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Ruud Kempers (M, 47)
Zutphen, NL
Immortal since Nov 27, 2007
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Male, married to Naomi. Kids; Merlin, Emma and Jonathan, autodidact(?), graphic design producer, musician,design company.
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    In the Event of Global Disaster, the Ultimate Crop Backup System
    In the Event of Global Disaster, the Ultimate Crop Backup System

    Opened offically 05.26.07


    November 2007 Issue A blastproof vault being built deep inside an Arctic mountain will be the world's seed bank of last resort. Early withdrawal discouraged Seed Bank The Norwegian Island of Spitsbergen A Category 5 hurricane makes landfall, winds clocking in at 208 miles per hour. Eleven thousand die; there are $5 billion in damages; the region's economy is set back 20 years. More bad news for the survivors: Crops, and therefore the food supply, have been destroyed. This isn't a doomsday scenario: It happened in 1998 when Hurricane Mitch shredded large parts of Honduras and Nicaragua. But in a break with the usual devastating cycle of famine following a natural disaster, relief organizations worked with seed banks to supply farmers, saving lives and letting the agencies focus on problems like rebuilding the housing stock. Seed banks don't just store dried peas; they preserve our most precious resource, biodiversity. (You can't eat petroleum.) The banks back up farmers and thus the food chain, minimizing the impact of catastrophic crop failures. Without seed banks, when a species is destroyed or a genetically modified variety has supplanted wild strains, farmers have no recourse if weather or pest infestation devastates their crops. The Global Crop Diversity Trust is raising $260 million to run the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which will serve as the backup's backup. Starting in 2008, as many as 4.5 million samples from other banks will be preserved on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in icy perpetuity. There are only two reasons a seed would ever leave this vault: (1) to be replaced by a fresh sample or (2) to reseed a crop that's been wiped off the earth.



    Spotted owls and humpback whales grab headlines, but plant life is under siege as well — even fruits and vegetables that humans have been growing for millennia are dying out. One study of more than 8,000 crop varieties grown in the US in 1903 found that only 600 remained by 1983. The solution? A Noah's ark for seeds. Last February, the Norwegian government unveiled plans for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a fortress for up to 3 million seed varieties on a remote island 600 miles from the North Pole.
    The project is the first comprehensive effort to protect the world's agricultural gene pool. Some 1,400 seed repositories throughout the world safeguard roughly 1.5 million varieties against crop failure and serve researchers hoping to breed desired traits. But these collections are fragmentary and loosely organized. Many are vulnerable to threats like floods, civil strife, and simple mismanagement. The Svalbard facility will be a backup to the backups, preserving the DNA of every crop on the planet along with wild relatives. Once the doors open, seeds will be released only if every other source has been depleted or destroyed.
    "This is an insurance policy for the world's most valuable natural resource," says Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is spearheading the project. The vault should be finished by October at a cost of roughly $6 million. The Norwegian government is funding construction, and Fowler's group has pledged to pay operational costs and help develop standards to link up existing agricultural databases.
    "This vault is not a time capsule," Fowler says. "It's a living institution." And while it lives, so will the crops that mankind relies on to survive.

    The Svalbard Seed Vault



    Entrance
    A | To maintain security, motion sensors and a webcam monitor the door. The control tower at the local airport has a direct view of the site, which is kept well lit during the dark winter months.

    Tunnel

    B | A tunnel extends 400 feet into the mountain. It leads past an office and utility room before ending at two airlocked chambers. A steel sheath reinforces a portion where the rock is especially prone to fragmentation.

    Storage

    C | A third of a mile of shelving fills each vault. Above, vents cool the air to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, which will keep some of the seeds viable for centuries. Fresh seeds will be added periodically.

    Boxes

    D | Seed envelopes are housed in corrugated plastic boxes. Serial numbers link the envelopes to academic databases of information about the seeds' genetic lineage, varietal traits, and other husbandry details.

    Envelopes

    E | Each envelope holds a 500-seed sample. Adapted from the pharmaceutical industry, a five-layer composite of mylar, plastic, and foil keeps out air and moisture and resists punctures.

    Story By Lucas Graves and rendering by Don Foley



    Tue, Feb 26, 2008  Permanent link

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