticulturalists
and landscape designers has often provoked artworks very different
to anything they had previously created and truly unique to the
The decision to use artists has thrown up some interesting issues.
The independent voice of the artist tends to produce a less
authoritarian statement – it is
and can be
. This has
positive value (especially at a time when public perception of science
verges on the openly hostile, mistrustful). It permits and encourages
debate. It can help to enrol the viewer; it invites participation,
When viewing much contemporary interpretation in other visitor
attractions, museums, science centres etc, the overwhelming
impression you come away with is of being sold something, being
sold an idea. It’s authoritarian, corporate – not corporate in the sense
that it’s got McDonalds or Nike written all over it, but corporate in
the sense that it uses a consistent visual toolkit, (logos, unified single
font text, machined finish on artifacts and exhibits, impressive IT)
producing a single organisational identity, a brand, and a tone of
voice which says,
It seeks to deliver an unambiguous, one-size-fits-all message to
everyone. This position is increasingly inappropriate, because in the
minds of the public it is no longer true;
Or rather ‘Scientists are too closely associated with political or
commercial interests for their work to be incontrovertibly regarded
At Eden we have consciously worked with artists to make
environments, exhibits and events that are complex, ambiguous,
unpatronising. Unlike McDonalds, we don’t ascribe much value to
consistency – ‘the same burger the world over’. Every person who
visits us will have very much their own experience, depending on
their age, ethnicity, whether they love or hate plants, art, modern
architecture, Cornwall etc. There is no formal corporate identity;
we use a plethora of fonts and handwriting to communicate with.
The tone of voice is not assertive or authoritarian. Rather than
saying, ‘This is how the world works,’ it tends to say, ‘I think this
We have used artists –
– to create the exhibits at Eden, because they are uniquely equipped
to make experiences that are sensual, emotional, awe-inspiring,
curiosity-provoking, beautiful, human and authentic. This isn’t just
decorative – we want to
people so that they can hear and see
the ideas at Eden, to make connections about the choices they make
in their daily lives.
Eden is clearly not an authentic series of landscapes – it is about
as contrived as it is possible to be – a tiny rainforest, bite-sized
sunflower, tea and apple plantations, half an acre of prairie... But the
effort, the intention, the mission is authentic. We think this is what
turns people on. The Eden Project is
about making money. It is
about entertaining or distracting tourists. It
, naively, about
changing the world, about making a difference. To do this it must
illuminate the complexities of our relationships with nature, without
depressing people into inactivity, without proposing a ‘right’ answer
(there are no right answers), without telling people what to think.
And there is no one better fitted for this task than the Artist.
It is not useful, however, to expect artists to deliver information or
didactic messages (they are much better at proposing questions than
communicating answers); we have to find other media to do that, if
what we want to do.
will often determine choice of medium –
a good starting point for selection of artists.
. Seek artists whose creative journey
is outward rather than inward, and who are comfortable with
work often produces interesting
results. Mixing artists with scientists, environmentalists, landscape
architects creates lively cross-fertilisation of approaches and ideas.
• Giving artists
can reap rich rewards,
especially if you are able to link them in to other disciplines.
This may not be possible if protocols require you to employ a
competitive tendering process – you can’t productively link 3 or 4
competing artists to the same scientist or gardener!
• Give artists
– too tight a brief will
cramp their style (you might just as well have commissioned a
• But be prepared for the higher level of
not get what you expect!
involved – you may
• It’s important to issue a
when you move to commission, detailing timescales, budget,
preferred materials, expected lifespan, installation time on site,
liability, maintenance and copyright issues. If you want to use
images of the final piece in marketing or merchandising, this should
be covered in the agreement. Usually artists will own the copyright
on their work.
artists on site, in media and on web.
artists in any decisions concerning their work –
cleaning, repairing, relocating, decommissioning. It’s rude not to…
We used these questions, printed on tiny cards, for two of our public
talks in Brisbane. These cards had originally been produced as an
experiment in creating a convivial conversation space during the Eden
Sessions, our summer sequence of concerts. The original aims of the
• To open hearts, engage minds, expand imagination.
• Gather inspirational material for further interpretation.
• To inform us about our visitors in a more intuitive way.
• To research the kind of questions/topics that work best for opening
conversations and provoking stories.
• To help us select individuals, families and groups that might be
ready to ‘play’ i.e. to participate in a more active, creative way in a
game, ceremony or theatre event.
It was not the intention to undertake any formal quantitative
evaluation of the results, rather to use them as an expanding resource
of ideas, narrative and information. Visitors completing a full set of
questions were given a stamped postcard to send to someone they
hadn’t contacted for a while.
• What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
• You can choose 3 things to put in a box that will vanish from the world forever.
What are they?
• You can choose 3 things to put in a box that reflect your optimism about
the world. What are they?
• Where do you feel calmest?
• What’s the first thing you remember?
• What person living or dead would you most like to meet?
• What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
• The house is burning down – what do you rescue?
• If you could change places with someone for a day, who would it be?
(And what would you do?)
• How would you like to be remembered?
• What’s the most selfless thing you’ve ever done?
• What’s the most evocative smell for you?
• What book has most moved you?
• If you could instantly acquire one skill what would it be?
• What’s your top nature-moment, something you saw or experienced that
connected you to the natural world in a special way?
• Dying wishes… You can have one last dance – what’s the music?
You can have one last kiss – what’s the song? One last meal – what is it?
We framed these questions carefully so that visitors didn’t think we’re
embarking on a psychotherapy trip – we introduced them like this: ‘In
all the background noise, rush and fizz in our lives it’s sometimes hard
to focus on the things that matter.
We want to understand if there are common things that move us and
connect us. Please help us by answering these questions. Some are
daft, some are serious, and some just us being nosy. Answer all 16
and you get to send a message to someone you haven’t contacted in
The objective of the workshop was to introduce Brisbane City Council
staff to a range of creative community engagement techniques and
exercises that have been successfully used by the Eden Team. While
the outcome of the individual exercises was not the objective of the
training, the exercises were all themed around sustainability and also,
over the day-and-a-half, took the participants through a process
• Examining general issues around sustainability
(‘Coffee Trails’ exercise),
• Imagining the future (‘Islands’ exercise),
• Developing an action plan to achieve the vision and also
considering barriers along the way (‘Road Map’ exercise); and
• Consider the skills needed to succeed on the journey (‘Superheroes’ exercise).
The workshop trained the participants in the use of a ‘toolkit’ of
approaches, principles and techniques that the Eden Project has been
developing over the last ten years.
