Doomsday seed vault

A shadowy cabal of world leaders met today to make preparations for the end of the world. Foremost in their minds: Seeds.

The prime ministers of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, and Finland put down the cornerstone of a doomsday seed bank on a remote island in Arctic Norway.

Should the world suffer disease, famine, flood, nuclear war, earthquakes, global warming, or terrorism -- and really, what are the chances? -- plants' biogenetic diversity will rest safe within a cozy envelope of permafrost, concrete, and metal. The Svalbard International Seed Vault will hold around 3 million seeds as a last-ditch safeguard against species extinction.

Also, polar bears will hang around outside to make sure hooligans keep their distance.

Even if power fails in the seed bank, the layer of permafrost will keep the seeds safe as the human race slowly extinguishes itself in an orgy of pestilence and war.

"The seeds will retain their ability to germinate for a long time," cheerily piped the Norwegian foreign ministry.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which campaigned to establish the bank, concurred. "Despite changes being wrought by global warming, experts believe the deep permafrost will be reliably cool for at least the next 100 years," it said.

That gives humankind another whole century to vomit carbon dioxide and petrochemical waste into the atmosphere before raiding nature's piggy bank for one last fix.

"It is a stunning achievement, if you think about it, and it would be about as safe as human beings can make it," said Cary Fowler, the Global Crop Diversity Trust's executive director, not adding, "We are so screwed."

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