What the exhibition does

  • Reveals the world beyond our senses: too big, too small, too fast, too slow, too far away in space and time
  • Introduces the interconnectedness between life and the Earth’s environments at all scales
  • Explores how life is shaped by, and shapes, invisible systems

Our Life Support System

If the invisible lifeforms and systems we rely on for fresh air, clean water, fertile soil, nutritious food, rich biodiversity, a stable climate and a natural recycling system are threatened, so are we.

Bringing the invisible into view and exploring the interconnectedness of everything can transform our understanding of the world – and how we interact with it.

Too small, too vast, too long ago to see…until now. What lies beyond our senses helps to keep us all alive:

  • Small Invisible: Creatures so small we can’t see them.
  • Vast Invisible: Natural systems so vast we can’t feel them.
  • Past Invisible: A time so long ago it’s hard to imagine.

Together the Small, Vast and Past Invisible built the Earth’s Life Support System. Today this provides us with fresh air, clean water, fertile soil, nutritious food, rich biodiversity, an equitable stable climate and a natural recycling system. The system is precious, unique and fragile. You are part of it – it affects you and you affect it. Time to bring the invisible into view.

Insights from the Invisible 

Energy and materials flow in endless cycles between air, water, land and life, including us – everything on the Earth is part of this interconnected system. We’re disrupting the cycles and the system: polluting parts we rely on, depleting resources, reducing biodiversity, causing climate change...

What to do?

Respect the Small, reveal the Vast, examine the Past, explore the Invisible Worlds of Air, Water and Soil (in Eden’s Outdoor Gardens) and learn from and work with the Earth’s Life Support System.

  • Use a sustainable energy source (the Sun).
  • Recycle materials as nature does.
  • Learn from nature: good ideas start on a small scale, and if they succeed they spread.

Bringing the invisible into view and exploring the interconnectedness of everything can transform our understanding of the world … and help to tackle some of today’s challenges. 

‘As we try to create a more sustainable future together we can learn a lot from how microbes have been running the planet for the past 3.5 billion years. Like them, we need to create networks of transformative change, powered by sustainable energy, and supported by the recycling of materials. These will be our sources of future abundance.’
Professor Tim Lenton, Chair in Climate Change and Earth System Science, and Director, Global Systems Institute, University of Exeter

Practical solutions

There’s no shortage of top tips for a greener life: fitting energy-saving lightbulbs and so on. Useful? Yes and no. They can trivialise the issues; saving the world isn’t a matter of what goes in your basket, and it takes the heat off the big guys. But if we had to write our own Ten Top Tips (eleven, actually!), they’d go like this.

Thank yous

The exhibition was made possible with the help of the following

Supported by Wellcome Trust

Funded by

  • Arts Council England
  • Wolfson Foundation
  • Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation

Industry Partners

  • Forbo Flooring Systems UK
  • Givaudan
  • ZEISS UK – Oliver Clarke

Special Scientific Advisor: Michael H. Depledge

Research Partners and Advisory Group

  • Alex May
  • Anna Dumitriu
  • BBC Science: Helen Thomas
  • Ben Gammon Consulting
  • British Science Association: Ivvet Modinou
  • Dan Arnold
  • Duchy College: Becky Wilson
  • Egenis Centre for the Study of Life Sciences
  • European Centre for Environment and Human Health
  • European Space Agency
  • Falmouth University: Daro Montag
  • FoAM Kernow
  • Gemma Anderson
  • Harvard Medical School: Roberto Kolter 
  • Scott Chimileski
  • MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology): Sallie Chisholm
  • MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research: Connor Bamford
  • The Microbiology Society: Nigel Brown
  • NASA
  • The Open University: Monica Grady
  • Plymouth Marine Laboratory  
  • Rezatec: Tim Vallings, Andrew Carrel
  • The Royal Society: Jonathan Ashmore
  • UCL (University College London): Joanne M. Santini, Mark Maslin
  • University of Exeter: Ben Raymond, Karen Hudson-Edwards, Living Systems Institute, Tim Lenton, Will Gaze
  • University of Leeds: Katie Field
  • University of Plymouth: Iain Stewart
  • University of Surrey: Simon Park
  • University of Worcester: Tim Pettitt
  • UWE Bristol (University of the West of England, Bristol): Clare Wilkinson, Emma Weitkamp
  • Enda Hayes
  • Wellcome Genome Campus: Steve Scott
  • The ZEISS International Microscopy Team

Project Team

  • Architects: Tate Harmer
  • Project Management: Ease
  • Exhibits
    • Concept Shed
    • KIN
    • Owl’n’wolf
    • Eden Project Design Team
  • Eden Project Invisible Worlds Team