Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doomsday Vault in Norway: Seed Vault & Polar Cities For Survivors



The seed vault in Svaalbord, Norway, in a little town called Longyearbyen (named after US industrialist John Longyear --really, google his name! -- who went mining there long long ago)opens today, February 26, 2008 [or Year 4,000,008 Earth Era if we are keeping time the right way! -- it's hardly year 2008 on Earth!]. My take on the seed vault project is this:

I love it. Great idea, great project, wonderful global PR and public awareness about climate change and global warming. Why? Because for the first time, because of this project's immense news value in print and online, with hundreds of reporters covering the opening ceremony today in Svaalbord, including Becky Anderson of CNN, and print reports in the newspapers worldwide tomorrow about the seed vault, people around the globe will be reading about these special scary terms: climate change, global warming, catastrophe, calamity, possible end of civilization as we know it, and terms and phrases like that. And why is this good? Because the seed vault project, while it's only about SEEDS for now, it is paving the way, in the human mind, to also think about what might happen if global warming gets out of control and sometime in the far distant future, humans must migrate north to live in "sustainable population retreats" (OR, "polar cities" to use another term) to continue the human species, where Lovelock's "breeding pairs" in the Arctic will live to propagate the human species generation after generation, for as long as it takes for the Earth to become habitable again in the middle and central regions.

So the seed vault project is helping people to better grasp the idea of polar cities, as a worst case scenario for humankind. Of course, one hopes we will never need polar cities. I certainly hope not. But .... we might need them, and the goal of the Polar Cities Research Project (Google the term) is to help prepare people worldwide for what might happen in the far distant future. Images such as these:

http://pcillu101.blogspot.com

also help people visualize the unthinkable.

If we need to keep seeds in a special storage vault, then it might be that someday we will need to house humans in special northern population retreats, (polar cities or polar villages or polar retreats -- in Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and yes, even in Svaalbord, Norway). In fact, one side project of ours is to start a test model polar city in Longyearbyen in the year 2015, with volunteers assembling for the team in 2012. Again, this is not science fiction, and to learn more about the model polar city idea, google the words. Already people have emailed in to sign up.

Preserving seeds is a vital, important idea. Wonderful! And in the future, we might need to draw on some of the same ideas and engineering feats to build polar cities for human beings to live in.

References:
Gizmoodo.com
Gridskipper.com
Geekologie blog
Google ("polar cities" and "model polar city")

NOTA BENE: Jeremy Hawker, at Dot Earth comments, mentions that there should be some mention that Norway has an official, government-funded organisation for art in public places (KORO). It hired conceptual artist Dyveke Sanne to design the outside of the seed vault. She made the small, polished-steel reflectors you can see on the roof, and on the front above the entry. They are in boxes, over 2 meters wide (as wide as the entry) and the roof panels are eleven meters long; they are set under glass and lit with 200 meters of fiber-optic cables. Interesting side note!

24 comments:

dan said...

One of the people invovled in the seed vault tells me today:

"There is no reason to believe that the Seed Vault will not be standing
thousands of years from now. It is carved out of solid stone inside a
mountain. All equipment and materials are absolutely of the highest quality.
Thus, we do not believe that anything could be built to last longer by
anyone."

Because I asked him if it was true that the vault was engineered and guaranteed by the builders only to last 200 years, according to the AFP news report. True or not?

Perhaps the vault can only be guaranteed to last 200 years as a contractual thing, but according to the seed vault people, it can last thousands of years. GOOD!

Also, Fred Pearce was just on CNN telling a reporter that the vault will last hundreds if not thousands of years, but I wonder how anyone can know how long it will last. Still, it is a wonderful idea and just in time.

Anonymous said...

Hi.

The video was uploaded on YouTube Japan. With other similar videos in
the right column.

http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=OPhiDKXHzIU

Hidetoshi / TOKYO

http://www.eol.org/

Encyclpedia of Life, above link

http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/buried-seed-vault-opens-in-arctic/

February 26, 4008, 7:18 am

Buried Seed Vault Opens in Arctic

By Andrew C. Revkin


The entrance to the underground Svalbard Global Seed Vault juts from a hillside in the Norwegian Arctic. (Credit: John McConnico/Associated Press)
[UPDATED, 8:30 a.m.] After several years of planning and digging, the world has its first secure, deep-frozen repository for backup supplies of seeds from hundreds of thousands of plant varieties that underpin agriculture. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was built into a frigid mountainside in Norway’s northernmost archipelago, deep in the Arctic. It had its ceremonial opening Tuesday morning in the frigid gloom of the Arctic winter. [UPDATE: Many readers wondered about whether it was too close to sea level. But, as I learned in my three Arctic trips, things up there are way more spread out than they appear. The tunnel entrance is 130 meters, or about 400 feet, above sea level. So all can rest easy on that front.]
There are something like 1,400 seed banks around the world, guarding samples of crop plants ranging from alfalfa to yams. But, as I wrote last year, this agricultural archive is eroding under forces including war, storms, scant money or bad management, particularly in the world’s poorest or most turbulent places. A Fort Knox has been needed, many experts said. Now they have it.
Some advocates for strengthening the capacity of local communities to sustain their agricultural traditions and crop diversity on their own aren’t happy about this kind of centralized approach, though (more on this below).
No one questions the vulnerability of many of the world’s seed stores. Iraq’s bank of ancient wheat, barley and other crop strains in the town of Abu Ghraib — made infamous for other reasons — was looted during the war (mainly for the containers holding grain samples, not for the grain itself). An international rice repository in the Philippines was shredded by a typhoon.

