Peak & Prairie
August / September 1999
by Kyra Epstein
It’s been five billion years since whirling, cosmic debris formed our Sun and Earth. It’s hard to grasp just how long that is.
But imagine a one-mile “Walk Through Time,” where each step is one million years. One thousand steps after you start you’ll reach the time when bacteria emerge. Another 3,000 steps later, the first slimy molds appear. Two hundred steps from the end of the time walk—our present—dinosaurs flourish.
And at the end of the two-hour walk, during the time it takes you to walk the very last step, all of the human tragedies, successes, inventions and advances—in fact the entirety of human history—occur.
It’s a little humbling. But the walk, created by Hewlett Packard employees for an Earth Day 1997 celebration, is not meant to belittle human beings. It was created to give a sense of connection and dependence between humans and the Earth.
Karen Harwell is a facilitator and educator at the Foundation for Global Community, the organization that inherited the “Walk through Time” so that its message could be taken to others across the world. She thinks of the walk, called “From Stardust to Us,” as a kinesthetic tool to help people relate with the earth rather than seeing the earth as an object.
Not everyone agrees that the walk’s scientific portrayal of evolution is correct. But according to Foundation Office Coordinator Eileen Rinde, almost everyone who has taken the walk has been struck with a sense of awe. She said that after the experience, she hears people talking about things they didn’t know—and feeling responsible for their part in the constantly changing mystery of the Earth.
The walk has been used many times already, including being featured as the introductory event of the State of the World Forum, a gathering of over 500 world leaders, in 1997. The exhibit is currently at the Singapore Science Center for a year long engagement.
For more information on how to use the walk in your community, you can call the Foundation for Global Community in Palo Alto, California.
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