John Ruskin, Rocks and Torrent, Glenfinlas

Spotlight: Futures

Ruskin was actively engaged in what we might now call futures thinking. He employed cutting-edge technology, including daguerreotype photography, to record past objects and events that he saw as key for guiding future innovations. He was also one of the first people to speak seriously about the potential dangers of climate change.

He recognised that the industrialisation of towns and cities would have severe consequences for the natural world and, consequently, for human health. He predicted that what he called the ‘Storm Cloud of the Nineteenth Century’ (by which he meant both the physical pollution produced by industry and its social and psychological side effects) would transform British life for in the coming centuries.

The Ruskin Whitehouse Collection contains an extensive record of Ruskin’s observations of metrological phenomena, including his cloud studies. It also contains manuscript and print versions of many of his most famous pronouncements on the consequences of industrial capitalism on the environment and human society.