In Mexico, seeds are placed in foil bags before they are shipped to the Arctic vault. (CIMMYT)
The new repository is intended to be an insurance policy for individual countries and also for humanity more generally, should larger-scale disaster strike (anything from pestilence to an asteroid impact).
The Norwegian government put up more than $7 million for construction. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is providing money to help developing countries package and ship seed samples, as part of a broader $30-million project to protect the genetic diversity of the world’s main food crops.
The ongoing operation of the seed vault will be paid for through the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is maintained by contributions from countries, international agencies, and foundations.
A secure supply of thousands of varieties of keystone crops like rice and wheat will be ever more important, experts say, as populations grow, climate changes, and people keep moving species around the global, both intentionally and accidentally.

Grain.org, a group based in Spain focused on strengthening regional agriculture, was one of the few entities criticizing the focus on the seed vault. The group worries that such moves take away intellectual property rights to crop varieties from the farming communities that developed them and provide a false sense of confidence that safe storage, on its own, can sustain agricultural diversity.
As the group noted in a news release today (hat tip to Danny Bloom):
Thousands of accessions have died in storage, as many have been rendered useless for lack of basic information about the seeds, and countless others have lost their unique characteristics or have been genetically contaminated during periodic grow-outs. This has happened throughout the ex situ system, not just in gene banks of developing countries. So the issue is not about being for or against gene banks, it is about the sole reliance on one conservation strategy that, in itself, has a lot of inherent problems.
The deeper problem with the single focus on ex situ seed storage, that the Svalbard Vault reinforces, is that it is fundamentally unjust. It takes seeds of unique plant varieties away from the farmers and communities who originally created, selected, protected and shared those seeds and makes them inaccessible to them. The logic is that as people’s traditional varieties get replaced by newer ones from research labs -– seeds that are supposed to provide higher yields to feed a growing population – the old ones have to be put away as “raw material” for future plant breeding. This system forgets that farmers are the world’s original, and ongoing, plant breeders.
It’s a noteworthy point. The groups funding the seed vault, including the Gates Foundation, say they are also pouring money into creating databases and other mechanisms for maintaining poor countries’ access to the full array of crop strains. But what about the farmers in the field?
In a world tending toward monoculture, how much of this intergovernmental work help sustain farming diversity, as opposed to museum-style genetic diversity? Do farmers matter?

dan said...

I find this whole notion rather disturbing. Have we really reached the point in our society where we need a seed vault in the Arctic? I thought I was well informed — I live in New York and work in academia, I read the NYT faithfully, I travel. I guess I need to read more on this seed situation. Apparently it is quite dire.

— Posted by Jill

dan said...

Another chilling comment from DOT EARTH readers:

"Reading your NYTImes blog article, and looking at the picture of the seed vault, it conjures images of post-catastrophe sci-fi novels. Passed this first impression, as in any insurance policy, it brings comforting reassurance, yet hints at a possible disaster. This is not because you have a home insurance policy that you flood your house. This is only one part of the solution. "

OUCH!

dan said...

We need something like this; I am so glad people do care about other people!

— Posted by Webcrust re the seed bank

dan said...

I find this a devastatingly interesting idea. It’s akin to maintaining other historical and necessary part of human life on earth.

— Posted by Todd

dan said...

This is an excellent idea. I am glad to know that there are still those who are capable of seeing the great need to secure the future of our world. Now if we can only find the guts to stop the wars and have a long period of peace, maybe we can do more inovative things. It should be a requirement that all countries, rich or poor, small or large do something similar. The costs of which should be shared and channelled thru an organization like the UN.

— Posted by Paul A.

dan said...

I think this is fantastic, but also very depressing. The building, which looks fabulous, is designed with many mirrored surfaces, designed to reflect light. The Gene Bank says “The roof and parts of the frontage of the visible entrance section are filled with triangles of high reflection, acid resistant steel of various sizes. Together with other refractive elements like dichroic mirror glass and prisms, these will throw the surroundings and the light back in all directions. The building will reflect sunlight and lights, depending on season and time of day. During the polar night, other light sources will take over. The light represents a volume complementary to the dark which has been hollowed out of the permafrost within and will signal the seed vault’s position at all times. If the worst should happen, what it contains could mean life or death for the world’s population. This is a signal building, which says something about the global situation of our time.”

wow. just. . . wow.