The key message is that community engagement:
• Should be fun and enjoyable for all the participants.
• Should have a ‘serious’ purpose; not a waste of time.
• The process and outcomes are personal and meaningful to the
participants; thought provoking leading to behaviour change.
All activities and timings for the training workshop were carefully
planned well ahead of the event. This is important to ensure that
there was adequate time to achieve the objectives and that there
was adequate materials and equipment to carry out the exercises.
Planning ahead also meant there was opportunity for the ‘client’ to
comment and contribute to the programme. Prior to the workshop,
the programme was reviewed with the facilitators and changes made
in response to their comments.
Planned times are shown with (actual times in brackets).
Important to follow timings as closely as possibly but also allow some
flexibility. Aim not to cut back on feedback and ‘show & tell’ time.
Mix in exercises that can be done quickly which involve less feedback.
Change the scale and rhythm of the tasks so that participants don’t
get bored or tired by repetition. Alternate active with passive, large
group work with more intimate tasks, silly with serious!
Introductions & ‘housekeeping’
Ground rules for the workshop
‘A Day Out….’
Show & tell
Engagement and interpretation
Exercise in groups
Groups & one to all
Exercise in groups
Group present to all
Presentation – Sue
‘Cat or Dog’
‘Island Brisbane’ exercise
(Work through) AFTERNOON TEA
‘Island Brisbane’ - Show and tell
Tidy up and wrap up
Groups feedback to all
Groups with facilitator
Warm-up: ‘Off-balance’, ‘Master &
Servant’, ‘Pass the Squeeze’
‘Road map’ exercise
Themes, audiences and obstacles
‘Road map,’ show & tell
Lunch and feedback from facilitators.
BCC actions and how to grow this.
‘Superheroes’ and pledges
Show and tell within Groups
Tidy up ‘How was it for you’
Sue & all
Exercise in groups
Smaller group, together
Individuals working in
Approximately 70 participants attended Day 1. This is a large group
for this kind of workshop, which works best with 30-40 people. A
larger group means that more of the ‘show and tell’ and feedback has
to take place in small groups rather than with the whole team.
In this case, participants were not given a programme for the day,
so they didn’t know what was coming or what would be expected of
them. This keeps the energy of the group higher, builds anticipation
and keeps the activities spontaneous.
It is important to work in beautiful and inspiring places. Our workshop
room was not very beautiful – without natural light, fresh air, breakout
space or outdoor work space. We did what we could to make it better
by decorating it the day before with saris, tablecloths and fairy lights
to make it appear less austere and more lovely.
Materials for the exercises were prepared but left covered so that
they weren’t a distraction. Tables were set out for groups of 8-10.
At the start of an event, people tend to gravitate towards the same
familiar groups of people they know and work with. This is a simple
warm-up exercise to get people talking to a wider range of people.
They may even find out things they didn’t know about people they
Everyone was given a 3x4 bingo card with statements, e.g. ‘…is a
vegetarian’, ‘…cycles to work’, ‘…has an outdoor dunny’ and so on.
Delegates have to find a different name to fill in each box and when
all the boxes are completed – shout ‘bingo!’ and the game is over.
Check if anyone else is nearly finished.
We only played this game for 15 minutes but it can be longer if
there are more squares. There are many variations to this game and
questions can be themed (e.g. ‘eco-bingo’). The results of the game
can also be recorded and used as part of a data gathering exercise to
determine the level of personal commitment/understanding of
Warm-ups (we did several during the course of the workshop)
are important to set the tone of the day – keep it fun – and more
importantly, to maintain energy levels. Do a warm-up whenever
you feel they are needed. They don’t have to be complicated, just
involve everyone and play to your strengths as workshop leader.
Songs, games, clapped rhythms, whatever. It’s good to establish that
playfulness is vital for grown-up creativity.
• Travel naively – we won’t be telling you the plan for the day.
• You will go through a series of activities that will illuminate the
way we do things at Eden. Some may be directly relevant to your
work, some won’t, some you will have to adapt to be more
relevant to you.
• The training will be through experience, this is not a technical,
conceptual, theoretical exercise.
• No need to write notes (unless you want to) as you will be sent a
manual with all the information in it.
• There will be some time for criticism and analysis but it will be up
to you to work out how to take this forward.
• Your job is to have fun.
It’s useful to establish an agreed contract of behaviour at the
beginning of the workshop. The ground rules were developed by
all (except the first, which is easier for the workshop leader to ask
for!). More rules can be added as the day progresses if necessary.
They were written on a flip chart for easy reference throughout the
workshop. This group’s rules were:
• No hierarchy, you’re here as you (this is very important).
• Turn off phones.
• Share materials – play nicely.
• Listen – all voices are valid.
To understand what we remember and why as a key to developing the
strategies for interpretation and engagement that are most likely to
lead to behaviour change.
‘Think about a day out, an experience you’ve had in a public space
that made a great impression on you. It might be in a museum or
gallery, a theme park, an aquarium, a garden or stately home, a piece
of architecture, old or new, on the side of a mountain, in a city or a
forest. The important thing is that you experienced something that
stayed with you. It may have been so impressive that you wanted to
tell everybody about it, or so powerful and personal that you decided
to keep it to yourself...’
In groups of 5 or 6 everyone describes their experience to the rest of
their group – about 2 minutes per person. Choose one of the stories
from each group to tell everyone. Feedback method needs to be
tailored depending on the number of people participating.
Eden and Sue have now played this game with thousands of people.
Everyone’s story is different but there are always consistent themes.
‘Raise your hand if you had any of these in your story.’ These themes
crop up again and again:
– bigness and smallness; the dinosaur skeleton in
the London Natural History Museum, seeing a whale rise to the
surface, the view through an electron microscope of human cells.
Scale of time too – finding a seabed fossil on top of a mountain in
the Sinai Desert.
– colour, perfume, noise, light; standing in
the lavender fields at Grasse in France, the hot, wet smell in the
rainforest, the absolute darkness down a mine.
– a strangely old-fashioned word. But people respond
to beauty very powerfully; silvery shoaling fish in the Aquarium
moving through the water like starlings through air, the ordinary,
heartstopping daily spectacle of the sun setting through clouds.
– whether general or personal;
the graffiti scratched into the walls at Robben Island, much of it
about love, the steam engine like the one that my grandfather
maintained ... understanding shared human-ness across boundaries
of language, time, race, culture.
– for human effort, skill, imagination, whether
exercised by marathon runner, mother, engineer, artist.
– at Eden,
children are dumbstruck to see cocoa pods growing straight out of
the trunk of the tree – ‘And that’s chocolate??!’
