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Collect, Save, Adapt: Making and Unmaking Ex Situ Worlds

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Abstract

‘Putting the right species back in the right place’: expressed in the words of Bruce Pavlik, the Head of Restoration Ecology at the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens in a fundraising clip for the Breathing Planet Campaign, the work of biodiversity repositories seems straightforward. A simple matter of renewing the colonial and capitalistic capture of nature by exhausting its diversity in collecting, and then of reinserting species, suspended in the form of genetic information, into the neat spaces their disappearance or almost-dispappearance has left in their original ecosystems, the redemptive value of biodiversity repositories seems unquestionable. ‘There is no technological reason why any species should go extinct’, the clip goes on.The cryopreservation of genetic material in seed banks and ‘frozen zoos’ is often and justifiably understood as genetic-fetishistic suspension, several times removed from animal lives in actual habitats; I propose however to read them as world-making devices in their own right too, more entangled and entangling than they might present themselves to be. Collecting and saving are two mandates that have effects both on the species whose genetic information is banked and on the natures that are made possible or impossible through the projects delineated by biodiversity repositories; but they have also been implicated in a third such mandate, the assisted adaptation of species to anthropogenic climate change (be it the plan for ‘chaperoned assisted relocation’ proposed by the Missouri Botanical Garden or the ‘cultivation of marginally hardy taxa’ proposed at the Arnold Arboretum). How are biodiversity repositories an active intervention into the shaping of natures both inside and outside, and what are the consequences of what happens within the apparatus of these repositories for wider understandings of landscapes and species under threat? How linked is the suspension of metabolic processes and evolutionary potential and the understanding of Earth as manageable, perhaps even terraformable? What do they contribute to conservation biology’s biopolitical and cultural shaping of individuals, species, ecosystems suspended and remade through the different uses for which biodiversity repositories can be put to work?
Cultural Studies
Review
Vol. 25, No. 1
September 2019
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Citation: Laboissière, A-K.
2019. Collect, Save, Adapt:
Making and Unmaking Ex
Situ Worlds.
Cultural Studies
Review
, 25:1, 65-84. http://
dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.
v24i1.6380
ISSN 1837-8692 | Published by
UTS ePRESS | https://epress.
lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.
php/csrj
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Collect, Save, Adapt: Making and Unmaking Ex
Situ Worlds
Anna-Katharina Laboissière
Curtin University, Perth WA and École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France
Corresponding author: Anna-Katharina Laboissière, Centre for Culture and Technology, Faculty
of the Humanities, Curtin University, GPO Box U1987, Perth WA 6845
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.v24i1.6380
Article history: Received 04/12/2018; Revised 19/03/2019; Accepted 04/05/2019; Published
25/09/2019
Abstract
‘Putting the right species back in the right place’: expressed in the words of Bruce Pavlik, the
Head of Restoration Ecology at the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew Gardens in a fundraising
clip for the Breathing Planet Campaign, the work of biodiversity repositories seems
straightforward. A simple matter of renewing the colonial and capitalistic capture of nature by
exhausting its diversity in collecting, and then of reinserting species, suspended in the form of
genetic information, into the neat spaces their disappearance or almost-dispappearance has left
in their original ecosystems, the redemptive value of biodiversity repositories seems
unquestionable. ‘There is no technological reason why any species should go extinct’, the clip
goes on. The cryopreservation of genetic material in seed banks and ‘frozen zoos’ is often and
justifiably understood as genetic-fetishistic suspension, several times removed from animal
lives in actual habitats; I propose however to read them as world-making devices in their own
right too, more entangled and entangling than they might present themselves to be. Collecting
and saving are two mandates that have effects both on the species whose genetic information
is banked and on the natures that are made possible or impossible through the projects
delineated by biodiversity repositories; but they have also been implicated in a third such
mandate, the assisted adaptation of species to anthropogenic climate change (be it the plan for
‘chaperoned assisted relocation’ proposed by the Missouri Botanical Garden or the
‘cultivation of marginally hardy taxa’ proposed at the Arnold Arboretum). How are
biodiversity repositories an active intervention into the shaping of natures both inside and
outside, and what are the consequences of what happens within the apparatus of these
repositories for
DECLARATION OF CONFLICTING INTEREST The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect
to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. FUNDING The author(s) received no financial
support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
65
wider understandings of landscapes and species under threat? How linked is the suspension of
metabolic processes and evolutionary potential and the understanding of Earth as manageable,
perhaps even terraformable? What do they contribute to conservation biology’s biopolitical
and cultural shaping of individuals, species, ecosystems suspended and remade through the
dierent uses for which biodiversity repositories can be put to work?