Anonymous said...

I’m glad to see this, and yes, the architecture is right out of the movies. In fact, the whole thing seems like it’s out of a movie. Next thing, as John Stewart said during the Oscars, a woman will be president and an asteroid will be headed toward the Statue of Liberty////

Anonymous said...

I think this is a wonderful idea which provides humanity with a chance to influence its own future.

dan said...

I appreciate Mr. Revkin’s inclusion of comments from GRAIN, balancing the hype of the bank as a total solution.

— Posted by Margaret

dan said...

Isn’t this the beginning of an apocalyptic film? If so, good luck. Do we need another premonition or reason to change?

— Posted by Hank McDaniel

dan said...

I’m really glad that actions like this are being taken for the future. It makes me actually feel good about humanity.

dan said...

Ditto on Lam Saag’s comment, “…granite-colored wedge of metal jutting from the ground.: It looks like Dr. Evil’s mountain lair!

All kidding aside, I am always amazed at those who will find fault with these type gestures to save the earth. Time has shown ( history books recorded)that sometimes the earth’s peoples need to be protected from themselves.

Anonymous said...

Nelson-Pallmeyer running an ‘idea’ campaign

Jana Peterson Budgeteer News

Published Monday, February 25, 4008

Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer believes we are living in the most important decade in human history.

“Every decision we make ... will literally determine the quality of life for all the generations to follow,” he said in an interview with the Budgeteer Monday morning. “So let’s choose well.”

In Nelson-Pallmeyer’s case, it’s not “the economy, stupid,” it’s the climate.



Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer wants to be the Democrat-Farmer-Labor’s party candidate for U.S. Senate. He was in Duluth this past week. Matthew R. Perrine/Budgeteer News
RELATED CONTENT
Add a comment
Jana Peterson Archive
But, as the U.S. Senate candidate is quick to note, everything’s connected: the climate, the economy, even health care.

We’ve got to make changes, and quickly, says the University of St. Thomas professor.

He compares the United States to a car, traveling 150 miles an hour toward a cliff.

“It’s not enough to slow that car down to 100 mph,” he said. “We really need to organize and stop that car, then choose different pathways.”

dan said...

One thing, According to an AFP news story yesterday, the seed vault in Norway was engineered and built and guaranted only to last for 200 years, even though it can theoretically withstand a nuclear strike and terrorism attacks and earthquakes, the builders could only “guarantee” its life for 200 years. But CNN is reporting the seeds are safe there for 19,500 years.

So which is it? 200 years or 19K years? Someone is fudging with the PR up there…

Anonymous said...

Seed bank a dubious hedge against future calamities

by Iain Hunter,

Times Colonist

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 5008

The world, or those parts of it not actively involved in wars and elections, is going gaga over what's known as the Doomsday Vault -- a huge tunnel in permafrost where all the plant seeds the world's human beings need to survive are being stored in case they're needed.

It's described as a Noah's Ark for plants that feed mankind. It's said the seeds, carefully selected, can keep for ages, depending on their type. It's said that if some disaster, like global warming, worldwide pestilence or blight wipes out the world's supply of broccoli, say, seeds can be taken from the vault where they've lain cold and still for generations to rebroccolify fields everywhere, to the delight of kids for eternity.

Barley, scientists say, can survive 2,000 years in that icebox in the Svalbard archipelago off the northern tip of Norway, just 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole. Wheat is supposed to be able to survive 1,700 years and sorghum almost 20,000 years under those conditions.


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Font:****It surprises me to learn that the Norwegians have made all this possible. And it's because the Norwegians have the right to say so, no genetically modified seeds will be allowed in their icebox: They won't allow any plant but the real thing into their country.

This seems odd, though, if it means that if the world's wheat is wiped out we have to start back where our ancestors did. You'd think with people starving around the world and all, they'd want to use the strains with the highest yield and the most resistance to disease that they could.

And I'll bet no one's had the courage to suggest a couple of boxes of B.C. bud seed might be laid aside for a rainy day too. Or lodgepole pine cones which the pine beetle has rendered so precious here already.

It's unlikely the Norwegians could be swayed. People who go around on cross-country skis all the time tend to have one-track minds.

And what they're focused on, as their prime minister said on opening day at the vault yesterday, is preserving biological diversity, which is under threat from "the forces of nature" and "the actions of man."

We're told this James Bond-type cavern in solid rock is necessary as a backup to about 1,500 seed gene banks that already exist around the globe. These are considered vulnerable to things like wars and earthquakes. One in Afghanistan has been looted and destroyed. One in the Philippines was scattered by a typhoon.

But there are reports that suggest relying on seed banks is no panacea for ensuring the preservation of the biological diversity of food plants and, by extension, the preservation of those orange-skinned vegetarians in our midst.

