Join China Institute online to have a conversation with Paul Salopek, who is now walking through China as part of his ambitious 24,000-mile Out of Eden Walk journey. Started in 2013 in Ethiopia, “Out of Eden Walk” is a unique “slow journalism” project to walk the pathways of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. After nine years and nineteen countries, Paul has traversed 12,000 miles and has 12,000 miles to go until the end of the Out of Eden Walk’s global route. Paul Salopek is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and National Geographic Explorer who founded the Out of Eden Walk, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with robust global education and storytelling missions, in 2013.
In an era where speed is key, especially in journalism where everyone needs to be the first to break the news, Mr. Salopek is now moving at the beat of his footsteps in China, covering the major stories of our time—from climate change to technological innovation, from mass migration to cultural survival—by giving voice to the people who inhabit them every day but rarely make the news. He will be joining us from his walk in China to bring us the first-hand stories of this unusual experience.
By slowing down, we hope to seek a deeper and more meaningful path to connect us, to understand a different culture, and to observe carefully and rediscover the beauty of our world.
Paul Salopek is the Executive Director of the Out of Eden Walk, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization. As a journalist and writer, Salopek has won most of the major print journalism awards in the United States including two Pulitzer Prizes. Over the course of his long writing career, he has reported globally for National Geographic magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Politico, Al Jazeera, BBC, PBS, Foreign Policy, and many other broadcasting networks and publications. Salopek worked on staff for National Geographic magazine from 1992 to 1995, with later freelance assignments taking him to Mexico and throughout Africa. Salopek reported for the Chicago Tribune from 1996 until 2009, writing mostly about conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. His two Pulitzer Prizes were for a series of stories on human genetics (1996) and for his coverage of wars and political change in Africa (2000). Salopek earned a degree in environmental biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1984. He taught international reporting at Princeton University as a Princeton Ferris-McGraw Fellow in 2009. That same year, for his work in Africa, he was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in humanities from Colby College in Maine. In 2012 he won a Nieman Foundation Fellowship at Harvard University to study ancient human migrations and human genetics. Outside of journalism, Salopek has worked intermittently as a commercial fisherman, gold miner and cattle rancher. Apart from English, he speaks fluent Spanish and rudimentary French and Russian.
Dave Pond is the Board Chair of the Out of Eden Walk. He has served in various roles on the Out of Eden Walk team since its inception in 2013. Dave is a career airline pilot with a major international airline. In addition to his flying career, Dave has been an active mentor and instructor to aspiring pilots for more than twenty years.
Marina Zhang is a documentary photographer from China. She joined the Out of Eden Walk project as Paul’s walking partner and the documentary project as a videographer in her hometown province of Yunnan in 2021. She and Paul trek through 350 miles from the Dali, the largest Bai ethnic community to the Muli, a Tibetan county located in the east of the Himalayas. They talked with farmers, artists, ethnic minorities, hunters, and Lamas along the way, to tell the China story on the ground level. Her work has been published on the Out of Eden Walk website, Looking for Muli, Visiting a Matriarchal Village in the Remote Mountains of Southwest China, and Lost Loves—and Lives of Resilience—in Guanyin. Since 2018, Marina has worked intermittently as a restaurant waitress, massagist, and high school administrative assistant to support her journey in India, Mexico, Peru, and China as a backpacker. She is studying in the Documentary Media master’s program at Toronto Metropolitan University.
Jiayang Fan has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2016. Her reporting on China, American politics, and culture has appeared in the magazine and on newyorker.com since 2010. She is currently working on her first book, Motherland, which will be published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2023.
This program is made possible through the generous support of Chinese International Education Foundation, as well as other public and private donors of China Institute.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
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