Keywords:
extinction studies; ex situ conservation; conservation biology; plant studies; environmental
philosophy; environmental humanities; assisted migration
Introduction
What Kew is about is putting the right species back in the right place. Bruce Pavlik, Kew
Gardens—e Breathing Planet Campaign
Science ction is not about the future; it uses the future as a narrative convention to present
signicant distortions of the present. And both the signicance of the distortion and the
appropriateness of the convention lie precisely in that what we know of present science
does not deny the possibility of these distortions eventually coming to pass. Samuel Delany,
Starboard Wine
‘ere is no technological reason why any plant species should become extinct’: this
sentence, innocuously dropped into a fundraising clip for the Breathing Planet Campaign
of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership at Kew Gardens by Paul Smith, head of Seed
Conservation at the MSBP, is echoed almost word for word in an article on plant ex situ
conservation in botanic gardens he co-authored, and which goes on to call for ‘a botanic
garden-centered global system that can prevent species extinctions in perpetuity (emphasis
mine).1 e ex situ conservation of endangered wild plant species, in living collections such as
botanic gardens and suspended in the subzero temperature storage of the seed banks that are
often housed in their facilities, is seen as a cost-eective and technologically sound method
for arresting plant extinction indenitely. As Deborah Bird Rose says of cryotechnologies in
general, ‘they are end-time oriented; they move some matter into a zone of suspended life—
enlarging the zone of the incomplete—in order to be able to kick-start time and life again
when the moment arrives.’2
e institutions now carrying a good part of the ex situ burden—zoos and botanic
gardens—were born in the context of colonial expansion, and have long served as trading
houses and display cases of European imperial powers. e shift to fullling ex situ
conservation duties—while underpinned by an infrastructural preparedness of institutions
long used to acclimatising and perpetuating non-native populations—has happened relatively
recently, starting in the 1970s and taking a decisive turn with the Convention on Biological
Diversity in 1992. It was rst dominated by an emphasis on a salvic ‘ark paradigm3, which
has partly given way to an integrated approach4, but the image of the ark still animates ex situ
conservation, reappearing in the names of prominent initiatives (the Millennium Seed Bank
Partnership, taking its cue from Soulé’s proposed ‘millennium ark’, and—on the animal side
of the freezer—the Frozen Ark project). e ex situ conservation of wild plant species in seed
banks, a practice initially developed for food crops, has seen rapid and extensive development
over the past few decades, and has come to form an important part of many botanic gardens’
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conservation activities.5 Ex situ conservation in general is informed by and frames the question
of extinction in particular ways: emerging from the structural aordances of institutions
(zoological and botanical gardens) that have contributed both to extinction and the subsequent
frenzy of preservation, it treads the line between responding to extinction through salvic
suspensive practices and integrating it into complex, dynamic and ongoing projects.