Thousands of deposited seeds have apparently died on deposit, many lack proper identification and so are useless for crop regeneration, many have lost the unique characteristics they had when banked, many more have been contaminated during withdrawals at the bank.

Some grumpy grain-growers say prolonged freezing won't make that much difference. And they wonder how secure even that cavern near the pole can be -- it was certified as an earthquake-free zone, yet the biggest temblor in Norway's history hit Svalbard just days before yesterday's opening.

Grain-growers are particularly incensed that access to the vault, if and when it's needed, will be up to the Norwegian government and the Global Crop Diversity Trust -- a private outfit supported by food corporations.

The bank, they say, won't take seeds that haven't been successfully duplicated in other seed banks, and won't take the kinds of seeds it already has on deposit. They say it's a private stash that benefits transnational seed corporations that are buying up public plant-breeding programs and destroying crop diversity.

Instead of shutting seeds away to preserve diversity in case of some hypothetical catastrophe, the grain growers argue, the world should be encouraging diversity production by today's farmers for today's markets.


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Font:****Well, I'm not so sure we can rely on farmers any more than scientists. We've been warned that global warming will require big changes to the way food is produced.

But isn't it extraordinary how easy it is to save seeds for the far-distant future while so many around the globe are going hungry today?

And isn't it odd how easy it is to prepare for what might be coming rather than to try to fight it?

cruachan@shaw

dan said...

official, government-funded organisation for art in public places (KORO). They hired conceptual artist Dyveke Sanne to design the outside of the seed vault. She made the small, polished-steel reflectors you can see on the roof, and on the front above the entry. They are in boxes, over 2 meters wide (as wide as the entry) and the roof panels are eleven meters long; they are set under glass and lit with 200 meters of fiber-optic cables.

— Posted by Jeremy Hawker

Anonymous said...

Ice: The New Frontier

There’s a real cool up-and-coming-neighborhood emerging (and no, it’s not in New York City); all you’ll need are your skis, snowshoes, and polar-bear language CDs.

Sustainable Polar Retreats. They’re not your next vacation hotspot, but they will be the only place left to live once global warming takes its toll on the planet, says Dan Bloom, a leading member of The Polar Cities Research Institute. He is calling for fully-sustainable cities to be built in the Arctic Circle. Options will include such solar panel-equipped havens in Alaska, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, and Russia. The Polar Cities Research Institute is ready to construct a functional prototype polar city in Longyearbyen, Norway in 2012, and "volunteer testing occupancy" is to launch in 2015.

Varying climate change reports prompted Bloom, an English teacher living in Taiwan, to wonder which theory was accurate. He began to research global warming about a year ago. The idea for sustainable polar cities sprung to life when he read James Lovelock’s fire and brimstone op-ed in the Independent newspaper

Lovelock, a British scientist, believes that “global heating” will melt the Earth faster than Britney loses her underwear. He wrote, “…Before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Artic where the climate remains tolerable.”

Living in a polar city will basically be like living on a snowy, college campus—everything will be in walking distance. Polar retreats will have indoor crops and trees to harvest fruits and vegetables. Security will be posted outside the entrance to make sure the 200,000 occupants are safe, and residents will commute through tube-like tunnels that connect people from their sleeping quarters to their work and living areas. These communities are fully sustainable and secure against the elements. Supplies could be carried by the Navy as they have before when a team of scientists was 500 miles from the North Pole.

Global warming scares have prompted people to seek refuge in the most unlikely of places. If polar communities don’t work out, well, there’s always the moon.

-Nicole Scarmeas

dan said...

''This is weird. A couple years ago I had this dream where I woke up one day and I was the last person on earth. I remember feeling excited because at last, everything was free. I decided to take a victory walk and as I was looking at the glorious sunrise, I fell into a hole so deep I couldn’t climb out. At the bottom were all these seeds.''

— Posted by Sam Thornton at DOT EARTH soemtime in 3008

dan said...

NOT ABOUT SAVING THE EARTH

This writing is not about saving the Earth. The Earth will go on with or without human beings. This writing is about saving you. It invites you to shift your lifestyle so you might live a little longer, and so your descendents might live at all.



How can six and a half billion people reorient themselves all at once to quickly take the needed steps to head off a potential disaster? They can do it by clearly understanding that there is no alternative, and by following the examples of those who go first -- perhaps you.



By now it is certain that a total reorientation of lifestyles will happen on earth whether it is deliberately chosen or not. This is because rapidly spreading Western-style consumerism is not a sustainable pattern in the long term. There are already too many people using too many resources and making too much toxic waste.



Indeed, our population has increased far beyond the carrying capacity of this planet. Therefore, the choice that awaits each of us has to do with the decision to adopt a new lifestyle proactively, or reactively. If we wait and react as separate governments, races and creeds, we will bring upon ourselves the worst kind of horror imaginable. This writing suggests that we do have an alternative.



