Seed Banks – Saving the future or a Devils Bargin?

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Touted and promoted as the doomsday vaults that will save us if there is a catastrophic accident, wide spread climate alteration or meteorite strike etc.  Created to preserve the worlds plant diversity against extinction.

They house seeds collected wither locally or from around the world as a genetic resource for future times and to prevent plant extinction.

One such storage site is the doomsday vault in Svalbard Norway that recently had to be upgraded due to warmer summers in the artic circle where it is located. Here is its website

 Svalbard Global Seed vault

The seed is gathered from around the world then deposited in this high technology vault in a remote safe location. Carefully stored recorded and checked for a future time of need. For once we seem to be having proper foresight in our society.

once you ponder a little bit longer, there are serious flaws

At first glance this seems wonderful that this precious material is being preserved however once you ponder a little bit longer there are serious flaws – It has taken me awhile to see beneath the surface attraction to understand it is only part of the solution.

Let’s look a bit deeper

The seed bank for the future sounds great – but if you look harder it another grandiose complicated technological solution to an ecological problem. As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.

Where are the ecosystems that this plant lives in?

We have saved the seed but what about the actual living mature plant?

What about the ecological and cultural context of the plant?

As if we didn’t have enough ‘technology’ saving us already.

The seed lives on in its high-tech vault – largely devoid of its social & ecological & environmental history and context.

Separated from the soil where it germinates, the animals it feeds or who fertilise it, the fungi that colonise its roots and allow it to connect into the ecosystem, the people who cultivate it if it’s a food crop. The cultural stories it features in.

Yes, every seed has a file with photos, text describing where it came from but you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence.

‘you can’t pretend that this is anywhere near the reality of its existence’

It shows an application of technology that separates us from reality, when what is needed is re connection with the plant world, the ecosystems that support us now and have done so for millennia.  There is no relatedness.

‘An abstraction from the ecological world we live in – a high technology fantasy’

It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of our self and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed. The plant lives on as a dormant embryo dependent on high technology life support.

A Devils bargain or Faustian bargain is where a person or society trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for a worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches.

For the seed its life as a living entity is now an abstract reality. It’s been reduced to a data entry in a computer and lives in a container at sub zero temperatures.

Thankfully there are organisation that have taken a different route – at lower cost, more relatedness and of benefit to all.

Here is contrasting example with vegetable seeds.

The Diggers Club Australia have taken on the mantle in Australia of gathering, preserving and distributing a wide range of heritage vegetable seeds.

Diggers source seeds, growing them at their support facility then send out to members. The seeds are connected with people and put into the ground to live and provide food.

It’s a social and biological ecosystem. Link here to The Diggers Club

Having a heritage lettuce variety that sits in a container at minus whatever degrees Celsius in a cavern in northern Norway is not much use to anyone.

Zoos are in a similar position if they are not captive breeding and providing a buffer to the wild populations. Plants and animals need to function in their original environments and for this to have value and be respected.

It’s a Devils bargain – we believe we are getting something marvellous when out of sight a sacred feminine part of ourselves and our culture has been betrayed and sacrificed.

Don’t buy it!

To read deeper into the psychology of a Devils bargain try reading Robert Johnson – The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology. It’s a short but profound book and helps explain our times.

Tinderry Mountain Herbs places a tithe on all income earned of 10%. This money is spent on various enterprises that help plants and the earths ecosystem. 

TMH supports Bush Heritage Australia an organisation that manages large areas of key Australian habitat. They remove all feral species and reintroduce the original animal species. They consistently find that once foxes and cats are removed the native animals establish themselves, breed and get right on with their business. The Native plants get right on with their business as well. Everything in context and environment.