A History of the Future consists of a set of photographic images, all landscapes, showing places around the world where scientists are observing the impacts of climate change.

In launching this project, we wanted to find out what could be seen of climate change in still landscape images, but more importantly we wanted to find out what could be conveyed through these images that might bridge the gap between scientific data and public understanding of the issue and also between public understanding and political will.  We wanted to find out if photographs could make us or anybody else more seriously invest in the proposition that climate change is real, urgent and a serious risk to life.

The project consists of images but is not the images themselves.  The project is the display and distribution of those images.  The images live many lives.  They have been art objects, framed in a gallery with an edition number and the aura of secrecy and value.  They have been pedagogical tools in science museums and classrooms, openly disclosing (delimiting) their content.  They have been billboards and bus ads.  They have been editorial content. In each case, we struck a different bargain between illustrating the facts of climate change (which is always contingent on captioning and context) and laying bare a state of disorientation and collapse of scale that seemed the only reliable opening into the trauma of climate change.

Our sense of what our images do best changed substantially in the course of the project, which, in turn, produced a transformation in our understanding of what activist art or research-based art could be.

A History of the Future is ongoing.


Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris (Sayler/Morris CV) work with photography, video, writing and installation. Of primary concern are contemporary efforts to develop ecological consciousness and the possibilities for art within a social activist practice. In 2006 they co-founded The Canary Project – a collaborative that produces visual media and artworks that deepen public understanding of the ecological issues. Sayler Morris have been Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows and Artist Fellows at The Nevada Museum of Art’s Center for Art + Environment. In 2008-2009 Sayler and Morris were Loeb Fellows at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. They currently teach in the Transmedia Department at Syracuse University where they co-direct The Canary Lab.

General: William L. Fox, Elizabeth Kolbert, Ross Gelbspan

The Netherlands: Tracy Metz, journalist; Dr. Henk Jan Verhagen, Delf University; Dirk Sijmons, Delft University & Harvard GSD; Armando Carbonell, Harvard GSD; Franz Vera, Biologist; Marcel Stive, Delft University; Maurits de Hoog, Delft University; Egon Baldal, Rijkswaterstaat Dienst Zeeland.

Peru: Marco Zapata, IRENA-National Resources Institute; Cesar Portocarrero, Unidad de Glaciologia y Recursos Hidricos; Anton Seimon, Wildlife Conservation Society; Henry Brecher & Bryan Mark, Ohio State University; Barbera Fraser, journalist; Dan Collyns, journalist.

Antarctica: Robert Swan, Polar Explorer, Founder of 2041; Ali Criscitiello, MIT.

Niger: Maisharou Abdou, Niger Forestry Department; Boubacar Cisse & Marcos Montoiro, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; M. Hassane Saley, National Council of the Environment for Sustainable Development; Mamadou Mamane, Secretary General, Ministry of the Environment; Dr. Chris Reij, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Bangladesh: A. Atiq Rahman, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies; Shohol Pervez, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies.

Western China: Qian Guanqiang & Dr. Dong Zhibao Chinese Academy of Sciences; Qian Ye, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR); George Steinmetz, photographer; Mickey Glantz, the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Venice: Jane Press da Mosto, author of The Science of Saving Venice; Irina Marchesi & Damir Dijakovic, UNESCO; Marta Moretti, Centro Internazionale Citta d’Acqua; Monica Ambrosini, Consorzia Venezia Nuova; Paolo Canestrelli, Director of Venice’s Tidal Forecast Center.

Pasterze Glacier: Berhard Pitchler, Heilgenblut Tourism Office; Michael Avian, Graz University; Elrhadrt Trojer, Hotel Larchenhof; Ken Miller, editor.

Fairbanks: Glenn Patrick Juday, Professor of Forest Ecology, University of Alaska.

Eastern Washington: Tom Knappenberger, National Fire Services Information Officer.

Belize Barrier Reef: Melanie McField; Marcelo Mammana, photographer; Ric Frazier, photographer; Dr. Richard B Aronson, Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Monteverde Reserve, Costa Rica: Dr. J Alan Pounds, Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve; Patricia Ramirez, Agua y Clima.

New Orleans: Francine Judd, Tulane University; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Funded by The Canary Project (see here for a full list of contributors). Partial list of individuals and institutions who funded specific locations, exhibitions or otherwise earmarked contributions: Rockefeller Family & Associates, Karl Kister and Mary Caulkins (Niger), Dave Caulkins, Jamie Berger (China), Charles and Jane Klein Family Fund (Peru), 2041 and Gilonne d’Origny (Antarctica), Hiscock & Barclay and The Compton Foundation.

Ali Criscitiello, Justin Nobel, Kyveli Vezani, Julie Gawendo, Dania Souid, Amanda Burr, Sarah Morris, Erin Geideman

Melissa Allen, Megan Baker, Celia Ballou , Erica Corbo, Rachael Gardener, Maggie Herskovitz, Stephanie Hsiung, Lindsey Jacobson, Jillian McManemin, Lebohang Moore, Katie Noel, Michelle Riley, Colleen Schultz, Winnie Lee

CommonSpace (design), Meyer Giordano (developer)