Why we want to create this place

Mighty forces of nature have once again captured our attention. The recent spate of hurricanes, earthquakes, and forest fires remind us of our own fragility and the hubris of imagining ourselves capable of mastering the natural world. We are vulnerable.

We should not need natural disasters to remind us of what nature can teach us about resilience, and our interdependence with the living world.

Plato believed that real education could only be undertaken in woods and gardens. He created his first school in the groves of the legendary hero, Academus. Academia was thus born, and more than two thousand years later, this philosophy is still relevant. The Eden Project has long been dreaming of building the ultimate classroom in nature. The search for this special place eventually took us to the giant redwoods in California. Here, in the shadow of the giants we knew we had finally found that place.

We want to create an inspiring place to provoke thinking and teaching, where science and culture mix, to create a rounded view of the world.

The vast majority of these great trees are contained within national parks. So when 550 acres of privately owned Sequoia forest that includes three of the largest and oldest known trees alive, became available after three generations of family ownership, we had to act. These ancient giant redwoods represent something beyond utility or even beauty. They are, for many, the living embodiment of natural wisdom in that many of them have successfully navigated nearly four millennia of existence. We believe that here, in their sheltering shadows, we can create a place in which people of all backgrounds can be brought together and be inspired to think differently about how we can learn and thereby benefit from their example.

Like the Gardens of Academus, we want to create in Eden Project Sequoia an inspiring place to provoke thinking and teaching, where science and culture mix, to create a rounded view of the world. It is intended that this will create a movement of citizens, both young and old, who commit themselves to being responsible guardians and active champions of nature throughout America and even further afield.

About Eden Project Sequoia

The Eden Project in America will be unique and of its place in California, reflecting the innovative approach to education that is its hallmark. The ancient sequoias will be the classroom and the stage. The most important lesson from nature is that all 'disciplines' are interconnected and interdependent. Eden Project Sequoia will be an Academia inspiring the development of global citizens of the future, informed by an appreciation and understanding of the natural world. There are five strands to our approach, each distinct yet connected to the others:

1. Tree School

Tree School is an idea developed by Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, based in Copemish MI. Recognizing the interest and excitement generated by their climbing exploits to propagate ancient trees, they created the Tree School, to train and inspire the young with the urgent need to protect and care for the future of our forests. Eden Project Sequoia will expand this concept, developing the Tree School as a magnet, initially for disadvantaged young people, to teach the skills of ancient tree propagation, management and tree climbing leading to personal development, confidence, responsibility and the attribute of leadership. This in itself is an incredible mission. But Eden Project Sequoia will be more... it will focus on becoming a place where – in the shadow of the giant Redwoods – people will come to contemplate the living world, our place within it and how being a part of, not apart from nature, is the key.

2. Scientific research

Situated as it is, separate yet adjacent to national parks and the Sequoia National Monument, Eden Project Sequoia provides a unique opportunity, unfettered by federal restrictions, to create a living laboratory and develop and showcase research programs with wide applications elsewhere and, a platform for all fellow institutions, researchers and professionals who would like to partner us in the promotion, development and application of this work.

3. Arts and culture

Eden Project Sequoia presents an extraordinary setting, stage and environment in which to draw together creatives and performers from across the Arts to develop and perform work for invited audiences and for broadcast. It is to be hoped that this very special place will provide the inducement to attract both the very best of established artists as well an new and exciting emerging artists influenced and inspired by the nature around them, its beauty, its wildness and its importance. The ambition will be to nurture this space into becoming a foremost global exponent of nature writing and exposition.

'This project is both a symbol for a new Enlightenment and a platform from which to encourage and inspire education from nature.' 
Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder Eden Project

4. A platform for communication

Eden Project Sequoia will deploy the latest technology to involve visitors really and virtually in the life and development of its activities. This will ensure the continued participation of its supporters regardless of their physical location. Possibly most importantly the digital connections will become a feature of educational tools available to all schools and as a hub for triangulating events at Eden Project Sequoia with other wildernesses (described in the Global Jewels programme below) to provide 'witness' to these spaces and provide a continuous focus on the work we are engaged in with a community that while they cannot visit, can register their membership of this community of guardians.

5. Global Jewels program

As part of its long term plans, Eden is establishing a Global Jewels Program, a collection of sites of beauty and inspiration that are globally important to us and to the future. Eden Project Sequoia will be the flagship of this initiative which will include other Eden projects around the world. The Eden Project has projects underway in multiple locations. Eden Project Sequoia will be the hub of these networks – be it marine monitoring from Aldabra in the Seychelles, through to river restoration in Qingdao, Antarctic focussed monitoring in Tasmania, desert living in Dubai or human reaction in the face of power of nature in the earthquake zone of Christchurch, New Zealand, Eden Project Sequoia will bring these together as a unique and unrivalled resource for the planet. Find out more about Eden Project International.

A word from Sir Tim Smit, Co-founder Eden Project

"Throughout the world, civic society is confronting the realisation that qualifications are not the same thing as education. Qualifications equip individuals to carry out tasks and professions, education provides a lens through which to understand the world and our place in it. For two hundred years we have developed an academic community of ever increasing specialism; at the same time, our appreciation of the world as a whole living organism... an ecology, has become smaller.

We believe that the Project described above provides both a symbol for a new Enlightenment and a platform from which to encourage and inspire education from nature. This is muscular and mainstream not 'alternative'. Consider if you will, that some of the most powerful and innovative tech companies in the world are now returning to look afresh at ecology for inspiration. Why? Because in the binary algorythmic worlds they master they have come to realise that we are creatures marching to a different tune to clocks and machines and, it is in this fluid adaptive space that we can find the niches that make us humans happy.

The prize for us is nothing less than to kick-start, in the presence of awe and wonder, a revolution in human understanding and appreciation of the world we live in so that we can learn and live better from it."


Photo credits: Jason Sturner, Allie Caulfield and Marshmallow Laser Feast.