If you follow us on social media, you will know that our Managing Director, Lynsey, recently visited the Eden Project, as part of the Eden Project Community Camp – and to say she was absolutely thrilled is a bit of an understatement. She came back buzzing.
It’s been a wee while now, but sometimes you need time to reflect. So, here’s a chance for her to tell us all about it. Grab a coffee and settle down for a good read.
First things first: What is the Eden Project Community
The Eden Project Community came from the Eden Project, an educational charity and social enterprise that created a visitor destination in Cornwall twenty years ago.
It has become a cultural venue and global garden that showcases our dependence on plants and acts as a ‘shop window’ for the future the Eden Project wants to make.
It’s an educational charity and social enterprise on a mission to create a movement that builds relationships between people and the natural world to demonstrate the power of working together for the benefit of all living things.
My goodness! What’s not to like there?
The Eden Project Community brings people together and supports them to make positive changes where they live so they can create happier and healthier community where people know one another and neighbourhoods thrive. Their motto is ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
You have probably heard of the annual Big Lunch that started in 2009? That came from the Eden Project Community.
Which leads us on to the Community Camp that runs at the Eden Project and online. It’s an immersive learning experience offering a mix of practical activities, workshops sessions and networking opportunities for people from across the UK who want to make a difference in their community, and that’s what Lynsey went to. Let’s find out more.
Was there a selection process?
Yes, I had to apply online then I got a letter to say I had been shortlisted and had an informal collective Zoom interview. You can imagine, I was more than a little excited to learn that I had got a place.
How long were you there?
We (I went with Manuela de los Rios, Garden Coordinator at the wonderful Maxwell Centre, and volunteer Chair of our Board here at Transition Dundee) actually travelled south a day early so that we could visit Totnes, a small town in Devon which is where the Transition Network began back in 2006.
It was initially a response to the twin threats of climate change and peak oil, asking what happens when global oil production peaks, plateaus and begins a long decline, and is now a global movement (of which we are part 😊)
As with all those in the Transition movement, Transition Town Totnes is a community-led charity that exists to strengthen the local economy, reduce our environmental impact and build our resilience as we adapt to a changing climate. It’s a grass roots organisation run by a collection of local volunteers with a small staff team, who come together to work on different projects. Sound familiar? I learned a lot about it when we were planning Transition Dundee so it was great to get the chance to go there.
Totnes is a beautiful place and I got the impression there’s a lot of people who care about the climate emergency already. They have been working together on these issues for so long. It’s a very different demographic from Dundee so it was really interesting to see. I brought back lots of learning.
Anyway, to answer the question – we were at the Eden Project from Friday to Monday.
Were your fellow attendees all from projects similar to Transition Dundee?
There were 62 of us altogether – 9 from Scotland, so a good representation – and I had expected it to be more climate focussed projects, but the big surprise was the huge variety of community work they represented. There were people who organised community lunches or beach cleans; people who know they wanted to do something in the community but didn’t know what yet and people who were doing something already but they wanted it to become a bigger project and were looking for advice and inspiration.
It was nice having such a variety of people with very difference experiences. Some had been doing it for years and some were very new to it, but everyone wanted to do great things for their community and it really was so inspiring.
Sometimes when you are stuck in our busy world of community work you forget there’s amazing things going on all over the country. What you are doing can seem very small but when you realise what’s going on elsewhere you see that the collective difference is massive. There’s thousands of people doing it across the country.
It was powerful and empowering for me to feel part of that community of people who are all helping their community.
Did you come back with new ideas for Transition Dundee?
Eden is focussed on connecting people with nature, that’s their project in Cornwall. Sometimes when you live in the city you forget how important that is and how we need to get back to that. There are lots of opportunities for that in a city and many amazing groups already addressing it – it would be great to think about how we could help promote and enhance that going forward.
The most important thing I brought back is a renewed sense of hope. With covid, the cost of living crisis, general high levels of stress in the third sector, I realise how important it is to embody hope. There’s a lot of hope, it can just be difficult to see sometimes when all the bad news feels overwhelming - we need to hold on to that if we are to live in a greener, fairer world for all.
Did it make you think differently about anything in particular?
Getting the chance to spend so much time with people, talking about what they are doing and how they are feeling was very intense, and many of us formed quite quick, deep connections, which I hadn’t quite expected. There was high energy and high emotion. Everyone has gone through such a hard few years so it was really nice to have that space to share our problems, hopes and dreams. I could almost have done with more time to get to know people, but I will certainly be keeping in touch with many of them, especially those in Scotland who we got to spend a bit more time with.
I am really looking forward to seeing what those people go on to do. I am sure some amazing things are going to come out of this.
Are there any ideas you picked up that we could all apply to our everyday lives?
Whatever your goal, just go for it. And if you are involved with a community project, either as staff or as a volunteer, or if you want to start something but you’re not sure what yet, please consider applying for the next community camp. You will not regret it!
What were the highlights?
I really, really enjoyed being in Eden itself. It was my first time seeing the bio domes in real life -that was really awe-inspiring. There was such a lot of information to take in and so many emotional conversations that once or twice I felt a little overwhelmed and managed to escape to the domes for a little while, to be surrounded by tropical plants, and to read about all them. I learned quite a lot as I wandered round the dome, much of it about problems with nature around the world. Man-made problems, of course. The impact of cash crops like bananas, coffee, sugar, rubber. We use these things every day but we don’t know the background, the consequences of mass production. Did you know that bananas could become extinct soon? There are so few varieties left and it’s because farmers have been encouraged to grow just one species to satisfy the demand from markets, making them much more vulnerable to disease and to being wiped out. Whilst educating about the problems, there were also many solutions to our problems that plants can offer. The whole thing made me even more excited about Dundee Eden – I can’t wait to see what it will do for our city, our people and the nature we share it with.