“Hello Dr. Christiansen. It’s Harald Hirendahl. I’m sorry to bother you but we’ve had a catastrophic event at the international seed vault. Can you please come here immediately? There’s been a massive breach at the entrance tunnel. The failure may have compromised hundreds of thousands of our precious samples. We can’t fully know the extent of the loss until you arrive to help us to evaluate the exposure.”
“Oh my God, that’s terrible! What sort of ‘exposure’ is it? Did some of the botanical samples get exposed to the air or some sort of destructive mold?”
“You aren’t going to believe this but the glacier above the mountain is melting at a rapid rate. Almost the entire ground floor of the seed vault is flooded. The water is currently over a meter deep and still rising! All of the samples stored in sections C through J are completely immersed in the melted snow. Tor has brought in an industrial draining company to pump it out but the damage is going to be extensive. It’s pouring in faster than they can remove it. We need your expertise. Please come as soon as you can!”
Doctor Christensen caught the first available transport from Denmark to the ‘Doomsday seed bank’ on Spitsbergen island. The world’s most complete repository of essential seeds and plant samples are stored there at the Svalbard science facility. Located only 900 kilometers from the Arctic circle, the incredibly remote location was chosen for its stable climate and rural isolation. A team of leading research scientists believed it would remain secure in the event of a catastrophic societal collapse. Somehow the unthinkable had happened to it anyway.
With the paramount effort to safeguard the agricultural seeds being threatened, Dr. Christensen shuttered. The thought of his life’s work being destroyed by a natural disaster filled him with panic and grief. In some cases, the samples at the facility represented the last known horticultural examples of rare or extinct plant species. In those environmental terms, they were absolutely priceless.
When he arrived at the bunker, he was startled at the unnaturally warm temperature and abundance of water coursing down the mountain. He was immediately led by the team leader to the affected area. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe his esteemed colleague, but seeing it with his own eyes was undeniable. He hoped the liquid contamination wasn’t as bad as it sounded over the phone. The truth was, it was much worse. The industrial pumps were already in place and working furiously but the entire floor was now under almost two meters of water. His worst fears were realized. It was an unmitigated disaster!
“Can these pumps be adjusted to a run at a higher rate of processing? We are now in grave danger of losing the second floor of the facility at this point.”; He said sternly.
“They are already running over peak capacity now, Doc. We are risking one, or all of them failing if they are driven this hard for much longer. We actually need to reduce the load on them to prevent the motors from burning up.”
Dr, Christensen was about to stress how imperative it was that the botanical samples survive but he could see the pumps were doing all they could. “Are there more of these units you could bring in, or perhaps work with a competitor to better alleviate this flooding? We have to save these essential seeds! I’m not exaggerating when I say that the fate of the human race could one day depend on the rest of these samples not getting wet.”
“Sir, I recognize the importance. I really do but we are fighting nature here. Of all people, I shouldn’t have to tell an esteemed scientist of your caliber that mother nature can be very difficult to fight. These pump units are the very same devices that the United States corps of engineers used during the massive flooding of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. They are without peer in the industry for what they do, and we have all of them in the entire country. There’s simply nothing else we can do but fight the flooding of the station as best we can. Perhaps you can set up some recovery teams to evacuate your unaffected samples in the higher levels of the repository. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but they will eventually flood too. I am certain of that. All my company can do is buy you some time.”
The Doctor nodded and thanked the foreman for his sobering candor. It had become a rescue operation. Their research data was backed up offsite ‘in the cloud’ but the physical specimens were in immediate need of relocation. It was a heartbreaking scenario to consider but he had to cut the losses and concentrate on saving the remaining items which still could be.
Before he could spring into action, his mobile SAT phone began to buzz incessantly in his breast pocket. He didn’t even have to look at the display to know who was calling. “Yes sir. It’s bad. Very bad. The entire first floor compartment is flooded with melted snow and the levels are rising quickly. Harald’s team already has an industrial drainage company working on it but it’s not stopping. Their pumps are the best available but it’s still not enough. It’s really a salvage operation now. I’m about to organize rescue teams to start moving the unaffected specimens to a higher elevation.”
His boss was furious at the grim situation. Somehow it all happened on their watch. “Why didn’t Harald let one of us know there had been a steep rise in the temperature around the bunker?”; He barked.
“Magnus, he assured me that his weather data only showed modest temperature gains and I’ve seen his readings. It’s the truth. There was a huge temperature spike the past two days. Prior to that, it was actually a little below normal at the of Longyearbyen Norway repository.”
