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The power of Deep Time Walks  -

The power of Deep Time Walks 

We’ve talked before about eco revelations and how they can change the way we view our place in the world, bringing about realizations of interconnectedness and interdependence. But here’s a particularly practical way to gain perspective and bring about those revelations: a Deep Time Walk.

What is a Deep Time Walk?

These are walks guided by an audio recording or a trained guide, which many people credit as a transformative experience. This 4.6km journey through 4.6 billion years of Earth history. Participants are led into a profound connection with the more-than-human world, gaining a fast-forward understanding of our species’ common ancestral heritage and interconnectedness with all lifeforms. Attendees come to view the world in a new light, rather than through the prism of the history we are accustomed to: namely, human history. The nature of these walks also better illustrate the ecological impact that humans have had in just the blink of a geological eye.

Many participants have testified to undergoing significant changes of position in relation to debates over the global crises of our time. Passionate climate advocates – such as political strategist and author Tom Rivett-Carnac have come to the forefront of climate-crisis campaigning after taking part in these walks, showing the potential of such an experience to encourage or trigger positive action and advocacy for a regenerative Earth. 🌍

The evidence for the climate crisis, its ongoing accelations, and the changes already felt globally should convince anyone of the threat it poses. However, by providing big-picture context, these walks have the power to nudge participants into transformative action – beyond protest and anger and into healing of the self and of the world.

As ecologist and philosopher David Abram has put it, this walk is “a powerful tool – or a technique – for bringing one’s own organism into resonance with the organic world. It’s one of the more powerful methods I know for feeling into the depth, and the depth of history. We tend to think of history as just a human thing, and the land as the passive backdrop against which our human history unfolds. But that’s a goof really, because our real history is the deep story of the land itself.” 

This empowering tool for change is also a prime example of thoroughly researched non-fiction storytelling. Its appeal and practicality hinges on the lack of need for a firm grasp on the many scientific disciplines which explain the structure and development of the planet. Instead, participants are simply required to pay attention and engage their imagination. Doing so means stepping back in time and experiencing the Earth’s history – not theoretically, as at school, but by taking steps of discovery in real time. 

Who came up with Deep Time Walks?

Initially known as A Walk Through Time, the concept was created in California, US, in 1997, while today’s Deep Time Walk was originated at Schumacher College, Devon, England, in 2008. The Deep Time Walk mobile guide emerged from an amalgam of the two projects just mentioned. There’s also an app which allows anyone to live the experience, with audio dramatized from a script written by Peter Oswald and Dr Stephan Harding.

👉 Read more about the history of the project.

Deep Time Cards are part of the Deep Time Walk field kit

On average, 4.6km would take between 45 minutes and an hour to walk. Here, since it represents 4.6 billion years of deep time (enormous geological or cosmic timespans), each meter stands in for a million years. Both the guided walk and the audio teach users key concepts from the Earth’s long evolution including its formation; the origin of life; plate tectonics; oxygenic photosynthesis; multicellular life; the Cambrian Explosion; and the rise of plants and vertebrates including amphibians, dinosaurs, mammals, and finally (in the last 20cm!) humans. The app even offers a time-contextual glossary to allow key scientific concepts to be reviewed, while a mobility-assist mode is also available for those unable to walk.

Who is Dr Stephan Harding?

Stephan Harding obtained his doctorate in behavioral ecology from Oxford University, England, and is one of the founders of Schumacher College, where he is Deep Ecology Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in holistic science. Harding was a student of scientist, environmentalist, and futurist James Lovelock, whose Gaia theory he has taught all over the world, alongside deep ecology and holistic science. 

In addition, he is the author of several books, including Animate Earth and Gaia Alchemy. By inspiring global leaders to shift to a Gaian worldview, Stephan Harding has had a massive influence on the climate movement, so Deep Time Walkers are in good hands.

👉 A great first taste of these walks is ‘The Deep Time Walk with Stephan Harding’, an episode of the podcast Outrage + Optimism which includes a guided Gaian meditation often given during Deep Time Walks at Schumacher College.


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Anca Rusu

Anca is a hardcore reuser, upcycler, and walker with a strong interest in media literacy and environmental communication. She crosses Greenwich Park almost every day listening to podcasts on her 10-year-old mp3 player.