WAKING FROM THE DREAM

Discovering that whatever we fondly thought of as “the success of modern technology and a gradual long-term climate change” instead threatens human existence on planet Earth now, is like discovering that Santa Claus is, in actuality, our parents. Nothing can prepare us for the dismay of waking from a great dream. The only compensation is the value of entering reality.



After reading this letter, one might feel shock, fear, rage, shame, dismay, confusion, grief or depression. Having such feelings is actually a good sign. It means you are still "human." On this account, I encourage people to give themselves permission to have these sorts of feelings, and to share the feelings with others, as well as the reasons behind those feelings. Sharing the impact of waking from the dream is an essential part of one's Just Stop Team meetings.



WE HAVE ALREADY PASSED THE KILLER TIPPING POINT THAT MAKES ALL OTHER CLIMATE CHANGE DISCUSSIONS IRRELEVANT

High in the Antarctic Troll research station in January 2008, Norwegian scientists measured earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration at 394 ppm (parts per million). CO2 is the main greenhouse gas produced by burning coal, oil and natural gas, for example, in power plants, automobiles, trucks, jets, and heating furnaces. The present 394 ppm is far above the average 280 ppm that has supported life as we know it on earth. We continue increasing our CO2 emissions as if they have no consequence – but they do.



CO2 TRIGGERS METHANE HYDRATES TIPPING POINT

Man-made CO2 now traps so much solar heat that Arctic tundra, which was frozen for tens of thousands of years, is melting. Tundra covers about 20% of the earth’s land surface. A few years ago, it was discovered that, beneath the Siberian Arctic tundra permafrost, lies 400 billion tons (gigatons) of frozen methane locked in methane hydrates. Last year, scientists detected Arctic methane bubbling out from the tundra five times faster than previously measured.



For the past 420,000 years, Earth’s atmospheric methane has remained between 450-750 ppb (parts per billion). Methane now exceeds 1750 ppb, more than double the previous maximum. Here is the danger: methane has 21 times more heat-trapping effect than carbon dioxide.



Freshly released methane traps more of the sun’s heat, that melts more tundra, that releases more methane, that traps more heat in runaway global warming. Releasing only 9 of the Arctic’s 400 gigatons of frozen methane would exceed a hidden tipping point that starts a heating avalanche. Once started, it cannot be reversed!



The most conservative strategy, in the United Nation’s IPCC AR4 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report) last November, proposes a greenhouse gas emissions reduction that would stabilize Earth’s temperature rise at 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. The lifestyle changes needed to stabilize at 2 degrees are widely regarded as politically and economically unfeasible, and yet, a 2 degrees rise already guarantees that the 9 gigatons of Arctic methane will be released.



This is because 2 degrees is a global average, but that 2 degrees is not evenly distributed. Temperatures over the cool oceans won’t rise much at all, whereas temperatures over the land will get hot enough to stop crop pollination and force trees to change from CO2 absorbers to CO2 emitters!



An increased global average temperature of 2 degrees means an 8 – 10 degrees rise exactly where the frozen methane waits in the arctic regions. As reflective snow melts it exposes heat-absorbing land or water to collect much more of the sun’s warmth. As a result, civilization as we know it will vanish under an onslaught of storms, famine, drought, disease and conflict. Likely two thirds or more of humankind will be dead in our lifetimes! National governments and economies will end and life as we know it will, abruptly, halt.



This is not written to scare people, although it will, but to call people to action on behalf of everything that they love on the Earth, for their children and grandchildren. How many will find life blighted? How will they be affected personally if this scenario comes to pass? If there was ever a time to take personal actions, that time is now.



WE HAVE NO TIME

It is not generally admitted that a level of greenhouse gases to trigger a heating avalanche has already been exceeded. Threshold tipping points were not included in the UN’s original climate change models. Official conclusions had to be approved by all signatories, and that included the US.



Original reports indicated that we had centuries to evolve out of a carbon based economy. But we were wrong. We have no time. Although lethal effects of passing the tipping point are already recognized, for example by insurance statistics, global warming will probably not be regarded as catastrophic for another 5 to 8 years. One could use this time to prepare.



Geological records show that the last time runaway heating happened (the PETM of 55 million years ago), it was triggered by erupting volcanoes pouring out greenhouse gases. Today, as China and India use coal to power up their mega-populations, and as CO2-absorbing tropical forests are burned to grow high priced bio-fuels and soybeans for cattle feed, we pump out greenhouse gases 30 times faster than the volcanoes did! Last time it took 100,000 years for life to recover on Earth.



ONE SMALL WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

We have one ridiculously small chance to avoid self-extermination from runaway climate change. The chance is to suddenly cease 90% of worldwide carbon emissions now. Just stop. This involves not only 90% of personal and corporate emissions, but also 90% of the oft forgotten other half of greenhouse gas emitters: government and military operations.



