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Step back in time

The act of walking, as the author and activist Rebecca Solnit describes, is “how the body measures itself against the Earth” and helps put the unfathomable number of Earth’s roughly 4,543,000,000 year history into perspective. It enables us to connect our own short-lived experience of time on Earth with the vast expanse of geological time.

Making the unfathomable, fathomable

We exist largely within a human scale of time. Days, weeks, and deadlines – decades and generations. Rarely do we attempt to comprehend the context of the timescales of the earth, or the universe. Vast, complex, and full of unknowns, the topic requires us to master many disciplines to create a coherent picture of Earth’s history. By walking, and listening to the echoes from deep time, we can begin to build new reference points for understanding and experiencing Earth as what philosopher David Abram calls ‘our own wider body’.

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Our sense of time is also affected by the common misrepresentation of the true scale of the history of the earth in popular science books. Due to the practicalities of limited space on the printed page, billions of years are often compressed and simply labelled, for example, ‘Precambrian’ - giving disproportionate prominence to popular topics such as dinosaurs and the evolution of our species.

By helping you to physically experience the true scale of the earth’s history, the Deep Time Walk makes this wider perspective comprehensible with respect to all life on Earth, including ourselves. The walk makes the unfathomable, fathomable.

“Long parts of the walk are silent, as the vast history of our planet awaiting a telling. Right at the last step, Stephan pulls out a tape measure: human civilization. And in the final tiny centimetres, modern industrial society, and all our innovations, hungers, impacts. When we see and feel history on this scale we are unable to stand aside – it is a Deep Experience.”

Chris Nichols, Ashridge Business School

To experience the Deep Time Walk in person, visit Schumacher College, which runs a number of postgraduate masters programmes, as well as a regular program of short courses, all featuring the Deep Time Walk. The walk is integral part of the college experience as, is the change in worldview that it often engenders in participants.

History of the Walk

The Deep Time Walk app emerged from the amalgamation of two projects. The Walk Through Time, was created in California in 1997 and the Deep Time Walk was created at Schumacher College, Devon in 2008.

The Walk Through Time is a physical display of 95 illustrative panels accurately placed along a one mile walk, where each foot represents one million years of evolution. This was first envisaged by Professor Sidney Liebes from Hewlett Packard Laboratories. The display has now travelled around the world to international conferences, major museums and universities, and private events. There are three sets, two in the US and one in Europe.

The Deep Time Walk is a 4.6km walk co-created at Schumacher College in 2007 by ecologist Dr Stephan Harding, Head of Holistic Science at the College and his MSc student, the geologist Sergio Maraschin. Stephan has been leading the walk from Little Dartmouth to Dartmouth on the South Devon coast of England ever since. This highly experiential walk is a central component of the holistic learning experience at Schumacher College.

In 2012, thanks to the networking of David McConville (Board Chair of the Buckminster Fuller Institute) two people became connected. He introduced the artistic talents of Fred Adam, an expert in the use of smartphones for walking across time and space, with Geoff Ainscow, leader of the Walk Through Time Project. This partnership gave birth to the first Walk Through Time iPhone app, which had a short test flight before feedback from beta testing demanded a re-design.

A year later, a group at Schumacher College were investigating the creation of an app for the Deep Time Walk. Rob Woodford, one of those on the project, reviewed the Walk Through Time app and, shortly after, Geoff received an email from Stephan Harding asking "could we collaborate?" And, as is said, "the rest is history."

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Deep Time Walk is a project by Schumacher College, part of the Dartington Hall Trust and Geoff Ainscow from Conscious Elders Network