It's typical of humans that upon sensing our own impending demise, we whip out pen and paper to document it in an act of self preservation. And nothing spells out the end of the world more clearly than humanity designing its own black box. In the midst of the current climate crisis and following the disappointing yet unsurprising response of global leaders at the "last chance saloon" COP26 UN Climate Summit, this is what it has come to.
Not to alarm you or send you spiralling, but the ABC reported that the University of Tasmania and marketing firm Clemenger BBDO are collaborating to bring a black box-type thing to the Tasmanian west coast — about a four hour drive from Hobart — and while the structure itself is set to be built in 2022, the hard drives have already begun recording data.
Is it an art piece? An activist statement on the climate crisis? Or something different entirely? Jim Curtis from Clemenger BBDO says it's "first and foremost a tool".
Built to outlive us all, the black box collects scientific data and climate-related material from the internet as dictated by a specific algorithm. It's been set up to collect environmental data, like land measurements, sea temperatures, ocean acidification, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, species extinction, human populations, military spending and energy consumption. As well as this, it will be trawling the internet for newspaper headlines, social media posts and key news events to store for whatever may lie on the other side, if it turns out that we are unable to prevent warming of more than 1.5 degrees. Which, with things the way they are, it seems will be the case; following reports from the United Nations that global temperatures are set to increase by 2.7 degrees by 2100.
How does one begin to create a black box for planet earth? The 'black box' itself is a 10 x 4 x 3 metre structure fashioned from 7.5 cm thick steel. One side of its roof is completely covered in solar panels to connect the mass of storage drives it houses inside to the internet. Researchers have also included batteries in the structure as a power back up. Once the structure is ready to go, the black box will be carted off to a location between Strahan and Queenstown, a place selected over other countries like Malta, Norway and Qatar for its geopolitical and geological stability.
But if the worst does happen, how on earth would anyone or anything decode what lays within the black box? It's this question that researchers are currently trying to answer. Although they are comfortable in the presumption that whoever can open the structure — a feat not as easy as opening a tin of Ortiz anchovies — will be capable of interpreting basic symbols.
But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this. The black box is here to record the events surrounding climate change. This means that the designers of the device have basically put global leaders on notice. While the world can already pin point which global leaders are taking climate change seriously and which are putting profit before people, if all goes to plan the box will be bringing this knowledge into whatever future lies ahead. So here's the question for global leaders, how do you want to be remembered? If we're right about humanity's desire to document its life, as proof that it lived, we hope this, if anything at all, will influence future decisions about our planet.
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