seed vault 1

Humanity’s optimism and pessimism in equal measure .That’s what it looks like .Or you might think it is an out-take from some James Bond  or science-fiction film.

At the top of the world there is a Doomsday Vault containing the stuff of humanity’s future survival.In it are contained the very seeds of Planet Earth. All the crops  us humans need for future survival are represented there; rice, wheat , beans …all of it..You might think of it as the ultimate planetary  sperm bank, if you consider our planet as one large living organism like one of my honeybee hives, composed of many little individual moving , microbal parts, each doing their individual  jobs…including us little humans scuttling about , doing our pedestrian,  everyday business.. It’s that Gaia as Mother Planet  Earth idea again.That idea that we are all intertwined and inter-connected.

It’s a curiosity that we humans are the only sentient , known creatures in the universe  who have been tasked as custodians of a planet’s  future and relevance , while also holding in our hands the means to destroy it all too.Dinosaurs or neanderthal man never had that kind of choice .Professor Brian Cox  briefly referred to this amazing seed  vault in one of his recent television shows and it certainly stimulated my imagination.Hopefully it will also reach down to younger, more creative  minds than mine and equally enlighten them. I’m glad to see that there are people on earth other than our wrangling politicians who are actually thinking rationally and have almost completed this project  beyond the reach and pallid imaginings of our  stumbling political representatives.

In the case of  a  potential nuclear holocaust, the rising tide of global warming, where the seas might consume huge tracts of land,with fields falling to the rising tides…. or humanity maybe mostly wiped out by a  random meteor-strike, as befell the dinosaurs, preparations are underway to preserve  the very stuff  of the planet’s surviving population’s  chance to re-grow.It’s not quite like building that huge spaceship to take the best of us away to find a new home in space , but it’s in that science-fiction realm.

The doomsday vault has been built in the form of three chambers inside an icy mountain in an effort to withstand global warming, floods and fires, wars and nuclear holocaust.It is situated  so far north…. in the most inhospitable northernmost place on the planet: a place where summer lasts for a short time and instead of day and night to measure the passing of time, the sun simply rotates around the daytime  skyline, looping like some golden orb in perpetual motion ; a brightness to contrast with   the winter’s continual twenty- four hour  black night…..

This is a place called Svalbard  in Norway ; a place almost impossible to sustain anything other than the toughest creatures and life-forms on earth.This is where the survival of the earth’s agriculture has been entrusted.The hope is that the seeds will survive here at the highest possible point.Not too many will care to entertain the possibility of death by polar bear or freezing, to make the trip for  any nefarious reasons. The permafrost will  hopefully act like  huge freezer unit.Inside it, deep underground , there are  neat rows of shelves ,containing  thousands of boxes… and boxes of carefully  labelled seeds

.Which humans  might  someday survive to re-plant all these seeds after the possibility of such a disaster , is another question.I suppose they might be the Chosen Ones.There may even be a “List” made  already.Most of us will not be on it.

National seed banks around the world might be devastated by natural disasters or raided in a war, but the remoteness of the Svalbard vault makes it the ultimate safety backup.It has been called  a “library of life”, carrying the knowledge embodied in the genes of every seed on earth. Agriculture continually has always had  to adapt to the changing conditions on the planet,  should it be the climate shifts, new pests and diseases, or increasing demand for food as the world’s population grows. At this present time Earth’s biological diversity is facing its worst threat in centuries, brought on by monoculture in farming  and changing weather patterns.

The  very same things that are threatening my honeybees.

I hadn’t heard of this vault before . Like something out of that  James Bond film,  it has been  somehow surreptitiously built  and  financed in a world of wars, plague, greed, superstition  and rampant poverty . The Norwegan Government paid for the vault’s construction initially and accepted the seeds  by some global agreement,  but behind it , in large part is the $30 million   dollar altruism of Microsoft’s  Bill Gates, whose trust fund, in some part,  keeps it running.

Instead of some meglomaniacal villain like Doctor No ,building an underground complex for world-domination,somehow , there are people out there who instead, have amassed seeds of virtually every plant on earth from places as seemingly unreachable and unreadable as North Korea. I like to think that behind the awful headlines of world events and the inane squabbles of the politicians, behind the scenes there are  still some people able to project their radical  thinking into the future.

These are the seeds whose genetics  stretch right back   thousands of years to humanity’s rude beginnings: to a time before and  beyond homo-sapiens to the world of neanderthal man; the race that co-existed with us ,before becoming extinct.

In Afghanistan,  the Taliban  destroyed the national seed bank in 2002 and in 2003  pillagers ruined Iraq’s national seed bank. Fortunately  Iraqi scientists had  the prescience to smuggle a “black box” of plant samples across the border to Syria to safeguard them before the U.S.-led invasion  of Iraq that  following March, and  now Iraqi farmers  can today  replant their  crops.

That’s the kind of  inspirational thinking and endeavour that should give us all hope for the future in a world full of  political greed and  bickering .

That’s a real seed to grow in the minds of our children..

2 Responses to SEED BANK AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD by Harry McAvinchey

  1. John November 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    Many thanks for a most heartening and inspirational blog! That was something i had no idea about either – and thank goodness for the Brian Cox’s et al of this precious little planet. Those daydreams i had as a kid, (and slightly beyond) – of human’s settling on other planets is just a pipe dream i’m afraid (recent developments not withstanding – and the erstwhile and jocular Mr.Branson – even after the tragic event, being rattled by Jon Snow on Channel 4 News was something to see – you should be able to find the clip if you get C4 News up on your computer, and do a ‘search’). As time passed, and i grew older – the realisation came to me that there’d be no such ‘seed-bank’ if there ever was/is to be the chance for us mere-mortals to gaze upon a destroyed earth (be it by whatever means) – my emphasis on the word ‘mere’. No doubt it’d be only the ‘great and good’ on that one-way ticket – and by the time they’d stopped fighting and squabbling as to who was deemed ‘great and good’ – and wealthy enough (more importantly), it’d probably be too late.
    – But, let us live in hope that the younger generations coming behind us will continue the fight to cut carbon-emissions, demonstrate, keep the politicians harangued etc.
    I was heartened just the other day, whilst chatting via phone, to one of my closest and long-time best friends, over in England, who told me her 13 year old daughter – not only bright enough that three of her Teachers’ from School suggested to her Mum, at a recent Parent’s Evening, that she could easily take and pass 3 ‘A’ Levels with ease – But that she also wants to be a Scientist (previous Science exam – 98%), save the World – and has all her friends sending petitions to all and sundry. So there may be hope for us yet! (Also a lot to be said for her Mum, who brought Willow up single-handed, after her ‘other half’ decided Parenthood wasn’t for him, and ‘did-one’, never to be seen again after 6 months.)

    Apologies if i went off-track there (as i do!). Many thanks again for a wonderful blog!

  2. paddykool November 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Many thanks to you too John for your reasoned response .Sometimes it’s enough that one other person “out there” besides the ever benevolent Jude , cares to run their eyes over anything I care to peck out and spend a little of their own precious time making a commentary .It’s a bit like shooting rockets out into that huge black space , sometimes , …hoping that there is some life beyond. Not everyone does this so keep reading , John and I’ll try to keep writing.