Monday, March 30, 2015

The Doomsday Vault

This just in: climate change could damage oceans for millennia. 

That's right. Thousands of years before the seas can repair themselves from harm done to them by climate change. That's a long time for an ecosystem to recover. Why, we could all be extinct by then. If not the human race, then many of the other species we depend upon for survival might have been subject to massive dieback. So since a reversal on climate change is unlikely anytime soon, how do we prepare for the worst case scenario?

Enter "the doomsday vault."

Its technical title is Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Located on a remote archipelago above the Arctic Circle, the structure is a concrete vault built into the side of a mountain (see pic above). It is designed to withstand most any natural or human-made disaster (such as climate change in the case of the latter). The purpose of the three-room vault? Store seeds. More to the point, seeds for crops and other plants that humanity needs for survival. Why would anyone do such a thing? At the vault's opening in 2008, Jen Stoltenberg, then Prime Minister of Norway, put it this way:

"With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilisation," said Mr Stoltenberg.

We're talking about seeds for food crops such as soybeans, wheat, barley, rice, and lentils. Crop diversity is also a critical reason for the vault. Just recently, Svalbard received 14 different species of wild tomato from the Galapagos Islands. Other new arrivals include seeds for trees such as Scots pine and Norway spruce. Although these latter additions are not meant for the "extinction scenario" as much as they are meant for comparison models to monitor genetic changes in the world's forests due to climate change.

Even though its actual moniker is Svalbard Global Seed Vault, I don't think it's such a bad idea to think of it as "the doomsday vault." If we continue our funambulist act, continually eroding our environment to the point of it being unlivable, it's nice to know there's a small insurance policy. At least the seeds for future food crops might survive and smart people will be able to start over again, surviving in the wake of humanity's stupid.

Hope you like it hot.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets