VOL. 131 | NO. 260 | Friday, December 30, 2016
BY DAN CONAWAY
SEEDS OF SURVIVAL. I know Cary Fowler, a quiet, unassuming high school classmate and Rhodes graduate whose forward-thinking worldview might very well save the planet. At the very least, what he’s doing gives the world something to look forward to in the new year and beyond.
When you consider Trump’s national security adviser traded his general’s cap for a tin hat on his hot head – and whose son placed a bogus order for a pepperoni and child sex slaves pizza conspiracy – that’s not much to look forward to come January.
When I heard that the general appointed as defense secretary has the nickname of “Mad Dog,” I couldn’t help but think of General “Buck” Turgidson’s comment to the president in “Dr. Strangelove” concerning the repercussions of a nuclear strike: “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.” Loved the movie, not looking forward to the reality.
But the stranger-than-fiction story continues with the appointment of someone to head the EPA who’s sued the EPA and doesn’t believe in climate change, someone to head Energy who’s promised to eliminate the department, someone to head Labor from the fast food world who got rich keeping wages at the bottom of the fryer, someone to head Justice who couldn’t get appointed to the federal bench because a white sheet fits him better than a black robe, someone to head the SBA who makes a living making up the crap you see in ’rasslin rings – and so on down the rabbit hole.
Nope, nobody much but smokestack huggers, the KKK and our own Jerry Lawler are looking forward to much of that.
But then there’s Cary. And there’s a longer view.
His informed concern and initiative built the Global Seed Vault inside a mountain in Svalbard, Norway, to protect the future of, well, food and humanity. It’s so cold up there that polar bears wear mittens and the nearest neighbor is Santa Claus. Inside, the seeds of the world’s agricultural plants are stored – more than 500 million – with samples from every country on Earth, protecting the diversity of that which sustains us and to assure our survival.
During the recent signing event for his new book, “Seeds On Ice,” a couple of things Cary said stood out. With all our technology, what has been true since we turned from hunting and gathering to agriculture some 10,000 years ago is still true: We’re still dependent on a few inches of topsoil and rain. There’s no charge for the stewardship of these seeds, and if agricultural survival becomes an issue, any country’s seeds will be returned. That’s happened only once and recently. Syria needs its seeds.
I know Cary Fowler, and because of that I know in this age of loud bombast there are still quiet heroes hard at work to save us from ourselves.
I’m a Memphian, and we should be very proud that Cary is one of us.
Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.