During the cold war, the doomsday clock was a symbol and metaphor that was used to describe how close we were to mutually assured destruction.

It served as a powerful and persistent reminder of how fragile our existence was.

But when it comes to climate change, a similar symbol was never envisioned – until now.

Created for #COP15 – The once-in-a-decade UN Wildlife and Biodiversity Conference – the Extinction Thermometer is an art installation designed by Benjamin Von Wong and hand-sculpted by Dana Waldman to highlight the connection between Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss.

My nephew, seeing the Extinction Thermometer for the first time. Shot on a Sony A7r-IV with a 16-35mm f2.8 lens.

Over 20 skulls were hand-carved over the course of two weeks.

Embedded within the #ExtinctionThermometer are the bones of keystone species from all across North America we stand to lose – the Caribou, Grizzly, Sea Otter, Prairie Dog, Moose, Mountain Lion, Wolf, Snowshoe Hare, and Beaver – and right at the top, you can find the skulls of humans too – because we are a part of nature and can’t live without it. 

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Our giant thermometer was built from used styrofoam insulation and neon LED lights

We used a dog dome for the bulb of our thermometer, and dust collection tubes for the top. On the insides, we embedded section-programmable LED lights that allowed us to create a transition between red and white. And a final layer of red Christmas wrapping paper and aluminum foil helped us to create the ominously glowing installation.

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The illusion of withering nature was created using live moss that slowly fades to grey.

Using a layer of non-toxic sculpting epoxy, we gradually transitioned from lush green moss into a pale and hard rocky texture to highlight the threats of a rapidly changing climate as the temperature rises beyond 1.5°C.

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The extinction thermometer is not meant to be a symbol of fear.

Instead, it’s meant to be a symbol of hope that reminds us of how our lives are intricately connected to nature.

A recent study by the One Earth Foundation shows that if we can protect and restore 50% of the land and the oceans by 2030, we still have time to reverse the worst impacts of climate change. 

Hopefully, this piece, currently located in the Grand Quay of Montreal during COP15 helps to spark and support the urgent need to protect our planet.

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  • Installation art by Von Wong and Dana Waldman
  • This project was incubated at the Activism.Studio – A non-profit laboratory unlocking the potential of art to power movements and shift culture.
  • Special thanks to our super-star volunteers who helped us bring this vision to life: Lisette Ladouceur, Joanie Pepin, Sheena, Talisa Hernandez, Wesley Wize, Andy Son, Tritam Chu, Sing Wong, Jeanette Kho, Alison Wong, Tommy Cheung, Kody Cheung, Francois L Nguyen, Christine Law, Anne T, Ruuka, Anne L. Nguyen, Deedz Kaade, Elena Novali, Tristan Gauvreau, Ray Argaza
  • And of course, our financial sponsors, who helped bring this entire piece to life:

Media Requests

  • Feel free to quote and publish the photos in your online publication (please credit & link back to the original). Specific Terms of Use can be found here.
  • High-Rez press images, BTS and more can be found in this dropbox link. 
  • Commercial requests and rights: suzy@suzyjohnston.com
  • Read more about the project at extinctionthermometer.com