– sheer wonder at the mystery and scope of natural
processes and events, icebergs, calving, the moon eclipsing the
– this is the room that Anne Frank hid in, this
is the mark that Rembrandt himself made, this is the place where
John Kennedy was shot. The reproductions of the cave paintings in
Lascaux are exquisite but will never carry the emotional power of
the originals, the marks made by prehistoric men and women.
– any experience is made
more powerful and significant by the effort or risk required to
get there; the sunrise looks even more amazing if you’ve climbed
the mountain to see it, the whaleshark bigger, spottier and more
awesome if you’ve bobbed in a boat for 3 days to find one, the
mela more inspiring if you’ve discovered it yourself without help of
tourist guide or travel agency.
… and even more memorable if you’ve joined in
Nobody ever talks about the fantastic text panel, or the touch
They don’t talk about the ice cream.
They talk about experience. Real experience. And emotion.
This is the mother lode: our emotional connection to nature and to
These stories describe transformative moments in people’s lives,
when their relationships to their environment, their community,
their family or themselves shift and change; the most fundamental
Reflect about this in your practice.
What are the tools you generally use to communicate and interpret?
How enjoyable was it listening to stories of others?
Remember the power of narrative.
(Refer to 2.I for a summary of how the outcomes of this exercise have
been translated into Eden’s interpretation principles).
This exercise takes an everyday product – a cup of coffee – and then asks
participants to connect it with ideas of environmental, social and economic
sustainability. It highlights the connections between people and places (near and
far) and how the decisions we make over something as simple as making a cup of
coffee have far reaching implications. It also highlights the complexity of issues
Unpacking environmental, social and economic impacts in this way helps us
understand what sustainability means. If working with a community group,
this exercise will give you a very clear idea of their level of understanding of
sustainability issues which should inform where to pitch further discussion
and engagement. It helps to make the invisible visible.
[This exercise could also be carried out with any everyday object …
tea, wine, cakes etc.]
Consider a cup of coffee you’ve just had (this obviously works well after morning
or afternoon tea) and think about all the ingredients. What are the social,
environmental and economic impacts relating to the coffee, milk, sugar, water,
energy, the cup… Working as a group, map, write and illustrate the issues onto a
large piece of paper. Let participants know how long they’ve got to work on this
and keep track of the time, letting them know when they have 5 minutes left
The next step is to share each group’s coffee trail with the rest of the participants
– “let’s hear about it” – a representative from each group gives a guided tour of
their group’s work. (Always good to encourage applause!) Display each group’s
‘trail’ on the wall for others to look at during breaks. Photograph or record the
outcomes as a record (less critical for the Training than working with a community
towards an objective).
A1 or bigger paper (e.g. flip chart paper), thick and thin textas. Copious coffee!
The complexity of the trails revealed an extremely high level of understanding of
social, environmental and financial issues related to sustainability. You would not
want to patronize these participants with elementary information or exercises on
The environmental and many of the social and financial impacts of a standard cup
of coffee were quite overwhelmingly negative but could be balanced (among
coffee drinkers) by the social benefits of meeting friends for a coffee. It made
many of us wonder whether we should be drinking coffee so, by unpicking the
issues, it was influencing behaviour.
Sustainability is a complex issue and everyone is at a different point in
understanding it. There isn’t a right answer. This exercise helps us understand
where other people are in the process and how to help them have greater
understanding. At Eden, we use the compass points as a reminder of
N(nature/environment), S(social), E(economic) and add ‘W’ – who decides?
Who has the power?
This exercise demonstrates the necessary complexity of any thinking around
sustainability. People often want black-and-white answers (especially media and
politicians!) – what’s happening?
What is the answer? How do we communicate complexity? We need to develop
a matrix of possibility and understandings. A cup of coffee is part of our culture –
what would be the negative impacts of taking this away and not allowing people
A ten-minute game to spark a discussion on diversity; ways different people see
the world and also have different ways of absorbing information (learning). The
point is to understand the need to consider (in interpretation and engagement)
what you are telling people and how are you telling them. The importance of
targeting information to the audience; meeting people where they are.
Participants make their personal choices with as orange sticker on posters pinned
on the wall. In this case the choices were:
• Pictures or words
• Lecture or debate
• Walk or run
• Rainforest or beach
• Cat or dog
• Sound or smell
• Head or heart
• Backyard barbie or night club
But the choices could be targeted towards a specific theme or type of outcome.
At Eden, we used this game to work out how staff preferred to receive information
– staff meetings or internet newsletters etc.
There are no right and wrong answers. Were there any surprises? Gives us a strong
sense of our glorious diversity – one size does not fit all in relation to audiences.
This is a quick and fun way of getting good data; the outcomes are easy to quantify.
It is also a way of understanding more about who you’re dealing with. We didn’t
have time to pursue other themes but this exercise could spark a discussion about
how Council should approach its communication with the community, such as:
• Tone of voice – ‘professional’ or colloquial?
• ‘Nanny state’ or ‘Nudge’? People react against being told what to do by
government and public bodies, they need to be ‘nudged’ to do the right thing.
• Campaigns or debates?
• Tell or teach?
See also Ian Russell’s ‘Minds-on or Hearts-on’, 1:III.
We often work with the past as a way of understanding people’s
attachments, values and understanding of a place. Imagining the
future is, however, much harder and this exercise is a fun, absorbing
and revealing way of doing this.
The exercise is about creating visions of what a sustainable Brisbane
might look like in 20 years’ time (an Urban Eden?). What are the
impacts of our actions? The exercise:
• taps into participants’ knowledge on sustainability.
• helps identify recurrent themes and reveals what is left out.
• makes something - more real than a paper exercise.
• requires negotiation within the group on what should be included.
• requires working together to find solutions.
• uses play to elicit serious thinking about the future.
[This exercise could be carried out for any scale project – school,
community, park, playground etc.]
Work in groups of 4-5 to create an idealized State of Brisbane in 20
years’ time in a roasting tin with the materials provided. It may have
connections with wider region.
What will it be like? What will it have with it? You will need to
negotiate within your group – is it a rainforest paradise or nightclub
central? Picture a world, picture a better world, now put yourself in it.
Spend 1 hour 15 mins. on this. Don’t spend all the time talking!
Save time for doing. Explore materials, this will give you ideas.
5 minutes before completion - give your island/city a name.
Show and tell – a tour of the city by the government representatives
from each city.
• Large baking trays, cheap tin trays or large seed trays. They need
to be big enough to build a satisfactory island on! One tray per
group of 3 to 6.