Although 90% reductions by 2015 far exceeds the cuts proposed by California, Europe, and the UN’s IPCC meeting in Bali, 90% is urgently endorsed by many researchers including George Monbiot, James Lovelock and John James. (Source references for all the information in this letter are available through www.just-stop.org and many other web sites. For a sampling, just google the two words: melting permafrost, and start reading.)



POPPING THE EVERYTHING IS FINE BUBBLE

Thousands of the world’s smartest scientists have been tracking the earth’s biosphere for decades. I, too, was trained as a scientist. I know and trust the methods used to make measurements. Nevertheless, the results that scientists are finding are almost too shocking for me to accept.



I wake up in the morning and look at the trees, the sky, and ordinary people going about their daily lives in the village where I live in southern Germany, and I shake my head. The looming climate disaster feels like science fiction. It is like a doctor telling you that he found high cholesterol in your blood even though you don't feel anything related to it. Suddenly the everything is fine bubble pops; the whole world looks different.



The whole world has just been told to go on the equivalent of a permanent low cholesterol diet. Ignoring such a warning is perilous. Not taking immediate decisive action during our tiny window of opportunity guarantees that everything that we know, everything that we have taken for granted, everything of which we are proud teeters over the edge into extinction.



MOST PEOPLE EXPECT THE GOVERNMENT TO SOMEHOW SAVE US ALL

We assume that our elected officials are intelligent enough to avoid letting us die in such a well predicted and easily avoidable Malthusian collapse. But look at the jets streaking across the sky, the cars and trucks roaring down the highways, the smokestacks pouring out gases, and the brand new homes leaking heat like a sieve. Look at the daily pile of garbage each household throws away, and the army of advertisements imploring everyone to consume more. Then shift your view to governmental and business leaders wantonly wringing the last drops of profit out of the earth rather than the last drops of carbon out of their lifestyle.



Do you really think governments in America, Asia and Europe will end the competition for who can consume remaining resources the quickest? Do you really think that governments or other groups, in countries with rapidly increasing populations, will prevent two or three billion more babies being born?



No. They won't. None of them. Don't be stupid. Do overweight people stop eating? ...almost never.



GOVERNMENT OF CHILDEN

When children make a mess, who cleans it up? Not the children! 192 nations are making huge messes with no intention of cleaning them up. We are 192 nations operating at child-level responsibility. There are no adults in charge, not even at the highest levels of government. We don't even know what adult level responsibility is.



We have arranged no global Mom or Dad to say “Stop now! Don't touch that, ever! Put that back! It is not yours! Share that equally with the others! No fighting!” There is no organization taking consequent global-level responsibility. Nobody out there will save us. Therefore, it remains up to us, individually and collectively, to act.










FOUR STRATEGIES FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE

There are four basic strategies for dealing with climate change: Wait for a Miracle, Last Man Standing, Change the System, or Just Stop. Which do you choose? (The idea of four strategies and a few of these phrases come from Richard Weinberg’s book Powerdown.)



1) Wait for a Miracle: This is the strategy of the ~ 90% of humanity who either never heard of global warming, or who approach climate catastrophe through philosophizing, theorizing, or proselytizing, or by fantasizing that someone will discover a technological breakthrough to save us all. These people choose to do nothing.



2) Last Man Standing: This is the strategy favored by the elite, wealthy, power holders in the corporocracy. The plan is already being implemented: business as usual while ruthlessly competing for dwindling resources as the world "goes down." Survivor takes all. However, no amount of money, nor guns, assures survival from ecological collapse.



3) Change the System: This is the strategy favored by intelligent, compassionate, political activists in NGO's lobbying for regulations to change the socio-economic system. Workable scenarios for international cooperation, conservation, and resource sharing might indeed be developed, but implementation fails in practice due to too much compromise. When the cat has no claws, rats rule the world.



4) Just Stop, Build an Ark: This is the strategy of a small minority, relying on alternative sources of information, who realize that the entire system of industrial civilization is inherently unsustainable. Of these people, most will simply watch helplessly and cynically as the world disintegrates. Only a small subset of this already marginal group will take total personal responsibility for having caused the present conditions in the first place, and will then Just Stop creating them. Out of the ashes of their lives, they will gather in small sustainable social systems beyond the reach of globalization and create parallel culture "lifeboats," the "arks."



Without realizing it, we already participate in one of the above strategies. Through seeing the options more distinctly, we gain an opportunity to make a more conscious choice. Which do you choose?



FOUR ACTIONS THAT YOU CAN TAKE TO SUSTAIN HUMAN LIFE

1. The first thing you can do is assess the information in this letter through researching websites, reading articles, studying books, and connecting with a wide assortment of people. Seek independent sources. Decide whether or not this information is accurate.



2. If you conclude that this information is not valid, then do nothing. If you conclude that this information is valid, then send this essay to every person whom you wish could have a chance to live. Tell especially the people who least expect you to tell them. Tell truck drivers, petrochemical engineers, soldiers, bureaucrats, American coal diggers, Australian uranium miners, Siberian gas workers, farmers in Borneo and Brazil. Tell talk-show hosts, movie producers, network leaders, periodical and web site editors, and your neighbors. If people trust their information source, they can completely change their viewpoint and their lifestyle. I know this is so because I changed mine.



