terns, 1.5 miles of ancient hedgerow and two badger setts, one of which is more than 200 years old - all in the name of an 'environmental' project. This information has been ignored by the local media, who pay excessive lip service to the project. For a long time they have described the Bodelva pit as 'disused', though in fact it has at least 15 years' life left in it, with possibly another 15 years to run after that. There were between 30 and 40 full-time employees at the pit whose wages were the envy of the county. They had well-paid company jobs averaging about £300 per week, plus pension schemes and health-care. These jobs are being replaced by the usual low-waged tourism-linked opportunities that are seasonal and without prospects.
The project's original cost, before downsizing, was £105 million. Its job creation projection was 300 jobs. There is a maximum recommended investment for job creation which hovers around £15,000 per job created. Yet the Eden Project is spending close on £250,000 per job - hardly a sound investment. Since the downsizing, which means that it doesn't qualify as a 'national' project any longer, it needs £74 million. To date, it has been promised £37 million from the National Lottery, £10 million from Europe (providing they can prove that 60 per cent of their visitors are new visitors to the county) and various amounts from other small funds.
The downsizing process got rid of the reedbed sewage system, two of the four biomes, the scientific research, the education centre (the project has denied these accusations in the local papers, but what counts is what is currently at the planning department), the biomass boilers and about half the jobs. So, at the last
count, the project was promising between 100 and 150 jobs on completion, with as many as you like promised for the future. The new job creation sum looks like £74 million divided by 150 potential jobs, which equals another very unsound investment.
The Eden Project has been, from the word go, a destructive, pointless fiasco. In addition, the project has had a lot of problems in securing private-sector funding, the mark of a viable project. No-one with money to invest is going to invest it in a dead duck. The criteria for investment from public funding bodies, on the other hand, is quite different. They might want you to exemplify the true spirit of the next millennium (or possibly the spirit of the one that we are all very glad to leave behind) but they do not necessarily put profits at the top of their list.
Because the project found it had a financial shortfall, and the time had come to stump up the money to buy the Bodelva pit, the project leant on the County. This is where the project organisers should really receive a pat on the back. Because they had played the project up as being the eighth wonder of the world, because they said it would put Cornwall "on the map" and because they had promised such high job-creation figures, they won the public support of both the County and the Borough. In a closed session of the Policy Resources Committee of Cornwall County Council, a small group sanctioned the giving of £3 million to the project to help it buy the pit. They described the money as a 'loan', though no repayments are
In the name of the environment, the Eden Project is destroying important wildlife sites.
requested before the site is up and running, and only then i f they are showing a profit.
Yet, despite a huge grant from the tax revenues of the UK's poorest county, the project is still short of funds. So it has now advertised the fact that it is actively seeking partners from multinational biotech companies, inviting them to join with Eden in plant research programmes. Two years ago, I asked Eden's head of horticulture, Philip McMillan Browse, formerly of Kew Gardens, what Eden's policy was on genetic engineering. He replied that there was much good work going on in the realms of animal modification, so why not extend this to the plant world? So much for sustainability.
Cornwall has an excellent and hardworking anti-GMO group called GAFF (Genetically Altered Food Fiasco). I asked GAFF i f they would engage the project to establish what its standpoint was on GMOs. GAFF communicated with the project and received several replies. On no occasion did the project say that it would not engage in genetic modification research. It carefully circumnavigated the subject and left itself on show as a project that was prepared to engage in "any science that could benefit man and the planet".
At the time of writing, the site is still a china clay pit. McAlpine, the project's developer, is pushing a lot of claysand around to establish the foundations. Despite the requirement of the Millennium Commission that a Millennium Project must open in the year 2000/2001, The Eden Project is planning to be operational by 2002. That gives them about a year and a half to build the eighth wonder of the world on a sloppy bed of liquid clay. And in another destructive move, McAlpine bulldozed the land for the road route during the bird-nesting season, although the first visitor to the site will not need access for perhaps another two years.
The Eden Project has been, from the word go, a destructive, pointless fiasco. So what will happen i f it goes on like this? I f they don't fulfil the time requirement, as laid down by the Millennium Commission; i f it is discovered that the overwhelming tide of public opinion is against them; i f it is proven that they are neither a sustainable development nor environmentally-friendly (neither of which is hard to do) - will they have their funding withdrawn? I doubt it they are too big a fish in a small pool.n Dorienne Robinson is an active Green Party campaigner in the county of Cornwall.
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 5, August/September 1999