by Derrick French
A UNITED Nations (UN) commission's call for action to help to protect
the environment is being answered with the construction in northern
England of a one million pounds sterling centre for the study and
promotion of sustainable development.
The Earth Centre is a Millennium Commission Landmark Project and its first phase will open in May 1998.
The centre is being built following an appeal by the UN's Commission
on the Environment and Development for "vast campaigns of education, debate and public participation" in order to correct the course of
present developments in the environment.
The Commission believes it is necessary ``to capture the hearts and
minds of people young and old'' in the cause of sustainable
And so do the organisers of the Earth Centre project.
As well as being a global point of focus for sustainable development,
the centre will be a world class visitor attraction that combines
purpose with pleasure and is both inspiring and entertaining.
Showing in effective and dramatic ways why the growing pressure on
the earth's natural resources makes sustainable development vital it
will also seek the exchange of ideas to achieve such development.
And it will promote universal quality and equality of life to enable
people to develop their own potential.
''Sustainable development has been defined in many ways,'' says Sir
Crispin Tickell, chairman of the centre's advisory board and the
British Government's panel on sustainable development. ``My own
definition is durable change for the better while protecting the
earth that we inherit and the earth we bequeath.'' While showing that
sustainable development is possible, the centre, ``above all, will
provide a bridge between thinking about the environment and putting
those thoughts into practical effect,'' says Sir Crispin.
On a 161.8 hectare (400 acres) site in a valley near Conisbrough,
Yorkshire, northern England, and within two hours' travelling time
for 17 million people, the centre is "one of the most promising tourism
developments in Britain,'' says the English Tourist Board.
The Earth Centre is based on the belief that the environmental,
social and other effects of current economic and industrial
development are unacceptable and cannot be continued in the next
century without the risk of "catastrophic breakdown''.
''We face the prospect of accelerating pollution of the global
environment, man-made changes in the climate and in the chemical
balance of the atmosphere,'' say the project organisers.
They warn of over-exploitation of forests, oceans and other expanses
and of grave threats to once self-renewing sources such as fresh
water and soils. The centre will promote respect for the natural
world, the conservation of habitats locally and globally, a reduction
in the demand for non-renewable energy, renewable energy generation
and the pollution-free manufacture of all goods.
It will encourage more repair, re-use, reconditioning and recycling.
It is hoped that the centre's work will reduce international tension
by encouraging worldwide understanding of and respect for different
cultures, religions and ways of living and by the development of
self-sustaining regional economies.
An important part of its activities will research many aspects of the
environment, including sustainable farming methods to provide a wide
choice of fresh foods, enhance the environment and respect animals.
Organic farming will be featured and organically-grown food will be
on sale in refreshment areas.
The Earth Centre, its imaginative and striking buildings designed by
leading UK architects and engineers, will use less energy than other
buildings of similar size. An impressively large solar canopy at the
entrance and exit will be fitted with the biggest array of photo
voltaic cells in Britain, producing 35 per cent of the centre's
Mechanical chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-based refrigeration will be
avoided in the air conditioning by using a system that retains
night-time coolness for release during the day.
The first phase of construction includes the Planet Earth galleries
which will present a series of "thrilling and powerful attractions to
inspire humankind to work with the planet, not against it''.
After a film show, visitors will walk through dark galleries of
illuminated displays and messages which show the earth's
bio-diversity and the threats to it.
They will then move into a spectacular glass-roofed gallery which
will convey the universal appeal of a sustainable future. The first
phase will include other major attractions including Millennium
Cities which will present creative visions of future cities from
people all over the world, using projected images, sounds, light and
models to leave the visitor excited about future possibilities.
Eco-Station is a combined indoor and outdoor attraction focusing on
future sustainable transport. At 21st Century Living, interactive
features will put visitors into the shoes of people of the future. A
solar house will include the latest technology and examples of
futuristic devices such as voice activated home appliances.
In another building visitors will also see how hydroponic plant
culture is used in a water treatment system. There will be a
children's play attraction and landscaped gardens.
One of the most important developments at the Earth Centre will be
the opening in 2000 of The Ark, a vision of the next millennium
presented under a vast glass roof which is one of the latest examples
of "green'' building design.
The Earth Centre, virtually surrounded by eighty thousand trees, will
have forty acres of gardens, walks and cycle trails, three play
spaces and will offer river trips from its own wharf.
There will be a covered 400-seat arena in the design of a traditional
Roman forum where musical, dance and theatrical events from many
parts of the world will be presented. A 2,000-cover food and retail
hall will include Britain's biggest ``green'' shop selling organic food
and other items.
Here visitors will be able to put into practice some of the lessons
they have learned _ because products for sale will include gadgets to
help them contribute to sustainability by using less electricity at
And from the Earth Centre's inception its management team has
considered the possible environmental impact of every aspect of
design, construction and management of the project.
Even the land on which it is being built has been reclaimed from
former industrial use - ``a visible symbol of the regeneration that the
Earth Centre seeks to encourage, `` say the organisers.
The Earth Centre
Kilner's Bridge, Doncaster Road, Denaby Main
Yorkshire, United Kingdom, DN12 4DY
Telephone: +44 1709-512000