There’s many ways we could go out. An asteroid, like what did the dinosaurs in. It could be nuclear war, once a real possibility back in the latter half of the 20th century. Or maybe even climate change – a demise creeping inexorably closer, though one that we can ostensibly still prevent.

Chronicling the end of the world is what Earth’s Black Box, an installation that will be built in a remote corner of Tasmania, circa 2022, is made to do. Part art installation, part storage device, Earth’s Black Box draws inspiration from its namesake: the black box you’d find on an airplane, a hardy recording device that stores in-flight data and cockpit conversations.

They’re designed to live through any catastrophic events, while providing valuable information to whoever gets a chance to look at said data. In this case, think of our lovely green and blue planet as the airplane.

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Earth’s Black Box, therefore, is built to survive – well, whatever ends up killing us off, should that ever become a reality. Not everything – there’s only so much reinforced steel can withstand (natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones or floods for example). Its location in Tasmania was also chosen for its geological and political stability.

In the meantime, the installation will be documenting and preserving scientific data on planetary health, major headlines across the globe, excerpts from political leaders’ speeches, and so on – anything that’d give a clue about what happened to us to our hypothetical successors. And it’d be able to do so all on its lonesome, being powered by a mix of solar and thermal energy. This data collection will be done both in real-time, and backwards, so as to provide a more complete picture.

The project was announced by the collaborative team – which includes Australian scientists from the University of Tasmania, an art team from The Glue Society, and marketing company Clemenger BBDO –to tie in with COP26, the much-maligned climate change conference recently held in Glasgow, that saw a meeting of the minds to engender substantial environmental action.

Whether the discussions held bear any fruit – especially fruit that heralds lasting, significant change – has yet to be determined. Just know, as the website for Earth’s Black Box eerily states, our successors will be watching. 

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“The purpose of the device is to provide an unbiased account of the events that lead to the demise of the planet, hold accountability for future generations, and inspire urgent action,” the website states.

“How the story ends is completely up to us. Only one thing is certain, your actions, inactions, and interactions are now being recorded.”

If the doomsday seed vault (its real name is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault) in Norway contains a history of humanity’s agricultural process, Earth’s Black Box would be an archive of humanity’s attempts – potentially – at staving off climate disaster.

The message from the collaborative team is clear. Pushing the world toward acknowledging the need for change, while reminding us that the future will be watching. Touche. 

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