• Buckets of soil, sand, rocks, pebbles, shells (and sheet polythene or
dust sheets to make sure you don’t make too much mess).
• Cut foliage, twigs, grasses, nuts, flowers, seeds etc.
• Thin card - colours
• Coloured paper and tissue
• Corrugated card (cardboard boxes are fine)
• Interesting, clean, safe rubbish – eggboxes, plastic pots and food
containers, foil, cloth etc
• Clay, salt-dough or plasticine
• Thin string
• Thin garden wire
• Thick and thin textas – lots of colours
• Thumbtacks, pins, paperclips
• Masking tape, gaffer tape, double sided tape
• Scissors, craft knives (N.B. use a cutting board if using a
• Big range of materials from ‘Reverse Garbage’ – bits of fabric,
mosaic tiles, bits of wood etc. etc. Anything that looks interesting
and inspiring but the use isn’t too defined. Best not to use real
images e.g. magazine photos – the exercise is to make your own.
Set yourself a budget so you don’t get too carried away!
You get the idea… adult playgroup … so add more delights to
Green River City
These were the fantastic island cities that were made during the
A clean, green (vertical and horizontal), interconnected city.
Buildings move for optimal solar orientation and 360-degree views.
A multi-generational building – a nice and accessible place to
accommodate a growing and aging population.
A peaceful place to live in harmony with natural environment – with
a hand-made focus. ‘Living in peaceful places, listening to nature’s
voices, magic happens.’
An environmentally conscious city that integrates performance and art
into the fabric – with lots of texture and colour.
Living within an enormous city garden with its own bio-waste
Post-Crash, the temporary dwelling place of a ‘back to basics’,
nomadic community who place high value on celebration, spirituality
and making hunter gathering fun.
State of Hope
Slow Movement Community
An iconic city known for its excellent eggplant curry. With controlled
population numbers, it places emphasis on culture and Montessori
An ultra-efficient and self-sufficient city with a tiny carbon footprint
Peace is at the heart of this safe, sustainable and culturally diverse
community. Emphasis is placed on connections and a socially
With its optimistic outlook and sustainable principles, this place is
full of iconic features including a decorated water tower, the worship
‘rocks’ and a telecom tower.
Visit this exclusive and self-sufficient island by invitation only. The
residents have specific roles in the island’s running but still find time
to gather around the fire, drum and dance around a maypole.
In this sustainable place, focus is on the business and learning building
– residents attend school at the bottom and work up through the
university at mid-level.
Reflection on the day is important for the workshop leaders to
evaluate the day and plan for Day 2. This was done in the original
groups with group facilitators pulling together comments:
• Enjoyed stories – inspiring to take time to listen and share.
• Informal, playful approach was fun, energising and triggered the
imagination – new ways of thinking.
• Participants enjoying ‘doing’ and the physicality of materials.
The visualisation made it more real; more imaginative than writing.
• Interesting philosophical ideas including use memory as a way of
• Thought better to experience training than reading in a brochure.
• Look for opportunities for small-scale personal encounter –
here’s a brochure.
• Optimism is good.
• Coffee exercise – personal encounter – behaviour change
• BSQ break-out areas are clinical – why not have a blackboard?
• Authenticity was the thing that really stood out – but hard for
Council to do when decisions already made.
• One hour lunchtime allowed for cross-fertilisation of ideas.
• Enjoyed having so many like-minded people in a room from
different areas of Council. Blur lines between disciplines
• ‘No hierarchy’ was really appreciated
• Concerns that this ‘approach’ may be perceived as unprofessional
and ‘not Council’s way’? Tendency to strip out all emotion –
• Is validation of this type of approach actually needed?
• How to take out from here? If not you, who – if not now, when?
You are the change you can make through your job.
• Islands revealed a strong community focus and Council processes
often focus on the individual as customer. A strong yearning for
community and relating to people more as a collective.
These exercises emphasise our shared human-ness – with lot’s of eye
contact, gentle physical contact and no experts.
Based on Aikido martial arts warm-up game. Find a partner. Place
your hands palm to palm, look deep into each other’s eyes, now try to
catch the other off balance. Top tip: it’s sometimes more successful to
give in than to push!
Still in pairs, follow your partner’s palm, keeping your face the same
distance and orientation, about 9 inches away. Have to look after each
other – roles will be reversed.
Everyone stands in a circle and holds hands. Send a squeeze
around the circle – how quickly can the group do it. We race against
ourselves. Focus! Like electricity.
Themes were extracted from the ‘islands’ exercise on Day 1 (see
complete list in Appendix 4.3). These are now topics to develop in the
‘Road Map’ exercise. Participants select a theme to pursue by putting
a sticker on the wall – this is the group you will work in for the next
stage of the exercise.
for Day 2:
in the city
• Great sus
• Fab local
• Social justi
• Decision m
Who are the audiences (a nicer word than stakeholders and those who
have agency) for any engagement, interpretation or community work?
The aim is to tap into the wealth of knowledge of the participants and
identify specific audiences. It also attempts to ‘unpack’ the attitudes
these groups may have. The key message is that, when thinking about
developing engagement and interpretation techniques, one size does
not fit all.
Participants work in groups to identify different audiences and
identify overlaps. Try and characterize the attitudes/attributes of the
Consider particularly issues around ‘inclusion’ and the need to
specifically engage with groups with disabilities who are unlikely
or unable to volunteer to get involved in a public forum. Similarly,
the need to develop specific ways to work with children and young
people. We did this very quickly as a brainstorm list of audiences.
It is often surprising how many groups are identified as potential
audiences for any environmental education or awareness projects.
The list below (based on another project) illustrates the breadth of
knowledge and interests that exists, and they will all have a different
approach and level of understanding on sustainability. These, broadly
speaking, can be grouped into the following categories/sectors:
1. Government – local or national, politicians and officers
Influencers (e.g. NGOs and environmental groups)
3. Tourism (Tourists and tourism related businesses)
6. Commercial/corporations (e.g. shop owners, investors etc.)
7. Demographic (e.g. youth groups, families, elderly)
9. Development related (architects, developers,
10. Minority groups
12. Creative community
Building on the work on Day 1, how do we get from today to the utopian islands
at the end of the room? We need to develop a ‘road map’. This exercise is for
groups with similar interests (based on themes above) to take the first steps
towards an action plan or strategy to develop a vision for Brisbane as an Urban
Eden and communicate it to the City. It is all about ideas generation and making
visible the steps on the road to practical, achievable change. Groups, having
identified ‘audiences’, next identify obstacles and devise means of dismantling or
circumventing them. In ‘real’ examples, this can also illustrate that the participants
have everything they need to write an action plan/strategy.
