THE EUROPEAN DREAM
—— Transporting goods throughout Europe by rail is fast, dependable and environmentally friendly. Yet different standards and gaps in the network still hamper cross-border rail traffic. This is about to change.
Around 1,300 kilometers from the North Pole on the island of Spitsbergen, this concrete structure rises up out of the rock. Behind thick steel doors, a tunnel burrows almost 100 meters into the mountain and opens onto three halls, each 27 meters long, 10 meters wide and 6 meters tall. Here, between walls of reinforced concrete, protected from nuclear wars, plane crashes and flooding, is a valuable treasure: around 1.2 million seed samples from more than 4,000 different species of plants from 249 of the world’s countries.
In 2008, the World Crop Trust and the Norwegian government built the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, current the world’s largest, to protect crop diversity and make seeds available in times of crisis. Most recently, the vault was forced to close in 2018 because permafrost around the building melted due to a warm winter and water leaked into the entrance area. The vault underwent a two-year, 20-million-dollar overhaul and went back into full operation at the end of 2020—now also protected against the effects of climate change.