The Future Is Now

We may not be riding hoverbikes or subsisting on soylent green, but the Global Seed Vault seems like something right out of a Theodore Sturgeon novel.

Dug into the middle of a frozen Arctic mountain, the vault has an ambitious goal: to store and protect samples of every type of seed from every seed collection in the world. In case, you know, we blow ourselves up (or just monoculture ourselves to death) and have to start all over again from scratch.

Construction began just a year ago, and the vault can withstand bomb blasts and earthquakes. Now the search is on to fill it with seeds (and, eventually, shoots of plants—like bananas—that can’t be stored as seeds). Run by the nonprofit Global Crop Diversity Trust, which concentrates its efforts on conserving crops important to food security, the seed bank, according to the Trust’s website, “will not operate like a regular genebank, making material available to breeders, and in fact samples held in ‘black boxes’ will only be released in the event that all other seed sources have been destroyed or exhausted.”

Speaking of postapocalyptic, the beautiful photos from the seed bank’s Svalbard home (I wonder if the facility is armored-bear-proof) contribute to the otherworldly feeling of this project.