Find Your Address As It Was Millions of Years Ago (+ Other Perspective Expanders)

Software designer Ian Webster created Ancient Earth Globe, a website that lets you type in a modern address and see how its place on earth has changed over the past 750 million years. You can select views from 750 million years ago to the present and find notes about what was happening on earth at each stop.

Below, my home in Harlem 540 million years ago…

Early Cambrian. A mass extinction has just taken place. Afterwards, the fossil record shows a dramatic expansion of animal life in the sea, known as the “Cambrian explosion.” Animals are beginning to evolve shells and exoskeletons.

dinosaurpictures.org

It doesn’t take computer modeling to get a time/space perspective on our tiny, vivid lives. I love poet Gary Snyder’s description in The Practice of the Wild of local changes that take place within a a few generations…

Our place is part of what we are. Yet even a “place” has a kind of fluidity: it passes through space and time—”ceremonial time” in John Hanson Mitchell’s phrase. A place will have been grasslands, then conifers, then beech and elm. It will have been half riverbed, it will have been scratched and plowed by ice. And then it will be cultivated, paved, sprayed, dammed, graded, built up. But each is only for a while, and that will be just another set of lines on the palimpsest.  The whole earth is a great tablet holding the multiple overlaid new and ancient traces of the swirl of forces. Each place is its own place, forever (eventually) wild. A place on earth is a mosaic within larger mosaics—the land is all small places, all precise tiny realms replicating larger and smaller patterns.

 

Another way to gain that perspective is to go into the woods and dig, as an artist friend used to do. About six inches down he’d start to find the evidence of other lives: chamber pot, Barbie doll, dishes, ruins of a chimney…

lorogomo via Flickr

 

With thanks to lorogomo’s great Flickr for use of his unearthed Barbie photo…

 

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