One immediate answer is found the giant, offshore seed vault Svalbard (Norway), which was colorfully referred to as one of the “Arks of the Apocalypse” in the New York Times Magazine. The anthropocene stirs, no matter what the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) suggests, and seed banks are a fascinating reflection of this transition for so many reasons.
Positioning of the banks is a relevant matter, especially as the poles warm though their chill is badly needed to safeguard the hoards of life.
A temperature of -18ºC is required for optimal storage of the seeds, which are stored and sealed in custom made three-ply foil packages. The packages are sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault. The low temperature and moisture levels inside the Vault ensure low metabolic activity, keeping the seeds viable for long periods of time.
The legal and political hurdles to the seed banks also reflect — to my mind — near global confirmation that global warming is an undeniable reality.
The depositors who will deposit material will do so consistently with relevant national and international law. The Seed Vault will only agree to receive seeds that are shared under the Multilateral System or under Article 15 of the International Treaty or seeds that have originated in the country of the depositor.
Each country or institution will still own and control access to the seeds they have deposited. The Black Box System entails that the depositor is the only one that can withdraw the seeds and open the boxes.
Recent flooding — a combination of intense rain and permafrost thawing — raises further concern over global warming’s relationship between temperatures in the Arctic north and humanity’s ability to maintain these sorts of “doomsday” banks.
Still, there is reason to believe that the seed bank is just fine.
There is video of the vault, which is otherwise closed to the pubic, of course.
While the most “popular,” Svalbard is one of many global seed banks around the world, most notably in England, India, Russia, and the US, but there are more. Still, amid all the seeds ensuring biodiversity — or so we hope — one can still hear the tick-tock of the doomsday clock.