Over the last week, I have been on a forced rest, taken down swiftly by a nasty flu virus. (If you are thinking of yelling at me about the flu shot, you can get off your soapbox because my sister has already done the honours). In a haze of lozenges, fitful naps, and bowls of soup, I have been watching a lot of informative television.
I'm not sure what the show was that I was watching yesterday (I think it might have been something about Nordic cookery), but I learned about the Global Seed Vault. If you don't know about the Global Seed Vault, it is a repository of crop seeds from almost every country in the world, stored in Svalbard. The permafrost conditions and storage facility ensure that the seeds will be kept safe in the case of manmade or natural disaster. It has the capacity to hold some 4.5 Million seed samples and currently holds about 860,000.
In my flu-ridden, drug-infused haze, relief washed over me. I'm really glad someone is preparing for disaster.
Human beings have always had a great capacity to both destroy and preserve, when the desire strikes. Though we don't always see destruction in a positive light, it is part of the cycle of creation. Things need to be destroyed or overtaken in order for other things to be possible.
The beauty of it all is that of course, we have the capacity to come away with knowledge so often, that can in turn inform our new creations. We are naturally prone to preserve, everything from human beings (let's ask the archaeologists) to books (thank you, librarians throughout history).
Beyond the obvious that preservation is linked to the memory of who we are and how far we've come along, there is another purpose to it and that is to hedge our bets in the face of uncertainty.
When we don't know what's coming down the pipeline, we are likely to maintain some semblance of sameness in order to keep the integrity of the things that we know best. It is in some way, a false, but noble guarantee that we are trying to give ourselves.
We sometimes try to preserve out of fear because of uncertainty. That act in itself works against us because it closes us off to how the future unknowns can actually impact, enhance or change us.
We need to be agile enough to be able to move outside of the confines of our current situation. I have always grappled with this idea. It applies to us professionally and personally. How do we move without losing our sense of purpose?
We endeavour to keep the essence of, or the most critical parts of things that represent, in the smallest piece, who we are. The world is not a vacuum and it is certainly foolhardy to think that we can keep everything and adapt to changing conditions. Things are never going to be "the way they were" because they change instantaneously and often. Instead, we keep those most crucial things that when placed into new environments, will be in their very core, similar to what we know about our past. It is about having the essence right to be able to undertake adaptation when everything around us changes.
The Global Seed Vault is exactly that idea. We know that the climate is changing. We don't know what soil conditions will be like, how much rainfall or arable land there will be, whether the chemical composition of soil will change. But we have (literally), the seed of potential.
That's enough to give anyone hope.
More reading on preservation