There’s a massive post-apocalyptic seed vault buried in a snow-covered mountain on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, and Cary Fowler is the one who put it there. A new documentary, Seeds of Time, chronicles his efforts in Norway and beyond preserving biodiversity in the face of climate change.
The film follows Fowler’s journey through two bouts of life-threatening cancer and a lifelong struggle to protect our gene bank. Although he’s faced an uphill battle against climate deniers and a lack of political will, his success in Norway is emblematic of shifting tides in public attitudes towards climate change. “People are beginning to realize that there is something new and different about the climate,” he says. “Unfortunately, few people stop to think about the effect of heat on plants, nor do they understand that small increases in temperature or hot weather at critical stages in plant growth can have a major impact on food production.”
The documentary also explores the role of indigenous farmers in seed preservation. Peruvian potato farmers lament the changes in Andean microclimates that have already affected their growing cycle. “They are unique in their initiative to bring together multiple communities in a joint effort, and then to realize that their own efforts might still be insufficient to guarantee the continued survival of their treasured potato varieties,” Fowler explains.
The film is showing this week in the city at Cinema Village, and it’s also available online. It’s worth a watch just to see footage of the Seed Vault and learn about the creepy history of its Russian counterpart.