Interview, Podcast

Ep 11: A Frozen Garden of Eden with Dr. Cary Fowler

An Interview with Cary Fowler

By Eleanor Bennett

Welcome to episode eleven of the Climate, Mind and Behavior Podcast. Each episode, we’ll explore groundbreaking intersections between climate change, resilience, contemplative practice and human behavior.

Deep inside an arctic mountain on a remote island off Norway is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Known by many as a frozen “Garden of Eden” and “Noah’s Ark” of plant life, it’s a bunker filled with backup copies of more than 850,000 crop types. The seed bank was built to ensure the world’s food supply has the diversity needed to stand against the threats of disease, climate change, and famine.

Cary Fowler closing down the Seed Vault for the day, February 2016

The person behind the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, is crop diversity pioneer and scientist Dr. Cary Fowler. He proposed the creation of the seed bank to Norway, led the plan for its establishment, and now chairs the international council that oversees its operations. His mission, as described in his TED Talk, is nothing less than “to help save the world from agricultural collapse, one seed at a time.”

In 2010, the Russian Academy of Agricultural Sciences awarded him the Vavilov Medal for his “exceptional contribution” to the cause of conserving plant genetic resources for present and future generations. Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the Seed Vault an “inspirational symbol of peace and food security for the entire humanity.”

Cary Fowler walking down the isles of the vault, examining seed samples from around the globe, February 2016

Dr. Fowler is the author of several books including Unnatural Selection, and his recently published work, Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault. We sat down together last week to explore his life’s journey from a Tennessee farm boy and activist in the civil rights movement, to as some have called him, “the biodiversity warrior” of our generation. To learn more about Dr. Cary Fowler, visit his website, caryfowler.com.


Our Theme music is composed by Zoë Keating. You can find her music on iTunes or on her website, Zoë Keating.com. The photographs for this episode are by Sara Arno who visited the Svalbard archipelago in 2016.

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