For each theme set a long strip of paper on the floor with a contemporary
dateline at one end and a realistic date in the future at the other. Place a
Utopian ‘island’ at this end. Theme groups identify stages on the journey towards
their idealized island.
Put actual physical barriers on the plan and then think creatively about how to
overcome them. Write, draw, model. Put in dates. While it’s important that there
should be serious content, don’t take the fun out of it – put in silly things
(e.g. sharks to control population!). You are not producing a policy document.
The end result is a complex and very human graphic.
Show and tell: Each group talks through its ‘road map’.
Strips of butcher’s paper – A1 sheets cut in half and stuck together.
Use the same materials we used for the islands to make interesting and
entertaining obstacles and opportunities.
All the ‘road map’ stories were brilliant and have been summarized in the next
section for posterity! Again, this is a fun way of seriously looking at action
planning. The activity was very absorbing, producing some very thoughtful
conversations and some wild bursts of creativity!
At Eden, we invite people to take things personally.
‘If not me, then who? If not now, when?’
This exercise is a light-hearted way for participants to think about how
they can make changes and contribute to the development of
an Urban Eden. The aim is:
• For each delegate to look at themselves and reflect on what they
can do to make a difference.
• To empower each delegate to take things forward in a
• To make delegates realise that often they can make a difference
and the barriers, voices etc are often invisible barriers that are easy
• For each delegate to focus on what they could do in their
professional or personal life to take responsibility for taking the
initiative forward and write this down as a pledge and share
with each others, leading to a higher commitment to
You have 10 minutes to make a model (an avatar) of yourself; you as
a super-hero. You’ve just done the ‘Road Map’ exercise – think about
what attributes you need – what do you need to achieve your utopian
Your super-hero self can be drawn, modeled, sculpted and will have
the powers to overcome barriers. Give it a name.
On a ‘speech bubble’, your super-hero writes a message or motto for
Introduce your ‘super-hero-you’ to the rest of the group.
Take your super-hero home or back to the office – put them on
play doh, natural materials, paper cut into speech-bubble shapes.
Some of the feedback from Facilitators at the end of the
• Cross-pollination – working across teams – would be welcome.
Why not start now? Find ways to do this.
• Incorporate multi-sensory approach into work with new
communities where language may be a challenge.
• Bringing stakeholders on board with new approaches. Challenge of
convincing them that ‘emotional’ does not mean ‘unprofessional’.
• Importance of ‘third spaces’. Make city squares into truly social
spaces for all the community.
• Connected green space through city – from forests to beach and ocean,
dramatic vegetation, 60% vegetation cover.
• Roof gardens and vertical gardens
• Self-sufficient and flexible buildings – energy (solar, wind), water, grows food to
reduce food miles, work and live in same building, drying clothes out of doors
• Clean river as a corridor for biodiversity (with fish), transport (sailing, no motors)
and recreation (fishing, sailing)
• Low car use – no single-use vehicles, solar panel roads and electric cars
• Better public transport, lots of opportunity to walk and cycle.
• Contact with nature – attract wildlife into cities particularly iconic animals like
koala, kangaroo, possums (marsupials generally).
• High-density living but with lots of greenery/open space and community spaces
• Great community spaces at heart of city – multi-functional areas with childcare,
performance (drumming), story telling, dance and fire.
• Art integrated into everyday living (flags, play), colour and texture.
• Multi-generational living and spaces accessible for all ages and abilities
• City garden/farm providing all the needs of the community – fruit orchards,
vegetation, hops & vineyards, animals particularly low impact ones like chooks,
ducks, goats (for food & fertiliser), permaculture
• Spiritual retreats – places for quiet reflection, tolerant of diversity of
• Living with a low-carbon footprint
• Everyone connected.
• Sustainable features, like water towers, are beautiful.
• Technology – for education and communication.
• Everyone employed and has a role in supporting the community.
With opportunities for trading.
• Back to more primitive times – nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, oral tradition,
• Retreat from modern world – keeping the world at bay, controlling who you see
• Population control – by restricted access, population control by sharks!
• Socially responsible banking
• Low impact government – empowered communities.
These were used to develop the ‘Road Map’ topics on Day 2 of the
2009 – people make a pledge for more sustainable housing – think tank – learning
from nature (waterfall) – natural materials to build from – sustainable energy
– money and financial will – people on ‘left’ – investment in growing more –
showcase of (shiny) sustainable buildings around the city – helpful city council
staff to help through bureaucratic quick sand – green space is woven through the
whole and increases as the amount of sustainable housing increases – regulatory
framework changes with help of accountants (beans) and lawyers (beans with
glasses) – people rally outside court house with ‘yeah’ flags and green business
is supported and founded on a solid (rock) foundation. By 2029, standard houses
are very unpopular and most people live in sust. housing with vegetable gardens,
trees, community spirit, compost, water and birds & bees.
In 2009, decision makers can’t make tough decisions but there is a growing grass
roots movement that will help to make more palatable; seeds planted 30 years ago
are now beginning to sprout. The grass roots and people that know the power of
their spending dollars are now influencing the corporate sector and overcoming
barriers. With the pervasive impact of urbanism, productive areas around the city
are being lost – increasing monocultures and people are moving across the land.
A major election takes place but special interest groups polarise the outcome,
which is negative. This makes the lobby groups stronger and, combined with a
climatic event, results in a cataclysmic event. Mass refocusing – our Noah’s Ark –
people have to decide what is really important to them. Some say ‘hang it’ – party
and continue to consume. Others decide the Amish had it right after all... some
new paths take us the wrong way – to dead ends. Saved by a charismatic leader
– a woman with purple hair. New vision: break down materialism, more spiritual.
Citizens Deliberative Council established – collaborative decision-making. Future
may look more chaotic and complex – based on networks – leading in 2029 to a
spiritually driven democracy.
Bad food – huge and growing population – ‘house me, feed me”. Policy barrier
– development encroaching on agricultural land – a slippery slope, landslide.
Farmers and activists unhappy. Natural disasters – floods, fire – and other things
outside our control. Family dynamics – fast food, eat on the go – priorities around
time. People realise that it may be better to teach kids to cook than to take them
to soccer. Macca’s and multi-nationals – $$$ in packaging – need to learn business
speak to talk to them in a language they understand. Many decisions based on
ignorance and fuzzy logic – what is good and nutritious? What’s in it? Take time
to find out. We are losing knowledge of how to grow – teach me how to grow,
how to use food in the right way, cooking fresh. Increase in development and
support for community gardens and city farms – esp. important as smaller housing
lots leave no room for veggie paths (only room for a lemon tree for your vodka!).
