The Doomsday Vault

In the news this week, the “Doomsday Seed Vault” opened in a Norwegian island north of the Arctic Circle. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, deep within the permafrost inside a frozen mountain. It is far from any substantial human activity, cold enough to keep seeds frozen even if the power goes out, high enough to survive the melting of the polar ice caps, and secured by armored airlock doors with electronic keys. It was financed by Norway, but the seeds will remain the property of whichever nations send them for storage. Other seed banks have been attempted in the past, but none so large, so well protected, so well thought out.

The seeds are, among other things, a bank of genetic diversity. Our cultivation of crops means we depend on fewer and fewer varieties; with less genetic variability, a drastic change in climate conditions (or pests, disease, etc.) could have disastrous consequences. These seeds represent the opportunity for new (old) strains, hybrids, or models for genetic engineering.

And it is a wonderful idea. Especially if the drastic change is not too quick. My first thought after hearing about the vault was “ok, so I am the Omega man, one of very few survivors of [insert catastrophe, war, or plague here]; how the hell do I get to Svalbard? Just where the hell is Svalbard, anyway? And how do I get through the locked, armored doors to get to the seeds?”

The doomsday seed vault, way up North
And deeply set in permafrost
Could be the savior of mankind
A second birth when all is lost.
(No, not the fake religious sort,
But hope in case of global crisis,
In case our species sees collapse
From space, or war, or plague, or vices)
The seeds are kept in frozen store,
Preserving the diversity
Of plant genetics, just in case
Of unforeseen adversity.

The site could hold two billion seeds
With airlocked doors, securely locked;
They’ll run it by remote control,
For safety, once it’s fully stocked.
Varieties now in decline
Can be preserved, so we don’t lose
Genetic lines which hold some trait
That later decades need to use.
A safety net, a Noah’s ark,
Insurance for the worst disaster:
If catastrophic change occurs
These help us to recover faster.

But… safely stored in armored vaults,
Surveillance cameras standing guard,
I think, although the seeds are safe,
Retrieving them might well be hard.
Suppose that, say, a comet hits,
Or World War III , or global plague,
And farms all fail—ok, now what?
Instructions are a little vague.
Suppose survivors even know
This treasure trove exists at all—
It’s deep within the permafrost
Behind a locked and armored wall!

A couple million years from now
When aliens arrive on Earth
The doomsday vault, if ever found,
Incalculable will be its worth.
They’ll see our species looked ahead,
Cooperation in our plan,
Intelligence, technology,
But will they find a living man?
Or will our epitaph be writ,
A lesson that our deaths will teach:
“They saved the seeds to save themselves,
But kept them safely out of reach.”

A Global Monopoly!

I can’t believe it has been most of a month, and I only just found out about this! Monopoly–the board game–is going global, and is looking for your help to choose properties! Not streets this time, but cities. Just go here, and choose from 68 cities around the world, or nominate your own city if it is not already on the list. Actually, you get as many as 10 votes (and you can go back each day to vote again), so let me put my bid in, and insist that (ok, plead that) if you found out about it here, you include Athens on your list. Just because.

A splendid, magnificent, striking array—
In other words, a panoply—
Of cities you could vote to win
A place in global Monoply

(hmm… not quite right.)

Athens, Greece will get my vote,
With Plaka and Acropolis;
I want to see them in real life,
So why not in Monopolis?

(rats. still not right.)

I’d make a movie of the trip,
Directed by, say, Coppola;
The final scene, we’d sit and play
A nice game of Monoppola.

(dang. wrong.)

I’d play the game, the way we did
When we were kids, so happily;
I still recall long evenings spent
In marathon Manappily

(well…)

There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme
That ends up less than sloppily;
I guess I’ll never find a word
That really rhymes Monopoly.

(oh. yeah. that.)