A mysterious building, concealed somewhere on the lonely Australian island of Tasmania, is set to watch and record the end of the world as we know it at the furthest reaches of the planet.
“Earth’s Black Box” is a massive steel structure that will be packed with hard drives powered by solar panels, each of which will chronicle and preserve a stream of real-time scientific updates and analysis on the direst challenges facing humanity in the near future.
In the monolithic edifice will be archived information on climate change, species extinction, environmental degradation, and health-related consequences — so that if a future culture happens to stumble across it, they will be able to put together what happened to our world.
In the words of the Earth’s Black Box website, “unless we significantly reform our way of life, climate change and other man-made threats will lead our civilisation to crumble.”
“Our actions will be recorded in the Earth’s Black Box, which will record every step we take towards a global disaster. Hundreds of data sets, measurements, and interactions pertaining to the health of our planet will be recorded on a continual basis and properly archived for future generations.”
It may be argued that the box, which is reminiscent of Norway’s famed ‘Doomsday Vault’ with its brutalist form, serves a somewhat complementary function to the vault itself.
When compared to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which serves as a fortress to safeguard a key backup of the world’s seeds in case the worst occurs, Earth’s Black Box is intended to serve as a continuous record of the world’s trajectory towards a terrible situation.
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Jim Curtis, executive creative director at marketing agency Clemenger BBDO, explained the concept: “If the Earth does crash as a result of climate change, this indestructible recording device will be there for whoever’s left to learn from that” (ABC).
“It is also there to hold leaders accountable – to ensure that their actions or inactions are documented,” says the author.
Despite the fact that the project – a collaboration between Clemenger BBDO, creative agency The Glue Society, and researchers at the University of Tasmania – is not expected to be completed until early 2022 in an undisclosed location, the box’s systems are already partially operational, in that they are ‘live recording’ environmental updates as part of a beta test.
A major goal of the project, according to its creators, is to nudge humanity away from doomsday-like scenarios, with the mere presence of the installation encouraging today’s society to act more progressively and responsibly in terms of climate action and environmental stewardship, as well as other areas.
Glue Society spokesperson Jonathan Kneebone told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that people’s actions and words are affected when they are aware that they are being taped.
“We have a responsibility to be something at the back of everyone’s mind,” said a member of the group.
While some may see Earth’s Black Box as a publicity ploy intended to attract attention rather than a real scientific documentation endeavour, there is no denying that the world urgently needs greater attention and action on these concerns, regardless of how those eyes are attracted.
In a world where ice sheets are collapsing as a result of unprecedented levels of global warming, where greenhouse gas emissions are heading in the wrong direction, where water is running out, and where animals are disappearing at such a rapid pace that scientists believe we have entered the sixth mass extinction on our planet, now is not the time to turn a blind eye to what is happening.
In its own words, the Earth’s Black Box’s creators believe the device’s mission is to “give an impartial account of the events that led to the doom of the planet, hold future generations accountable, and spur urgent action.”