How Organisations can engage with the Sustainable Development Goals through the Deep Time Walk

Deep Time Walk

Photo: Renata Safon

The idea of the Deep Time Walk is simple but incredibly powerful: when dealing with the vast dimensions of time and space, we are often unable to grasp the magnitude quantitatively, just through studying the numbers. A Deep Time Walk allows us to walk the time line of the history of the Earth and also universe, and thus for example, on a walk of 4.6km, if we start with the birth of Earth, each step of 1m represents 1m years.


Our biosphere, and life on Earth, has evolved over the course of 4.6 billion years (4,600,000,000). As people with human-scale lifespans it can be extremely difficult to truly understand our place within the timescale of evolution. There have been many attempts to help place the lifetime of human beings and our civilisation in context – for example, the final second of the final minute of the final hour in a period of 24 hours – but these remain intellectual understandings and not fully graspable intuitively.

To overcome these challenges, Stephan Harding and Sergio Maraschin invented the notion of the deep time walk in order to be able to teach deep ecology to students at Schumacher College. The idea is simple, but powerfully effective. The deep time walk is exactly that – a walk of 4.6 km where each step of roughly one metre is the equivalent of one million years. The walk is done in a consciously meditative state, allowing you to really absorb the time spans, the eons and periods named by geologists, and thus to appreciate just how recent life, as we know it, sprang up in the context of the overall age of Earth.

Photo: Holonomics Education

Having worked for over 15 years with internet pioneer Macromedia (Adobe) and mobile technology giant Qualcomm, Rob Woodford now works on a range of initiatives bridging the areas of ecology, technology and music, one of these bringing a new incarnation of the Deep Time Walk to life as an interactive phone app.

The Deep Time Walk app enables users to enter a deep experience by walking through a dramatised history of the living Earth. Sensitively designed using appropriate technology, the app encourages a shift away from the smartphone screen to instead connect with the natural world around you via an augmented audio narrative. Walk through 4.6 billion years of earth history, learn about humanity’s ancestral heritage with all life, experience what you are a part of and comprehend our geological impact.

Maria Moraes Robinson and I write about the deep time walk in detail in our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, allowing you to recreate the Deep Time Walk and follow the main events in the history of the evolution of life on earth. The reason we did so was to encourage brands and organisations to explore how they could integrate this powerful experience into their activities to help promote the Sustainable Development Goals. As we approach 2018 World Environment Day, one example of the way in which the Deep Time Walk app is being used is the recently announced partnership with Earth Charter International.

Commenting on the partnership, Mirian Vilela, Executive Director, Earth Charter International, stated that: “The Deep Time Walk helps give meaning to our life and our close connection with the living world. It is a wonderful educational instrument that encourages reflection on the connections between past, present and future. A partnership between the Earth Charter International and Deep Time Walk, especially linking it to Mapting, is natural and reinforces our efforts. We are excited to collaborate with this project as it is very much aligned with the Earth Charter vision.”

This partnership empowers the two organisations to collaborate in a number of ways. Initially, the Deep Time Walk app will recommend people sign the Earth Charter when completing the walk. It will also suggest users download the Mapting app from Earth Charter International to encourage the adoption of positive actions that are aligned with Sustainable Development Goals.

The Mapting app from Earth Charter International enables users to share with others the activities and projects they are involved in with, encouraging the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Earth Charter Principles. These activities align with Earth Charter Principle 7: “Adopt patterns of production, consumption and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being.” and SDG 12 to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” Download the Mapting app and find out more about the Earth Charter.

Robert Woodford, Marketing Director for Deep Time Walk: “Having been a signatory of the Earth Charter since our formation, Deep Time Walk C.I.C. is excited about this new collaboration with Earth Charter International and we look forward to further collaboration between the organisations.”

This article was first published on Sustainable Brands, 01/06/18

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