Policy to conserve agricultural land. Everyone wants to learn more and be part of
the solution. They want to be informed and are no longer happy to be ignorant on
issues related to fab, healthy food.
Biggest challenge is the lack and varying levels of knowledge. Low diversity –
but knowledge and awareness increasing due to initiatives in schools and
institutions – the seed of knowledge is sown. Lack of communication – media,
give community a voice to communicate with government (represented by a
megaphone). ‘Bridge’ to overcome government barriers. Amount of ‘green’
increases, level of education increases. This has an impact on the $$ side and
procedures put in place to safeguard biodiversity. Private property owners have
‘green/purple’ trees for ‘grey’ wildlife. Bulldozers break through business barriers.
Community awareness increases which leads to increased awareness among
shareholders and pressure on big business. Environmentally friendly business
parks developed. The Aussie dream is a big backyard, however people learn
to live in higher density environments with shared open space and more critters.
Community – seeds to grow. Wildlife corridors represented by the ‘rainbow
serpent’ and also involve tribal ancestors. Everything is linked – humans,
wildlife and high-density living.
‘Road map’ set in city of Bitumane. Lots of confusion and disagreement –
some think they know where we should be going and everything is based around
bitumen. Forward-looking vision developed, an alternative to bitumen, but people
keep looking back fondly at bitumen. Get out of reverse! High-density living,
broadband, local work and schools that you can walk and cycle to, great public
transport with vehicles running on alternative fuel – an alternative economy to
bitumen. By 2010, alternative energy cars developed but hydrogen needed – do it
now in preparation for what’s coming! A new infrastructure is required. Mayor and
Chairs being lobbied by forward thinkers – change the city plan. City fleet – need
to walk the talk – all hydrogen. Development and industry increase as Bitumane
has a great vision – a booming, high-density city. National Transport Forum take
notice – if Bitumane can do it – all of Oz can. National commitment to changing
transport – much easier and more viable if everyone does it – this influences
purchases which shun the past. Green vehicles become cheaper for all – means
early adopters don’t bear the costs. Broadband network improves and Bitumane
is more attractive – lots of social networks on-line but not at the expense of faceto-face meetings. Bikes are everywhere as it’s much nicer to be on one – only
drawback is that you can’t hear the hydrogen vehicles coming up behind! By 2019,
high-density hubs so better services. By 2024, rail upgraded forming an extensive
network so you can go anywhere in the city (expensive so this has taken a while).
Streets are now green corridors and all the critters have returned.
People have forgotten how to have fun. Biggest hurdle is tunnel vision and middleaged men who don’t know (or have forgotten) how to dance. Need to change
this. In offices – break-out spaces with games – more interaction – more fun.
To overcome ‘3 o’clock-itis’ (the time of the day when energy is low and meetings
are worst) instigate a compulsory playtime – siesta for those who don’t want to
play. ‘Dress-up days’ – pirates, princesses. Bring a plate of food to share with
others. ‘Bring your dog to work day’ – animals enhance the work place. Free
massages and healthy food – everyone gets a foot massage. Work together. Leads
to street parties – any excuse will do – everyone cooks a duck and competes for
the best! Hopscotch on ALL footpaths. Fun with nature – community gardens.
Need to get over the hurdle that imprisons us in fuzzy logic. Let out play! Zero
harm is banned – take risks and let loose! Compulsory for everyone to play –
leads to more balance and happiness. To infinity and beyond... Play Police?
(to enforce play!).
A big topic. Public apathy and disempowerment. Build networks – to share –
Community festivals. Amid the ‘fog of illiteracy’ – teach so don’t have knowledge
to think for themselves. Barrier – political will – don’t support community
interaction. Need to put energy and funds into play and fun – community spaces.
Some poor people are isolated and homeless – don’t trust each other. Community
to care more about others – safer and more integrated communities. Fences
become bridges. Discourage driving – encourage talking on public transport. Fear
of what and who we don’t know is a major barrier. There are beacons of hope.
Interaction and bonds develop between children and elderly. Flag of achievement
– happy communities, sharing, excited about the future.
Inclusive – about everyone benefiting from change. What happens now? – avoid
people with problems – we walk away. Walls between neighbours – move forward
without connection. Self awareness – value system. Barriers – own comfort zone,
technology, apathy, layers of different worlds, prejudice/racism, no compassion.
Need a transformative experiences – play, shamanic journeys, lots of them…
connection with nature through community gardens – come out of comfort zones
with lots of support. A ‘giving back’ revolution – shifting power structures (which
now reinforce separation). Place, space, people. Social and personal. New form of
governance with more inclusion. Cyclic – not just about and end point. This is hard
to start – arise from chaos. John Allen, bio-naut. – chaos is a beautiful thing – this is
when things happen. Statis – a nuclear bomb won’t shift or create change. Time is
linear – everything is chaotic. Future is dark? – we don’t know. But dark is womb as
much as grave.
Tony Kendle, Eden’s Foundation Director, hates Top Tens. So he wrote these…
There is no shortage of lists of ‘how to
And when you have made your list, also think
be green’ around today. Look up a few
about what you can’t do - or won’t do if you are
- bookshops and magazines and the
really honest. If you are typical, there will be a lot
Internet are crawling with them. Gather
on this list - things that you can’t do because you
all of the ideas you can. Make your list
can’t afford it, or can’t afford the time, or that just
of what you can do, and do it as soon
confuse you, or that you don’t really fancy because
as you can. Give your house a makeover
you are not sure what it commits you to, or things
- fit insulation, change your light bulbs,
that just sound too deadly, deadly dull (like living
whatever you can afford. Drive less, fly less, if
‘sustainably’), or things that actually you don’t
you can. Get a more efficient car, if you can. Join
believe will really make a difference anyway, or that
something, become a member, support something.
sound just, well, stupid, or where you have seen
Do what you can to support others, buy Fairtrade
conflicting advice, or things that you would really
or Organic or whatever you can. Do all that you
rather not think too much about just at the moment
can - why the hell not? Everything you can do really
because they are pretty damn scary and mostly you
does make a difference because it all adds up, and
just want to enjoy what you have.
because it also makes a testament of what you
believe is right.
