Listening to Steve Ward feels like being transported to a parallel universe.
A world where conventional barriers do not exist: one where nothing is impossible.
Steve is in the process of bringing a big plan to fruition. A very big plan. A plan that involves building a $1billion ‘Earth Pyramid’ in Malaysia that will generate $billions for environment and peace charities across the world. He wants it to be the most important monument of our time, offering a 1,000 year legacy.
On first hearing Steve talk about his project it’s so ambitious it sounds bonkers, but Steve doesn’t let people think his dreams are too big to stop him. His energy and enthusiasm is unstoppable.
The vision was born back in December 2009 when Steve, a landscaper who was born in the UK but raised in New Zealand, was sat round the kitchen table with his family at home in West Yorkshire.
His daughter Stephanie had heard about the UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Copenhagen on the news.
It prompted her to ask her parents, “Why can’t we do something to help the planet for future generations?”
Steve and his wife Vicky didn’t want to sound defeatist so the Ward family set about thinking of ideas of how to promote environmental issues. They got on to discussing famous landmarks of the world they hit upon the idea of building a new pyramid that could act as a monument to promoting peace and protecting the environment. The plan was that the pyramid would be a giant, global time capsule.
“Peace and environmental matters are two of the biggest issues our children will face in the future, but they are two of the most underfunded areas of education,” said Steve.
“To make a positive difference in the world you need to think big. To tackle these issues we need to generate vast sums of money – the Earth Pyramid will try to do this in a fun, exciting and thought-provoking way.”
Within days the Ward family had formed a letter outlining their vision and sent it out to as many world leaders as they could.
They got six positive responses within the first two weeks, then 13 more positive responses in the following 12 months, including former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and the presidents of Ecuador, Madagascar and Seychelles, as well as the President of Timor-Leste, Jose Ramos-Horta, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996.
Among the global peace activists backing the project is Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Noble Peace Laureate, Desmond Tutu.
He said: “Any project that aims to get the people of the world working together in a positive way is worth supporting, and the Earth Pyramid is such a project.
“To create a monument that celebrates the many different cultures that make up our planet and gives children from around the world a chance to have their hopes and dreams recorded for future generations is a great idea.”
Steve and his family have continued to develop their big plan – now officially known as the Earth Pyramid Project (EPP) – and the dream is on its way to becoming a reality.
The Earth Pyramid will stand 50m tall, with each side measuring four 70m at its base. As well at the pyramid and time capsule chambers, there will also be an education centre.
Steve said: “The aim of the Earth Pyramid Project is to create a monument that every nation and an entire generation of the world’s children can contribute to.
“With the many issues the world is facing it is now more important than ever for us to start working together to educate and prepare our children for the challenges they will be facing in their lifetimes.”
The University of Bradford has been offering expert advice since the early days of the project. The School of Management has helped with financial planning, and the Peace and Engineering departments now also supporting the scheme.
Steve said: “Bradford were the first people to help and get involved. The MBA students at the School of Management have been a huge help - they researched and helped with the business planning of the project and the School of Engineering helped with research into building materials.”
Steve had originally hoped the pyramid could be built somewhere in Britain but it was an organisation in Malaysia, Matrix Global Schools, that persuaded Steve that it should host the Earth Pyramid Project.
Located in Sendayan, south of Kuala Lumpur, the project will be more than just a pyramid and huge time capsule, it will also be an education centre.
The pyramid itself will house time capsules in four different forms. They will be:
- The countries, overseas territories and indigenous peoples chamber which will capture a snapshot of life from every corner of the world.
- The Children’s Chamber will give every child in the world a chance to record their thoughts for future generations on a small postcard that will survive for 1,000 years. Children from around the world will then get to vote on local initiatives they want the Earth Pyramid Project to support.
- The Founders Chamber gives some of the wealthiest philanthropists from across the world the opportunity to store details of their lives and achievements in their own half metre, hand-carved stone cube. The first of these cubes have been carved by York stonemason Simon Tyson. There will be 1,000 of these capsules, which will fund the cost of building the pyramid.
- The Digital Preservation Chamber (DPC) will hold videos, photographs and text in individual Virtual Time Capsules (VTC) documenting the lives of people in specially designed disks that will last for 1,000 years. There will potentially be space for one billion VTCs, raising $billions to fund the pyramid for 1,000 years, while also generating huge revenue for peace and environmental charities and projects across the world.
Steve said: “People who buy a capsule will be investing in the future for our children and also giving them the opportunity to decide where they feel these funds should be spent. The Earth Pyramid Project is about giving back to help future generations.”
He added that there were many other potential revenue streams, including sponsorship, advertising, tourism and merchandise.
Of the VTC technology, Steve said: “The technology currently exists to achieve all this but we also intend to future proof the digital preservation side of the venture by allowing for a preservation upgrade as the technology becomes available.
“Hitachi is currently developing a technology whereby vast amounts of information can be stored on small glass blocks.”
The Digital Preservation Chamber was the idea of Steve’s friend, Paralympic Games cycling triple gold medallist David Stone MBE.
Early last year the first stones were chosen and quarried from the Mone Brothers Quarry near Leeds and one near Tadcaster, North Yorkshire.
International engineering firm Arup whose iconic structures include the Sydney Opera House and the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing has been working on the project for five years, offering its expertise in the designing, planning and building of the pyramid.
Mark Steele, Associate Director of Arup, said: “Nobody has ever tried to do anything like this before, but we have done projects that have similar facets to them and worked on historical buildings so we are bringing the expert construction knowledge that will make sure the building lasts for 1,000 years.
“We have material specialists and we will use low carbon alternates to concrete, including using waste products from the steel industry.”
The logistics of building the pyramid are made somewhat more complicated by the fact that the public will be doing the work, using similar techniques and tools to what are thought to have been utilized to build the pyramids in Egypt.
French architect Jean Pierre Houdin, who is internationally renowned for his new theories on construction techniques used by Egyptians to build the Great Pyramid at Giza 4,500 years ago, has also offered his expertise to the project. His theories that the pyramid was built from the inside to the outside will be put to the test in part of the building of the Earth Pyramid.
Mr Houdin said: “I'm very supportive of the Earth Pyramid Project. I would be very pleased if my work could help with the project.”
Steve added: “It’s still a mystery how the pyramids were built – how they moved tonnes of stone to build these huge structures!”
The building of the pyramid is expected to take four to five years, with work expected to start in the next two to three years.
Steve said: “The actual building of the pyramid will be the start of its aim of being a global community project – members of the public will come from across the world to help carve and lay the stones, all using traditional tools and methods.
“By bringing people together it will enable us to discuss environmental concerns across the world. It’ll be like a UN construction site!”
Jeremy Gilly, of the action group Peace One Day, is also involved in the project.
He said: “The Earth Pyramid is an amazing project. It is inspiring people and giving them an opportunity to voice their thoughts on peace and the environment, and that can only be a good thing.”
Spreading the word about the Earth Pyramid Project is an ongoing priority for Steve, who is pictured below on the far left at the Houses of Parliament after presenting his vision to the House of Lords.
There will be announcement about building timeframes of the Earth Pyramid Project on the International Day of Peace on September 21.
For more information, visit the Earth Pyramid Project website.