“How can that be, Ben? What could cause an unnatural spike like that? It’s less than 900 kilometers from the North freakin’ Pole! We both know that water should only exist at the Svalbard facility in frozen form! There are no existing weather models which show such wild, unpredictable shifts in the conditions. It’s the damn SUV driving, petro-guzzling, Big Mac eating selfish Americans! They pulled out of the Paris climate accord and…”
“Magnus, there’s literally a lake running off the side of the mountain and right into the entrance. That can’t be the direct result of global warming or carbon emissions. It’s just too sudden. Even if all the big industrial nations on Earth were working for the deliberate ruin of the planet, they couldn’t generate this rapid of a climate change overnight. It’s gotta be something else.”
“What else could it be but global warming? There’s no other logical explanation. Mankind is backing himself into the edge of extinction. We need to document the details of this catastrophic event to confront climate change deniers. It’s the only way we’ll ever get through to them.”
“I appreciate your passion Magnus but right now I need to concentrate on salvaging as much of the vault as possible. I’ll call you tomorrow when I have a better grasp of things, ok? I’ll take another look at Harald’s research data once we have the remaining samples safely secured.”
Magnus agreed to let Ben get back to the salvation operation. They made plans to discuss the status of things once it had all become better stabilized. Ben and Harald organized teams to collect and transfer large pallets of the remaining specimens to a another storage facility. To add insult to critical injury, the new location also suffered a devastating setback the very next day.
While almost 200 kilometers apart, the new repository also experienced a flood of melted glacier ice. Many of the specimens which survived the original flood succumbed to the second one. Ben was at a complete loss of what to do. It was almost as if a cruel, cosmic force was trying to ruin their entire collection of plant specimens. He spent the night studying and comparing weather data patterns between the two remote locations. In both cases, there had been a dramatic overnight temperature surge, right before the flooding. Plans were halted to move the few remaining samples to a third location when it also experienced a radical upshift in temperature. The patterns were both distinctive and shockingly predictable. Wherever they planned to move the seeds to would experience a devastating heat wave. Some unseen force seemed to be determined to ruin humanity’s seed stockpiles.
Magnus Wongraven flew to the scene of the second disaster to supervise the investigation and recovery efforts. He looked over the official reports with a growing anger and dissatisfaction. In just a few short days, the world’s preeminent collection of agricultural seed samples were all but ruined by a pair of freak disasters. It just didn’t add up. As soon as the original seed repository site was abandoned, the temperature returned back to normal and the erosion of the glacier halted. Curiously, CO2 levels inside both failed shelters and the general vicinity had spiked shortly before the flooding.
Both men were determined to understand the puzzling connection to the events. Their investigation would take them to very unexpected places. Magnus begrudgingly admitted that Ben was right about the incidents and locations being too specific to reflect global warming trends but no one seemed to have a better explanation. He demanded answers or working ideas but wasn’t remotely prepared for Ben’s radical theory. As a matter of fact, no one in the room was.
“Hear me out, everyone. While obviously not the same level of cognizance as the animal kingdom, we know that nature has some form of logic and awareness. Plants have no practical means of spreading their offspring to other places so they have developed a very clever means of tricking members of the animal kingdom to do it for them. They offer delicious seeds, berries and fruit to trick birds and other animals into eating them. Then the seeds are carried elsewhere in the digestive tract and later deposited on the soil with a natural ‘fertilizer’. This is how plants spread to distant places. We do their bidding. If seeds were bitter, no birds of other creatures would eat them.
Because wheat and other seed grains give the brain a carbohydrate euphoria, we grow and cultivate them to eat. For the past 7,000 years of human history, man has farmed the land to maintain these plant species. We hold the belief that grain farming benefits our species with food but grains offer no real nutritional value. Perhaps they have been silently farming us the whole time.”
Dr. Christensen paused a moment to allow his controversial ideas to percolate amongst his stunned peers. Magnus eyed the grinning Dane with bemused skepticism. He has always respected Ben’s sage council but this pushed his patience beyond normal limits.
“As a devout man of science, it goes against everything I’ve been taught. Everything WE have been taught about plant life for that matter but I’m starting to consider a very disturbing possibility. I think these seeds may have used some intrinsic powers beyond our limited understanding of their abilities to force the glacier to melt. Simply put, I believe they were disgruntled about being quarantined in the vault for so many years. Somehow they willed the nearby temperature to rise drastically. If they can comprehend their isolated circumstances and grow faster from music stimuli, they could just as easily adjust the CO2 levels through controlled respiration to spike the temperature locally.”
The esteemed staff of the global seed bank were too flabbergasted to even speak. Doctor Christensen continued his startling theory: “I know how all this sounds but it’s the only remaining explanation for the unexplained glacial melt. We are way too far from the necessary thermal range to cause such an event; under normal conditions. In essence I feel the repeated patten of warming and flooding is compelling proof of a plant intelligence that we’ve only begun to suspect. If my suspicions about the fluctuating weather are correct, the living specimens of this botanical repository are literally ‘seeds of discontent’. The plants are behind the global warming spikes, flooding and CO2 elevations. In layman’s terms; they are thirsty and tired of waiting to sprout.”