When we hear of the growing number of extinctions across the globe, rarely do we think about the rapid extermination of plant species. How could the demise of the Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea be as tragic as the downfall of the California golden bear?
I’ll tell you why—because we eat more peas than we do bears. OK, OK—perhaps a species' true worth has little to do with whether it ends up on our plate but more about how if we, humans, want to save ourselves from extinction, safeguarding our food supply would be a good start.
Seeds of Time, a documentary by Academy Award–nominated filmmaker Sandy McLeod, makes this exceedingly clear as it tracks the conservation efforts of Cary Fowler, the founder of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. For decades Fowler has been trying to save the planet’s plant diversity from overdevelopment, modern monoculture practices, and climate change by stashing seeds deep in a mountain tunnel in Norway. So far, the seed bank has carefully catalogued and stored thousands of important agriculture species in the vault—a kind of frozen Noah’s Arc above the Arctic Circle.
The 77-minute film screened in New York and Los Angeles this spring, but it’ll sprout up elsewhere over the summer and be on DVD by autumn harvesttime. So while you pass the popcorn, think about all the other kinds of kernels out there—tiny little packets of genetic code that could one day be a lifeline to a food-strapped planet.
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