In the theatre of science, the storyteller is king

On a visit to the Joshua Tree National Park in California Tim Smit paid a “king’s ransom” for a meteorite about the size of a grapefruit but far heavier. At Tim’s talk for the Sustainable Earth Institute, the meteorite was circulated through the lecture theatre for all to experience directly. When it was passed to me, two things went through my mind. Firstly, that this object had its origins beyond the boundaries of Earth and I had therefore the privilege to be handling something extraterrestrial. Secondly this article was very, very old.

Tim Smit had framed the simple act of touching a rock within the vastness of time and space. His intention was to awaken our sense of wonder in natural phenomena. This is inherent in all of us but has been obscured in modern times by our sense of awe at what humans can achieve. We have become blind to our dependence on the natural environment which we have come to regard as something that “needs to be looked after”. Tim Smit contends that our role as scientists must encompass the acknowledgement in ourselves of this sense of wonderment and the rekindling of it in those with whom we interact. To do this we need to develop our skills at storytelling.

This theme was revisited many times as Tim regaled us with tales of his experiences as a music promoter, a rare breeds farmer and restorer of the Lost Gardens of Heligan. However, it is at the Eden Project that this theme has found its most potent expression. As Eden now inspires similar developments across the globe, Tim Smit has extended his mission to reconnect us to the natural world and to bring to our attention its role in sustaining human life on this planet.

Dr John Maskall
Associate Professor (Senior lecturer) in Environmental Science
School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science



What did Tim’s talk mean to you?

We invite everyone who attended April’s Sustainable Earth Institute public lecture from Sir Tim Smit, to submit their thoughts about what the talk meant to you. Either add your submission in the comments section at the end of this post, or email them to Kirsty Henderson on

5 responses to In the theatre of science, the storyteller is king

  1. Brad says:

    Tim’s talk was really enjoyable and inspiring, for example he talked about having experiences out of your usual comfort zone or even interest area to broaded your horizens and open you up to unexpected oppertunity.

    I’m curious, did anyone notice the smell of the meteorite?

  2. Elisabetta says:

    I was also impacted by the meteorite, because I felt that Tim circulated not only an ancient precious rock amongst his audience, but also an incredible amount of energy and inspiration. He spread ideas that have the same strength as that of a meteorite, proving with his own life that being open to diversity, following your intuition and believing in your passion can lead somewhere great. I came out of the conference with a big smile, thanks to whoever organised this!

  3. Jan Chapman says:

    Some very useful pointers on how to contribute my own love and awe of the natural world to others. Above all, keep the message simple.
    This will be very useful as we campaign for the Green Party in forthcoming elections.
    Enjoyed his reference to samba as I play in the band and love the spontaneous joy it brings to our audiences.

  4. Claire says:

    Tim’s stories reminded me to be more like me; to get out there and have more adventures. I was thrilled to speak to Tim after the lecture too; he has inspired me to explore my ideas and communicate them with enthusiasm. Therefore, I’m working on a story for North Cornwall which I hope will enthuse people to help me create a sustainable development plan in the area. A great evening!

  5. Grandad Bike says:

    The most poignant message was an almost throwaway remark: if you surround yourself with things you don’t need and don’t give them away or share them, the Grand Scheme of Things will mysteriously find a way of taking them from you.

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