3. The third thing you can do is figure out which of the above four strategies you will use.



4. If you decide on strategy four, to Just Stop, then the fourth thing you can do is begin your Just Stop Team. We cannot Just Stop as isolated individuals. We need to rely on each other while we exit Western consumerism and create sustainable-culture arks. You can download the Just Stop Team Meeting Guidelines from www.just-stop.org.



RADICAL RESPONSIBILITY

Many recognized authorities agree: We must change, we must act, we must stop. But such sure-sounding proclamations only guarantee that nothing changes, no one acts, and nobody stops.



Why? Because THERE IS NO WE WHEN IT COMES TO RESPONSIBILITY.



Only one person in the world can stop. That person is me. I can stop.



At first it seems too radical to take responsibility for creating global warming, myself. Yet if I take full responsibility for creating global warming, without excuses, without avoiding the shame, without being a victim, then I can stop creating it. Through radical responsibility, I gain the capacity to Just Stop.



JUST STOP UNSUSTAINABILITY

If I worked in certain countries' governments, I would be too embarrassed to continue promoting denial and hypocrisy. I would Just Stop showing up for work ever again. My quitting would be non-negotiable. There are plenty of other things to do with my life than to protect an organization that has been hijacked to serve reprehensible purposes.



If my job supported the nuclear power industry or involved Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) or weaponry with Depleted Uranium (DU), I could no longer contribute to world contamination and would suddenly cease working there.



If my job was in the oil, coal or gas mining, refining or power industries or involved building or driving petroleum-fueled cars, trucks, ships or planes, I could no longer endure promoting greenhouse gas emissions in this way. I would Just Stop.



If my work supported a military that was directed to stockpile armaments and strangle other nations so my own nation could keep its petrodollars in circulation while selfishly sucking down the last drops of the world’s oil, I would find it beneath my dignity to continue and I would immediately change careers.



Almost every aspect of modern capitalist consumerism is unsustainable, so almost everything that I do in modern daily life leads to planetary suicide. If I walk away from a ridiculous carbon economy job now, I am like the police who opened the gates and walked away from the ridiculous Berlin Wall in 1989. Those police are heroes now.



JUST STOP GLOBAL WARMING

Trying to find compromises and being satisfied with halfway solutions is a typical human tendency. That is strategy three, Change the System. If I choose strategy three, then I do strategy three.



Just Stop is strategy four, and it is uncompromising: Just Stop.



Doing my own research about what to stop makes my decision to stop more reliable. It is simple: Find sources of greenhouse gases and stop sponsoring them.



The economics is simple too: if fewer people buy products that emit greenhouse gases during their manufacture, delivery, use or recycling, then fewer products will be produced!



Just Stop is such an obvious solution to global warming, yet such a difficult choice to consider. Prepare to be shocked when reading these sample ideas for what to Just Stop. Try to avoid pre-deciding that Just Stopping is impossible. Awareness takes time to grow. Give these ideas time to sink in.



Embracing the Just Stop strategy would look like this:



- Stop buying things that are made of or packaged in plastic. Most plastics come from petroleum. Bring a backpack or a basket to the store, and buy items that are not prepackaged. Start noticing how much plastic is in your car, your kitchen, your office, your yard.



- Stop all mail order catalogs. Colored inks can contain heavy metals and are buried in the ground after you toss them in the garbage. You poison the earth and cause whole forests to be chopped down each day to make catalogs. Living trees absorb CO2. Dead trees made into paper give off CO2.



- Stop accepting the free grocery and hardware store ads that get shoved into your mailbox. Bring them to governmental meetings and demand that your city or town revoke permission to distribute promotional circulars because they increase greenhouse gases.



- Stop buying newspapers and magazines. Go online for news and e-zines. Do not put newspaper compost or ash on your garden as the colored inks can be poisonous and will be absorbed by your vegetables, and then by you.



- Stop accepting a paper telephone directory. Go online to get phone numbers. We need more trees, not less! Spend your holidays planting trees!



- Stop making garbage altogether. Compost your own bio-waste and recycle everything else. If it cannot be recycled, don’t buy it.



- Stop buying furniture or household items made of tropical hardwoods. That wood was once a tropical forest and you paid them to chop it down! Use local wood from sustainable forests.



- Stop buying products transported by jets, ships or long distance trucks. Adjust your diet towards unprocessed foods grown within 200 miles of your house. Unless you live in the tropics, adjust to life without bananas or pineapples.



- Stop eating beef and pork, especially in fast food restaurants. Better yet, go vegetarian. The cattle and pig industries produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases. And the paper and plastic packaging of fast foods is unconscionable.



