Today marks the tenth anniversary of the worlds most renowned conservation program, the Svalbard Seed Bank, but it also welcomes an eerie reminder of the frightening chaos climate change is wreaking. The Norwegian government has announced it will be spending $12.7 million on upgrading the vault due to melting permafrost flooding the front entrance. Even though the actual seed vault was left unharmed, the government has taken necessary action to prevent future damage by installing “emergency power and refrigerating units and other electrical equipment”.
As of yesterday, the seed bank hit the million seed mark climbing to a cumulative amount of 1,059,646 deposited seeds from around the world with its latest additions including Estonian onion potato, and barley used to brew Irish beer.
The Svalbard seed bank is a vault buried in the Arctic Circle which houses the crops of the world safe from any earthly crisis such as nuclear war or climate change. Started out in 2008, the seed bank has become a symbol of the lengths humanity is going to protect the worlds food supply safe from catastrophe. The vault only opens twice a year for deposits and this remarkable structure tunnels 500 feet into the side of a mountain, its entrance jutting out from the icy rock, looking just as alien as the desolate landscape that surrounds it.
It cost the Norwegian government around $9 million (US) to construct, the facility is built to withstand everything from a nuclear war to an asteroid strike. This fact has earned it the nickname ‘the doomsday vault’, a store from which we will be able to regrow a food source in the aftermath of some unknown apocalyptic catastrophe. NordGen (Nordic Genetic Resource Center) co-ordinator Åsmund Asdal told us “We have space in total for 4.5 million seed samples, that’s double the number that we know is present in gene banks.” When the vault opened in 2008, the man behind the project, conservationist Cary Fowler, stated “I hope we never have to use Svalbard. It’s an insurance policy.”