If you feel that any of that rings a bell, then
Sometimes it is hard to believe that there
Beware the cynics who see nothing good in other
is anything worth looking forward to. The
people, and don’t be fooled by news that mostly
list of things we should be worried about
talks only of the bad things. Remember how many
is a long one, and getting more and
amazing good things that happened in the last few
more complex and confusing as well. It
decades, and how few of them anyone predicted.
can be really hard to know what to do
sometimes, and it can be really hard to
If Hope equaled Certainty then it wouldn’t be hope.
know how to stay positive about it. The problem
It doesn’t mean underestimating the problems and
is that if we don’t believe in possibility, in the idea
having a dimwitted conviction that somehow things
that we are still in play for good things as well as
will be okay if we sit with fingers crossed. But it also
bad, then we will be frozen in a paralysis of quiet
does not mean underestimating the possibilities
despair. We have to have hope, because only with
and surprises and the resourcefulness of people
hope will there be any action.
when faced by crisis. Most importantly hope is the
fuel for doing something – and it only works if you
Can you choose to be hopeful? In some ways you
can. It depends partly on attitude and partly on who
you choose to talk to, what things you choose to
read about or watch.
‘Whoever has the most when he dies, wins.’
things that really matter.
- Other People’s Money
A good education would mean that you know
enough about your life to understand what sustains
Our lives are full of stuff these days. We
you, and what you need to care about to make sure
all know it’s supposed to be a good
that the things you need stay healthy.
idea to have less stuff - and sometimes
looking over a cluttered house you
We also need to understand the core things
really wonder why you do. But we also know that
because we don’t know if the complex systems of
jobs depend on making and selling stuff and every
the world will continue to work well. If you don’t
year if sales fall then it’s the threat of recession.
know how to plant a seed, or if you don’t know
We know that sometimes when people in poor
why you should, then it may not matter. It may
countries make stuff for us its bad because it’s
not matter that we all forget, and that none of our
exploitation, and sometimes it’s important for their
children understand how food production works.
economies and helps them get out of grinding
But it’s a gamble to assume that we won’t need
poverty. We are encouraged to buy local food,
those skills in the future - and how lucky do you
but mostly the farmers that feed us live in other
feel? That is why the Eden Project runs programmes
countries and who knows whether we could actually
like Gardens for Life, and why we focus our exhibits
feed ourselves without them. There is a difference
on understanding the different things that we
between trade and consumption, and not all stuff is
depend on, daily.
bad stuff, but it can be really confusing.
And don’t forget as well - education also can lead
Information is another kind of stuff. We are
directly to radical change. At a time when so many
surrounded by it, we have more of it than any
people are worrying about population growth and
other generation that has ever lived; we can know
see the sheer numbers of people as the main cause
more about the world than ever before - 24/7.
of environmental problems, it is worth remembering
But in a funny kind of way, perhaps because it is so
that time and time again the world shows that
fragmented, it makes it harder to understand what
simply raising education standards and life
is important and how things really work.
prospects, especially for women, is the best form
of population control.
Sometimes you just have to stand back from the
complexity of the world and think about the simple
We do what we can - but there is so much
One thing you can do is increase your reach by
we can’t really control. Is there any point
working with or through other organisations.
in changing our light bulbs if new power
Some people get the chance to travel and
stations are built in developing countries
make a real difference themselves, e.g. through
that are just rubbish, or if population in
organisations such as Earthwatch, or you can
poor places seems totally out of control?
support the work of WaterAid, or anyone else that
Everyone is running around talking about ‘personal
behaviour change’, as if it will solve everything.
Don’t forget that your money already goes around
If climate change is ‘the biggest challenge facing
the world and things already happen a long way
civilisation’ and all we can do is change our light
away because of the choices that you make at
bulbs, isn’t there a fundamental problem? Surely it
home. Your wallet is your weapon. Make buying
makes more sense to just go to the pub and enjoy
choices that help good things happen - or invest
life while you can? Of course personal behaviour
in social change through things like Eden’s
changes matters - but on its own it doesn’t matter
enough and other things are needed as well.
One of the reasons it is great to do
Most importantly, who decides to design towns
everything you can do is that it lets you
and cities in ways where the places where we live
get angry at other people. But rather
and the places where we work and where we go
than get angry at the people who haven’t
to school and where we shop are all a long way
done just what you have, why not think
from each other? And if the same people start
about what really stops you (and anyone)
talking about road charging, and there is no sign
from doing more and who controls
of public transport, or urban design, getting better
and getting cheaper - then getting angry seems to
be one of the few options until they show signs of
You won’t find any shortage of people who will
change as well.
tell you that you should drive less - but can you?
Once you have got the kids to school, is there time
It’s the same with recycling and energy and just
to cycle or walk to work? Is it just too far away?
about anything that matters - we need to do what
Too dangerous? What about the people too old to
we can so that we can point to governments and
cycle? No public transport that works or that you
companies and big organisations and demand that
can afford? Who decides this transport policy?
they change with us, and give us real choices.
Don’t let anyone, including yourself, think
guesses. Scientists wrestle to try to make climate
that we all know the answers to how
predictions, but it is hard enough to predict the
everyone needs to live, and all we have
weather next week - there are real uncertainties.
to do is SHOUT LOUDLY enough so that
But a change in climate only matters because of
‘they’ finally listen. For one thing, the
how we live, and how it will impact on us - and
challenges that people face across the
how we will live in the future is also changing and
world may be much the same, but the
responses that fit different cultures and different
unpredictable. Put them together and we only
know one thing for sure - all bets are off.
places are not the same.
And in the face of that time of radical change,
Secondly we have no idea what will work in the
which will be a white-knuckle ride, the best things
future (even assuming we know what will work
we can do will be to cultivate the skills and the
today). The world changes, moves, things are
values that will get us through. We need to be
discovered that can’t be forgotten, events happen
prepared to think differently about things, to foster
that can’t be erased. The question is not so much
our creativity and our imagination. So an important
how we can get behaviour change, as how we can
point is: don’t think you will get all the answers
get the best from the unavoidable change that is
from top ten tips.
happening all around us.
The best ideas can come from anywhere. Think of
The one thing we are sure of is that the 21st
your own ways of making a difference. The most
Century will be a time of radical change. We can’t
powerful question in the world is often ‘Why?’ If
begin to anticipate the surprises that will come -
anyone assumes that things can’t change, or have
good and bad, the revolutions and transformations
always been done this way so they will be done
we will live through. Whether we have reached peak
that way in the future - ask why. You will find that
oil or not is not just a function of how much we find,
sometimes this takes you to some surprising places.
it’s a function of how much we will use. Both are
And this is a simple skill you can work on. Read
If it makes you lose the will to live then bin it - but
books that are different to the ones you know you
somewhere out there are ideas that you have never
like, see different films, meet different people and
thought before, things that will make you stamp
have different conversations - not all of the time but
with joy because they solve a problem for you, or
some of the time. And that doesn’t mean ploughing
open a new possibility, or just make you smile and
through dull and dreary stuff.
feel better about other people.