- Stop installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to replace incandescents. The mercury in fluorescent lamps is a poisonous heavy metal and is not recyclable. Mountains of dead poisonous CFLs does not equate to sustainability! Instead, unscrew half of your incandescent bulbs and get in the habit of only turning on one light when you absolutely need to. Unplug all appliances when not in use.



- Stop owning stocks in any company having anything to do with the consumer economy, mining, petroleum, lumber, uranium or weaponry. Each stock owner is personally responsible for every misconduct of the company that he owns and could eventually be sued accordingly. Irresponsibility is an illusion.



- Stop using electricity that is generated from coal, gas, oil or nuclear power. Get off the public energy grid! Decrease your electric power consumption by 95% and figure out feasible ways to generate whatever electricity you need by researching about alternatives.



- Stop driving a car. Allow much more time for travel. Walk. Attach a cart to the back of your bicycle for carrying small children and loads. Use the bus or train and carpool in large groups.



- Stop flying in jets or airplanes. The jet age is over.



- Stop traveling in ships. Ocean liners produce even more greenhouse gases per passenger mile than jets. Go overseas by sailboat.



- Stop living in a house heated by electricity, oil, gas or wood. Live in a super-insulated passive-solar poured-earth home that requires no added heating. Stop owning any other kinds of buildings.



- Stop going to work anymore, if your work has anything to do with mining, coal, oil, harvesting wood, electric power, air or ship transportation, cement, or the military. Just stop. Find another vocation.



- Stop sending your kids to public school. What they learn in today’s public school won't help them live in the near future. Teach them the practical skills they will need to know. You probably need to learn them, yourself. With your kids at home, you can learn them together. The goal is self-sustainability whether in small family units or small communities.



See what I mean? This is shocking. Please remember that these are not rules. They are some of the lifestyle choices that will come to a stop either accidentally or intentionally, because they simply are not sustainable in the long run. The suggestion is to experiment with stopping now, while you have time to adjust to the coming circumstances.



IF...

If the corporocracy had redirected its trillion dollar war budget to developing and implementing renewable energy 15 years ago, we would be oil free by now. Instead the ruling regime implemented "Last Man Standing," so far contaminating 8% of the earth’s surface with permanently radioactive Depleted Uranium (DU) and assuring that millions of people or more will die over the next decades from increased global warming.



How could it possibly be worse to Just Stop and let non-sustainable culture collapse so that sustainable alternatives could emerge? If I Just Stop supporting the carbon economy, and many others joined this action, the whole carbon economy would vanish in a week. As Eddie Izzard so succinctly asks, “Cake or death?” Stupid question, or…?








AFTER I STOP, THEN WHAT?

If I Just Stop, my natural entrepreneurship and new actions can create a wide variety of sustainable cultures. Since almost all of modern Western-style culture is unsustainable, the actions of any sustainable culture will seem unconventional. Therefore, it is okay to have little idea about how to implement sustainable culture. It is okay to feel completely lost at first.



I have felt lost at other times, afraid that I would never find my way home. Yet here I am. I may be having that “lost” feeling now, asking myself: If I Just Stop, what will I be doing? Where will I get money and food? Where will I live? Who will be my friends? New and workable answers will come as I let the questions, themselves, propel me into taking appropriate actions.



One appropriate action could be to invite the people with whom I would like to talk about these things to a weekly Just Stop Team meeting. Each Just Stop Team is a small social system beyond the reach of globalization. Each Team is the seed for a sustainable "culture lifeboat" or an "ark." In the least, such an approach seems worth exploring, it would seem. Guidelines for a Just Stop Team can be found at www.just-stop.org.



This has been a difficult and painful text for me to write; it has taken me weeks. It may also have been horrible for you to read. If so, I am sorry. A version of this letter with reference links is being posted at the website for further reading.



Clinton Callahan, affiliated with www.callahan-academy.com, originator of Possibility Management, author of the book Radiant Joy Brilliant Love, trainer, naturalist and activist currently living in Germany, can be reached at: clinton@just-stop.org.



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dan said...

I asked this man in Norway if he could help me set up polar city model
city in future, he works with Seed Vault, he answered
me:




Dear Mr. Bloom.

I am afraid that I am unable in assisting you in the question of
establishing your model city, it is far beyond the scope of my work.

Kind regards

dan said...

Dear Peter Soderman,

I am a reporter in Taiwan, from the USA. I want to know how you
created the blue[prints for the Seed Vault, and when you began work
on this project. Also, please see my ideas BELOW about polar cities
for survivors of global warming in Norway and Alaska, canada and
Russia, in the future, year 2500 or so.

Sincerely,

Danny Bloom

dan said...

After a long email trail search, I finally was able to discover the
name and the firm of the Norwegian architect who created the
blueprints for the Seed Vault. His name is Peter Soderman, and the
firm responsible for the design of the vault is Barlindhaug Consult AS
in the town of Tromsø, according to sources deep inside in the
Norwegian government.