At first, “deep time” sounds quite mysterious, like an astrophysical phenomenon. And in reality it is just as intriguing. These initiatives champion the importance of context on a grand scale. It’s about seeing ourselves as part of a continuum; understanding what’s past as part of the future. Particularly for when we need to remember to do things differently.
If you don’t appreciate history, you won’t be able to predict the future. Seeing ahead clearly requires looking backward.
That’s how “deep time” projects come to exist. Those who work on behalf of coming generations aren’t thinking of the future in an abstract vacuum. They have an expansive sense of time that includes all the yesterdays and tomorrows, and they build upon the past.
Take, for example, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which safeguards 10,000 years of agricultural diversity from around the world. The vault is a global effort to ensure the future of food diversity in light of lost knowledge. It’s “a legacy we can’t leave to chance,” according to the vault’s creators. They explain, “Throughout the history of agriculture, farmers have generated a seemingly endless diversity within crops, discovering ingenious solutions to local challenges… Crop diversity allows farmers to feed the world. But this diversity is not in fact endless. It is disappearing, and once lost, it’s lost forever.”