I recently saw previews for a new TV show called Falling Skies starring Noah Wyle. In this drama, aliens have swooped down and pretty much destroyed the earth, and once again a few brave survivors are left to fight the enemy and pick up the world’s shattered pieces with nothing to eat but Twinkies and canned beans. I hate these shows because I hate the end of the world talk. If it’s not aliens, It’s global warming gone amok or the ever popular and elusive Rapture killing off the planet. But now there is some good news for those of us who are not lucky enough to be vaporized or beamed up to heaven. Believe it or not, scientists are already prepared to lend a helping hand.
Deep in the frozen mountains somewhere in Norway about 1300 kilometers from the North Pole (which translates to about 808 miles to those of us not good with the metric system), scientists have built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault which is more commonly known as the “Doomsday Vault”. This vault houses duplicates of different crops from all over the world including almost 113,000 seeds of different types of rice. The vault was constructed to withstand most any type of assault be it natural or manmade and sits at an elevation of 130 meters which is far above any projected or unexpected rise in sea level.
The neatly stacked piles of seeds have a shelf life of hundreds of years making their expiration date just about the same as Twinkies. The vault also sits in near-perfect conditions. The mountains provide security from raiders and radiation; there is nothing unstable in the surrounding geographical conditions; and humidity levels are low. Even if the vault loses electricity, the frozen mountains will keep the seeds from perishing for a long time. And with the vault’s close proximity to the North Pole, scientists say they can count on Santa’s elves to also watch over the vault. Okay, I made up the part about Santa’s elves, but for one minute, you actually believed again, right?
I like the fact that scientists have packed away seeds for our future. It would be nice if they could put a couple of cows or a fish tank in there stocked with some salmon, or lobster and maybe even some tilapia. I know rice is an important staple but a lot of rice could bring on digestive issues, so if they don’t have coffee beans growing or a supply of Ex-lax there might be some pretty cranky survivors.
Besides my constipation concerns, I have farming concerns. If the world gets obliterated, where will they grow the seeds? I would think it might be challenging at best to dig trenches to plant the seeds on top of a frozen mountain, especially rice seeds which need swampy paddies in order to grow. If the world is basically gone, transportation would be an issue, so how are they going to get the seeds to suitable farmland and what if that farmland has been radiated or taken over by aliens or whatever? I don’t mean to put a damper on the Doomsday Vault, but I’m not sure if the scientists have thought this through. Just having seeds is not the answer. We need farmland, farming tools, and well, farmers to make these crops a success. Also, in order to survive the initial catastrophe, we would need another source of food until the crops are ready to be harvested, so we are back to the Twinkies and canned beans again.
So, my next suggestion to scientists would be to start stocking up on non-perishable foods and while you are doing that, maybe you can put in the vault other essentials like shampoo, laundry detergent, toilet paper, toothpaste and soap. Whenever I watch disaster flicks, the people who survive are always sweaty and dirty; I guess that happens when everything explodes around you. So, maybe some personal hygiene products would make surviving a disaster a little more bearable. If the survivors are going to try and re-populate the earth, they should try to smell nice. I don’t care if the only male left is Noah Wyle. Nothing ruins the mood of a good re-population effort like greasy hair and bad breath.
photo by Sqwasher