Jeff Masters Weather Blog

A poetic look at ‘Earth’s Black Box’ of data on humanity’s climate action and inaction » Yale Climate Connections


Like a downed airplane’s info-rich “black box,” there’s a counterpart tracking humanity’s accomplishments and shortcomings in tackling climate change challenges.

This one is firmly planted in a climate-safe and geopolitically calm (one hopes) part of remote Tasmania. It’s tracking climate data and our every climate move, recording humanity’s inability or unwillingness to move on climate action.

It’s a trove for future human generations.  Or perhaps for whatever species may come after us.

“Earth’s Black Box” is the focus of the original poem for Yale Climate Connections written by Professor Sue Sinclair of the University of New Brunswick, Canada.

In researching the black box in preparation for writing the poem, Sinclair noted in an email “that black boxes are orange, that the west coast of Tasmania is rainy, that property there is being snapped up because it’s one of the more stable geographies climate-wise.”

Black Box

Bet you didn’t know the apocalypse would be curated.

I’m not black – more rusted steel – but even the so-called black boxes on planes are orange, tangerine-bright. Easier to spot in the wreckage.

Steel – as in nerves-of, man-of, still trying to save the day.

A rhomboid vault, I ooze end-of-the-world loneliness.

Like the anecdotal jar, I am placed upon a hill.  As to whether the wilderness will rise up, we’ll see. But it’s true that I do not give of bird or bush – my nest is a data trove, incubates info.*

The remnants of your collective id, its virtual ash, crammed into a can.

A pre-packaged fossil, preserving the 21st-century digital animal.

Real estate around the island is going fast as the wealthy invest in climate refuge, mansions battered by Tasmanian rain.

I’m just one more ark, hull butted into the alpine heath.

Knock, knock, hello, is anyone there?

I’ll miss you, your soft bodies, your narcissism, this desire to shoehorn in a last word. 

The view here is what you’d call “lovely.”


*This stanza refers to and plays with language from Wallace Stevens’ famous poem “Anecdote of the Jar.”

Sue Sinclair is Associate Professor and Co-Director of Creative Writing in the University of New Brunswick’s Department of English, in Fredericton, the capital city of the Canadian province of New Brunswick.



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