The doomsday vault: the seeds that could save a post-apocalyptic world

One Tuesday final iciness, in the town nearest to the North Pole, Robert Bjerke grew to become up for paintings at his normal hour and checked out the laptop display on his table to discover, or so it regarded for some horrible moments, that the destiny of human civilisation become in jeopardy.

The morning of 16 December 2014 turned into highly mild for winter in Svalbard: -7.6C with moderate winds. The archipelago, which lies inside the Arctic ocean, is beneath Norway’s control, but it’s far almost twice as a long way from Oslo as it is from the North Pole. the primary town, Longyearbyen, has many unexpected comforts – tax-free liquor and cigarettes, apparel stores and a cafe with artisan goodies shaped like polar bears and snowflakes. For Bjerke, who works for the Norwegian authorities’s assets company, Statsbygg, the cold and isolation were the huge attraction when he moved there. Bjerke loved the stillness, and getting out into that huge white Arctic desert on his snowmobile; a lot so that he signed on for a 2d posting at Svalbard a decade or extra after his first stint. however, when Bjerke arrived at the workplace, he turned into looking forward to spending Christmas together with his wife and 3 youngsters close to Oslo.
Statsbygg’s inexperienced industrial-style constructing sits on a hill overlooking the metropolis and the inky blue waters of a fjord. it’s miles a lovely view, however that day, the monitor commanded Bjerke’s interest. within the most important assets under his care – the Svalbard global Seed Vault – the temperature analyzing became off. The vault was too heated.
when you consider that 2008, the Svalbard seed vault and its guardians were entrusted by way of the arena’s governments with the safekeeping of the most prized sorts of vegetation on which human civilisation was raised. That morning, it contained the seeds of almost 4,000 plant species – extra than 720,000 man or woman plastic-sheathed samples. The web page became built to be catastrophe-evidence: 130 metres up the mountain in case of sea-degree rise, earthquake resistant, and with a natural insulation of permafrost to make sure the contents were stored frozen for many years to return.
approximately 60% of Svalbard is glacial. There exist no signs that it become settled by means of human beings earlier than whalers and hunters built small communities alongside the coast, and coal changed into discovered. nothing grows there aside from wildflowers and grass. however, within the early Nineteen Eighties, Nordic nations started the usage of a deserted mine shaft, down the hill from the vault, as a safe residence for seeds. At a time whilst industrial-scale farming became perceived as a threat to crop variety, it became the primary test in using the permafrost as bloodless garage for seeds.

when governments commenced to talk about the danger to crops from climate alternate, Norway emerged as one of the best locations still trusted via both growing and industrialised nations: if there has been to be a settlement on founding a secure house for seeds, Norway was the logical place. Governments from Washington to Pyongyang agreed to deposit again-up copies of their most precious plant assets in Svalbard. The late Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai made the primary deposit, a box of rice seeds, in February 2008. On arrival on the vault, the seeds were plunged to a temperature of -18C, frozen in time in opposition to drought, pestilence, struggle, disease, and the slow-transferring disaster of weather exchange.

For plant scientists and farmers to breed the developments that can face up to higher temperatures and long-time period droughts, they need access to genetic range. in the occasion of a cataclysmic crop failure – as an example, from a virulent new disorder – and if all other samples of a given crop were destroyed, the arena could anticipate the collection at Svalbard to offer the supply fabric for the breeding of the latest varieties. The express promise of the Crop trust, the worldwide foundation at the back of the vault, turned into that the seeds at Svalbard could bear for ever, a lifeline in an unsure destiny.

As the person tasked with tracking the vault, Bjerke feels the load of that obligation every day. He constantly assessments the temperature, humidity, and different situations inside the vault. “I’ve it at the screen all day,†he informed me. “some days I’m up there or 3 times.â€




Student. Award-winning communicator. Subtly charming coffeeaholic. Organizer. Gamer. A real dynamo when it comes to managing jack-in-the-boxes for fun and profit. Spent the 80's donating shaving cream in Libya. Spent 2001-2004 lecturing about Roombas in Jacksonville, FL. Garnered an industry award while getting my feet wet with sheep in the government sector. My current pet project is working on Slinkies in Orlando, FL. Spent 2002-2009 developing strategies for crayon art for the underprivileged.