Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Mountain of Seeds

Dug into a remote mountain near the North Pole, a seed vault. One hundred and twenty meters (364 ft) inside a mountain on Spitsbergen, one of the islands of Svalbard. Insurance for the future. The Norwegian government is spending $5 million to house 3 million seeds. A passageway, an inner chamber constructed. Doors locking the tunnel, the vault. Seeing a future of severe climate change, devastation. Or our favourite grains bred out. Permafrost will refrigerate if the cooling system fails. Once it's built and filled with the chosen seeds, it will be checked yearly. There are seed banks around the world- one in the Philippines destroyed by a typhoon. Even if the Arctic melts, horrors of global warming under the depleting ozone layers, models of the mountains of Svalbard predict safety.

Surely we will forget. One year the person who is to check will be sick, or their child will be dying, or there will be a war, or they will be too old and tired to remember to pass the combination on. Or maybe a deliberate withholding. Centuries will pass. One day a mountaineer will discover the doorway to the passage to the vault under the overgrowth and moss of the mountain. Or perhaps it will be a sloping hill by then. And just as ancient Egyptian wheat and barley seeds have been discovered in pyramids, these 3000 years later, so will what we plant our fields with.

Long tunnel into the mountain, stocked, labelled, locked, air tight insurance against the holocausts or negligence of the future. An agricultural Noah's arc. This scrotum, this ovary, this seedpod. Cold, northerly mountain of seeds.