of my favorite blogs for the last few years has been Inhabitat. They
usually talk about home living, the environment, and what’s coming
around the corner. These topics segue nicely with one of my other
pleasures, Epcot and Walt Disney’s vision of the future. So I was
doubly pleased when today Inhabitat posted a review of Epcot.
While the article hits on many of the strengths and weaknesses of the theme park, it does have a few failings that a regular visitor to the park would have noticed.
EPCOT is just a shadow of its original ambitions – more theme-park than
experimental community with lots of roller-coaster rides, creepily
antiquated “visions of the future” exhibits with talking animatronic
robots, and a global village tourist trap."
Actually it’s all theme-park. But it’s also part World’s Fair and part
United Nations. That global village tourist trap is the first exposure
a lot of school age Americans get to cultures other than their own.
Having more Global Villages like this could only help to enable greater
understanding of the world’s diversity.
"Apparently there is still one area of EPCOT where actual
experimentation is still taking place however — in agricultural
technology. EPCOT has several large greenhouses (2.5 million square
feet!) which not only produce much of the food for EPCOT inhabitants
(including Mickey Mouse shaped vegetables) "
It’s not experimentation, but right next door to ‘The Land’ is ‘The
Seas’ which has a successful Sea Animal Rescue program. That’s often
overlooked. Admittedly, they’ve gone a little bit off their conservation
message there, but there are still lessons to be learned.
Back at ‘The Land’ pavilion the food produced in the greenhouses is
consumed in various Epcot restaurants. There are no inhabitants at
Epcot (although that would be true to the original vision). It looks
like you also missed the Timon & Pumba Lion King movie that
preaches recycling and eco-friendly development.
I’d also like to see Disney talk up more about how their efforts to
recycle, build to green standards, and meet Florida Green Lodging
standards, help to offset some of the earth unfriendly parts of the
[long descriptive paragraphs about the greenhouses and alternate gardening styles deleted]
stop on the “Living With the Land” tour took us up close and personal
to the concept of stacked gardens. While we love the idea of maximizing
space and efficiency by vertically stacking plants, we can’t figure out
why on earth a greenhouse preaching sustainability uses STYROFOAM pots
for all their plants! A precocious 6-year-old boy on my tour apparently
noticed the same thing and asked our intern-guide why there was so much
styrofoam, since the foam plastic is not biodegradable and not really a
“sustainable” choice for an exhibit on sustainability. Our guide,
apparently not understanding the implications of the question,
explained glibly that EPCOT uses styrofoam because it is cheap,
lightweight and easy to toss out in order to get fresh new pots daily. "
It’s possible those containers weren’t styrofoam at all. I think
they’re actually non-CFC containers that use recycled materials in
their construction. There’s a problem with using ‘biodegradable’
containers as reusable planting vehicles. But I’ll double check next
time I’m on the tour there.
"The 6-year-old then asked our
guide about genetic experimentation, and pretty quickly we all learn
that most of the crops within the “Living With The Land” greenhouses
are genetically modified. At this point in the tour I’m starting to
think that perhaps EPCOT needs to give media training to their interns
– because lots of talk about genetically modified crops and copious use
of styrofoam “because its cheap and disposable” doesn’t exactly paint
the rosiest of pictures for an exhibit supposedly about “Living With
That’s a paragraph I can agree with whole-heartedly. I’d also like to
see them provide something guests can take home with them so they can
recreate some of the technologies used in the exhibits.
end of the day, these Mickey-head franken-vegetables seemed to be the
sole remaining raison d’etre of EPCOT’s The Land exhibit. While EPCOT’s
agricultural experiments with hydroponics and IPM were at one time
groundbreaking (back in the 1960’s), today the research has been
overtaken by the fiscal need to entertain the public."
Also agreed. Somewhere along the line they forgot that the public can
be educated and entertained at the same time. But that would require
updating exhibits with new technologies, since old technologies can
lose their entertainment value.
"In my opinion, however, the best part of EPCOT is the history it
evokes: the 1950’s obsession with the future and the ability to see the
world through the idealistic eyes of a more optimistic era – an era
that believed technological innovation could solve social ills. All
that remains of that world now is a giant Bucky Ball (with a giant
detached Mickey arm) and a lot of genetically modified Mickey-shaped
vegetables in styrofoam containers."
I think you might be a decade or two off. This Epcot owes a lot of its
existence to the 1964 World’s Fair. But the park has moved beyond those
concepts (some would say to its detriment). But thankfully the Mickey
arm is now gone and a hint of futurism is sneaking back into
the park, albeit via new sponsor Sieman’s.
Thanks to the fine folks at Inhabitat for a great article. Do click
through and read the whole thing, even if just for the wonderful