Anyone with a basic understanding about our planet knows that it is being wracked with ever increasing natural calamities brought on by changing climates. Shifting weather patterns, increasing ocean temperatures and acidity levels, rapid sea level rise, famine, and drought are but a few of the consequences we face with the poor of the world taking the brunt of these environmental uncertainties.
The overwhelming consensus by climate scientists is that the human burning of hydrocarbons such as coal, oil, and natural gas is responsible for these rapid and dangerous changes in overall global environment. Add to that unchecked deforestation and loss of animal habitats, pollution from other sources, and runaway human population growth you have a near perfect storm not only threatening the ability of the planet to maintain viable ecosystems but eventually the sustainability of human civilization itself.
To those wallowing in willful ignorance and certain special interest groups that want to protect their money and power all the evidence that the planet is in trouble is to them either overblown or part of some evil socialistic conspiracy. Even more worrisome, to the religiously deranged apocalyptic climate degradation is something to be welcomed since it is one of the signs that the Rapture is close at hand. Humanity’s others sins such as greed, war, and apathy only aid in painting an even darker picture of the future.
The last thing I want to do is seem childishly optimistic in the face of some gigantic problems but I did learn about a project that restored a little bit of my faith that humans can overcome their barbaric tendencies. A great deal of evolution works on the concept of competition and survival of the fittest and humans have shown themselves adept at cutthroat behavior. But another facet of evolution involves cooperation and the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is one of the best examples of people from around the world working together to save as much of the Earth’s plants as possible.
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is the largest ex situ plant conservation project in the world. Our focus is on global plant life faced with the threat of extinction and plants of most use for the future. The seeds we save are conserved outside their native habitat.
Working with our network of partners across 80countries, we have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plantspecies. With your help, weare going to save 25% of those species with bankable seeds by 2020(nominally 75,000 species). We target plants and regions most at risk fromclimate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities.
In collaboration with other biodiversity projects around the world expeditions are sent to collect seeds from dryland plants.Where possible, collections are kept in the country of origin with duplicates being sent to the Millennium Seed Bank Project for storage. Major partnerships exist on all the continents, enabling the countries involved to meet international objectives such as the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations Environment Programme.
In April 2007, it banked its billionth seed, the Oxytenanthera abyssinica, a type of African bamboo. In October 2009, it reached its 10% goal of banking all the world's wild plant species by adding Musa itinerans, a wild banana, to its seed vault. As estimates for the number of seed bearing plant species have increased however, the current 31,880 species that have been banked represent 9.22% of the global total.
Partnerships exist in Australia, Mexico, Chile, Kenya, China, USA, Jordan, Mali, Malawi, Madagascar,Burkina Faso, Botswana, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and South Africa. Australiais particularly significant as its flora constitutes 15% of the world's totalof species, with 22% of them identified as under threat of extinction.
It would nice to hope that this type of endeavor could lead to even more international cooperation in other areas where it is desperately needed. Unfortunately, for all of us, that is way too much to hope for right now. But times change and circumstances have a way of forcing species to adapt quickly or go extinct. I just hope we realize what we need to do in time.