From afar it seems like something out of a post-apocalyptic fiction world - a massive vault, bored into the Norwegian tundra, an icy tomb deep within the island of Svalbard, intended to preserve the raw materials of our agricultural system. In the face of massive global changes in terms of climate, land degradation, diet homogenization, and even conflict, this seed repository houses the world's diversity of crops in preparation from looming crises. Then, this last week, the world's insurance policy for food supply had an unwelcome infiltration of water from permafrost melt in the far north. While various news sources assure us that the vault will be just fine, the symbolism of seeds succumbing to climate change is all to real. A worrying percentage of the world's food comes from a select few crop varieties that do best under a narrow range of climate conditions with adequate fertilizer, pesticide, and water. Modern agriculture has done amazing things, but it also has made sweeping reductions in local understanding of things to grow and how to respond to variability and change. While we may have stocks of genetic variation (ironically housed in melting permafrost...) to help weather the storm, I remain skeptical of the utility when actually confronting needs on the ground.
Short post, stay tuned for plastics this week.
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