The Deep Time Walk: a history of the living earth, step by step
We've been thinking a lot recently about how we revive our acute sense that "the planet is burning", and what kinds of experiences could trigger environmentally-sane actions in our lives.
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.
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".
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.
For entertainment, here is the "Deep Time" opening ceremony at the 2016 Edinburgh Festival (music by Mogwai, projection by 59 Productions). And below that, Harrison Birtwistle's recent "Deep Time" composition.