EdenHope Project

Outlining the steps to work towards an Eden Project in the Western Cape.

The Eden project has intrigued me since I learnt about it. My favourite quip is when I show people the website and they ask ‘is this an artist’s rendering?’ It’s not, it’s the real thing, the world’s largest indoor rainforest built in the ruins of a disused mine.

This work was created by Jürgen Matern.

In one of my last projects during my time at UCT, I was involved with the Resilient Futures project, which investigated how to “transform degraded land into a restorative agricultural sector and a dynamic manufacturing sector” through the use of fibrous plants. This reignited the Eden project dream. I learnt that Caroline Digby, a colleague on that project was part of the project and also involved in a book ‘101 things to do with a hole in the ground‘ – about life after mines.

Academia’s shortcomings, and its inability to help everyday people was particularly highlighted in the recent/ongoing extreme drought in South Africa, and I made the decision to leave. Being freshly independent, my questions now is, what do I really want, and how do I get there, particularly with how to fund it.

Quirkily, what I want is a horse. And a place to keep it where I can be with it most of the time. I want to work from home and not sit in traffic to get to work. After about a year of research while renovating my house to rent out for some passive income, I settled on Hopefield. I fell in love with the place after dropping some ducklings off, the land prices are decent – mainly because the soil is poor, it is not near a big highway so a bit out of the way, and it’s hot and dry and windy. But, it has amazing fynbos, wildflowers, and 37 wind turbines. I almost emigrated to Denmark because where my friends live there’s three wind turbines. So this was a big deal 🙂 Hopefield is also close to Cape Town, about an hour and a half’s drive away, so still doable for the occasional meeting and stocking up of supplies.

Once here, I need a trickle of income and something to keep me busy. I have a huuuge assortment of projects and things that interest me, and I’ve been wracking my brain how to tie them together in a coherent whole.

Many of these interests have a lot of groundwork done already. The AquaSavvy campaign, for example, was conceived during my time at Future Water, borne out of frustration that I couldn’t apply the Water Sensitive Design concepts to my own house. When we started working on AquaSavvy, apart from realising the jargon could not be translated to everyday people’s context, we also realised we didn’t have the data that was relevant at the high resolution that everyday people need – we don’t know what happens on every street, in every household, and how that links together at a neighbourhood or district level. That led to the ‘MAD’ idea; monitoring analysis and decision-making. This level of data stressed engineers out, because it’s just way too much data. So I decided we should employ the game engines. I’m still figuring out how to do that, but the game idea is a great angle on its own already.

AquaSavvy – monitoring, game

related to the game, entertainment. This includes a virtual reality barn, but was thinking of something like the Cape Town Science Centre, but more fun. Today I learnt that there is a concept like this already: Escape Rooms.

“Escape rooms are live-action team-based games where players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal (usually escaping from the room) in a limited amount of time.” Nicholson, S. (2015). Peeking behind the locked door: A survey of escape room facilities.
White Paper available at http://scottnicholson.com/pubs/erfacwhite.pdf

I would like my Escape Room to be science and biomimicry inspired, family friendly (although of course various themes and set-ups can be used), and eventually have a VR/AR/XR component. I would also love to have a paper craft (or craft/tinkering in general) feel to it, and perhaps messing with scale – sometimes people are as big as planets, and other times everything is in miniature, and people must hunt with magnifying glasses and tweezers, perhaps even using a microscope here and there. Arduino’s, coding challenges, the options are endless, but I think it is important to have a coherent story to it. Orienteering can combine with geocache type challenges, and these can have a real world or fantasy setting. Physical challenges that require cooperation.

Biotech – water analysis lab can function for this as well.

To be clear, if the EdenHope project doesn’t happen, that’s OK. It’s high risk, needs a lot of money and depends on a lot of people to make it happen. Right now, I am rather disillusioned by people’s ability to work together. Working on smaller projects that can be financially viable in their own right while planting the seeds to make the project a reality is a great way to work towards the bigger plan.


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