This wild ride ahead will ask something else of us
chance to learn about why we need people who
as well - humanity, and an understanding of our
don’t think like us, less chance to develop trust, less
responsibilities to others. It’s a time when we are
chance to hear ideas we haven’t already had. Even
going to need each other. It’s a time that we need
in our families we live ever more individual lives. It
to remember who helps us live the way we do,
doesn’t help to see a stabilising UK population if we
but it’s also a time when those relationships could
then all sit in separate rooms, needing a TV each.
change quickly and we may need to redraw the
In the face of this change we believe we need
to get back to an understanding of how strong
If we don’t understand why we need each other, if
communities are forged - a theme we have been
we don’t have a stake in the well-being of others,
exploring with our Time of Gifts programme.
we lose the underlying support for justice. We also
Ultimately communities rely on the trust that there
run the risk that they will lose their concern for us,
will be mutual care and mutual support
and the world becomes a little bit more dangerous.
when it’s needed. Traditionally this
trust was forged, and symbolised,
The globalised world we live in means that some
by gift-giving. Not the ‘here’s
of the common bonds and some of the clear
yours, where’s mine’ gift giving of
understanding of the reasons why we need each
Christmas, but sharing bounty when
other have become much less clear. It’s much harder
you had it. It’s not the same as
to know what we do for each other anymore, or
barter - you gave when you could
even what the people in our neighbourhoods do
and you may never get anything
for themselves. The people who do things for us
back, but you have invested something in
are people we never meet, never even hear their
other people and trusted that they will be
names. We have much better opportunities to find
there for you.
friends who share common interests, and develop
new cultures, than ever before, but we have less
The other thing that is changing rapidly
in our lives is that people have much less
And maybe that helps to explain why courses such
contact with nature. It’s particularly a
as horticulture get almost no students these days,
problem for the young. In one generation
and why we are heading towards a time when if we
the degree to which children are allowed
needed to start growing our own food again it will
to play outside has gone into free-fall.
only be retired people who know how, if anyone.
All sorts of weird problems result. There
are health issues such as allergies and heart disease
People can’t care about what they don’t
through to psychological problems. Children don’t
understand, and don’t have some sense of
play together in the same way, or learn to explore
connection to. If we stop caring about the land we
and have adventures. They increasingly find nature
have lost something fundamentally important for
alien, and see land and earth as something to stay
our future, as well as made our lives today a little
away from because it makes you messy.
bit sadder and narrower.
Sustainable development is a territory
We have to allow for our feet of clay. Fear of not
to be explored and that exploration will
living up to the expectations (our own and other
never end. It is not the case that one
people’s) is one of the reasons we don’t start. What
day someone will work out the answers,
will happen the day when you come home from the
and then we will be able to go home to
pub and have an Indian takeaway and suddenly you
catch up with what’s on TV and resume
just can’t, really can’t, be bothered to worry about
our lives - it is our lives. There will always be
recycling all the bits and you throw it all in one bin?
new horizons, new battles, new ideas and a lot of
Can you live with your own weakness? You might
new mistakes. We have to get past the idea that
even feel the guilt nagging you now, just thinking
trying to live sustainably means that we have to get
everything ‘right’, because it’s more complicated
than that. Sometime we will just have to do what we
We will not always live up to the ideal - but actually
can, and expect to have failures as well as victories.
so much of what real sustainable development is
about relies on recognising our human fallibilities
Not only is the search for perfection misguided,
and learning how to work past them, and
there is something that is so off-putting about it,
pretending we don’t have them is no answer at all.
so judgmental, so full of people ready to write
We will make mistakes - but actually we learn more
Top Ten lists about what other people should do.
from mistakes than from successes.
A perfect world sounds really quite spooky, and
some of the worst of times have been when people
Most important of all, we make mistakes because
have tried to force perfect social orders on a messy
we act, and strive and struggle and aim high - and
that is what makes us human.
‘Living a sustainable life’ is like dieting or
through the day. Actually none of that is true. But
giving up smoking - it feels just so much
when people talk about what we ‘must do’, what
easier to start next week. It’s hard to find
we have to give up, living with less, stopping this,
the willpower to start today because,
ending that - especially when it’s talked about in
well, it’s going to kind of suck all of
such a pompous, worthy, self-righteous kind of way
the joy out of life, and it’s going to be
harder to do the things that make it possible to get
– it’s easy to believe that the future has no fun in it.
And the language makes it worse. Have you ever
live with less than we do have less fun. In fact the
read a Sustainable Development Report that hasn’t
opposite seems to be the case. Grinding poverty
made you wish the end of the world would come
of course means devastated lives, but there
quickly? Some people’s conversations are full of
comes a point as societies get richer where just
‘sustainable this’ and ‘sustainable that’ - will we all
having more and more starts to make people
have to talk like that in the future? Will we have to
say words like ‘biodiversity’ instead of ‘life’? Where
is the adventure in those words? Where are the
Rich cultures, rich experiences, music, laughter
worlds of possibility we could create?
and fun and just enjoying life more - these are the
foundations of a better future, not the enemies
The hope comes from the fact that there is plenty of
evidence that consuming less, throwing away less,
having less useless stuff, has something to do with
happiness, and no evidence at all that people who
The best ideas can come
from anywhere. Think of
your own ways of making
a difference. The most
powerful question in the
world is often ‘Why?’
If anyone assumes that
things can’t change, or have
always been done this way so they will be done
It sounds like some bollocks that you would see on
that way in the future - ask why. You will find that
a poster in a hippy shop, but actually it was one of
sometimes this takes you to some surprising places.
the great social insights of the 20th Century, and
led to a new approach to revolution and positive
And this is a simple skill you can work on. Read
change that is still growing in strength. If you can
books that are different to the ones you know you
embody in some small way the values and actions
like, see different films, meet different people and
that you believe the world should be based on,
have different conversations - not all of the time but
then in a small way you have already succeeded in
some of the time. And that doesn’t mean ploughing
creating change - and big changes could follow.
through dull and dreary stuff. If it makes you lose
the will to live then bin it - but somewhere out
That takes you back to number 1.
there are ideas that you have never thought before,
things that will make you stamp with joy because
Do everything positive you can - but not because a
they solve a problem for you, or open a new
list has told you to. Do it because it’s who you want
possibility, or just make you smile and feel better
about other people.