Rose’s assessment of the cryoconservation of endangered species is characteristic of the way
ex situ conservation has been framed in both intra- and interdisciplinary discussions. It is a
fraught and debated practice within conservation biology itself, as Irus Braverman has shown
in her critical mapping of the ex/in situ conservation debate, drawing on ethnography and
animal geography.6 In discussions around the bio-, cryo- and necropolitics of suspensive ex
situ conservation, the trouble has often been couched in terms of the impossible speculations
they embody: for what future are these frozen species preserved? In what post-apocalyptic
landscapes will they be called upon to rise again, and walk? What of the competences, the
knowledge needed to reanimate the contents of foil packets and nitrogen tanks, to inseminate
animals and multiply propagules—and all this without even speaking of the possibility of
cultural transmission within those species themselves?7
But suspension is not the only mandate of ex situ conservation. Gardens, developed as
miniature representations of a harmonious political and cosmological order, can prove to be
unruly and unravelling; and there is trouble in the seed bank as well, when it acts as a temporal
weight in the zone of the incomplete, distorting linear narratives and projects. e simplicity
of ‘putting the right species back in the right place’—that deferred horizon of species and
ecosystem resurrection ex situ conservation seems to tend toward—is belied by the complex
temporal entanglements that emerge when it is read in the dense tangle of uses and projects it
supports, enables, and is shaped by. For all the sterile suspension of the deep freeze, stockpiling,
saving and remembering cannot quite help being relational, and being enlisted in projects
that provide a testing ground for specic forms of relation to extinction; as Joanna Radin
reminds us, ‘each new use [of cryopreservation] as well as each new fantasy mutates a horizon
of expectation in which frozen materials will reveal new and previously concealed forms of
value’.8 Ex situ conservation projects are vital, animated, for better or worse, and it is their
vitality, be it fruitful or dangerous, that I aim to tease out here—as well its temporal status and
interventions.
‘Perhaps by helping them move’9: suspension and
translocation
Many ex situ initiatives as we know them now have obvious roots in the zoological and
botanic gardens and the museums that were created and consolidated during the colonial
expansion of European empires in the 18th and 19th centuries. Before becoming a national
botanical garden in 1840, Kew was originally an exotic garden whose collections were enriched
by its successive owners, most crucially, under George III, with the aid of the naturalist Sir
Joseph Banks. Banks, whose fame and fortune as a naturalist is itself tightly interwoven with
colonialist journeys, saw in Kew the possibility of founding ‘a great botanical exchange house
for the empire’10, where plants could be collected, acclimatised and studied for scientic and
economic gain, and he succeeded in transforming Kew into the world’s largest botanical
collection at the time (Banks became Kew’s nominal director in 1773). e Millennium
Seed Bank Partnership, created in 1996 at Kew Gardens and the worlds largest wild-plant
seed bank, is therefore a direct oshoot of the botanical fever that had gripped prominent
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Vol. 25, No. 1, July 201967
naturalists such as Banks in the 18th century, and led to the creation of the most important
scientic institutions of the British empire.
e momentum applied to plants by colonial botany set them into ux both ways.
Scientic expeditions and collaborations with local collectors, starting in the 18th century,
had a mandate to collect as much of the newly discovered natural wealth of the colonies as
possible.11 Introduction to the heart of the empire, in the case of Britain for instance, equally
served aesthetic taste, scientic obsessions and economic goals, and was sped along by a
veritable naturalistic collecting fever. But the colonies were not exempt from these imperialist
terraforming ambitions either: along with unintended invasions by introduced species which
still plague many of the places where empires left their heavy footprints12, the 19th and 20th
centuries saw the creation of acclimatisation societies in France and Britain in order to
introduce native, ‘useful’ species to colonies in North America, Africa and Australia, and in the
process to make these landscapes more similar to European ones.13 In 1853, Joseph Dalton
Hooker (who after his expeditions went on to serve as director of Kew Gardens for twenty
years) wrote that ‘we have the apparent double anomaly, that Australia is better suited to some
English plants than England is, and that some English plants are better suited to Australia
than those Australian plants were which have given way before English intruders’,14 a remark
which perfectly encapsulates the double movement of colonial botany—always dependent
on institutions that could collect, store and acclimatise plant and animal species. Collecting
and storing, in this particular matrix of military and cultural domination and of knowledge
practices inherited from Enlightenment science, meant setting the whole natural world into
ux: plants and animals in this context came to be seen as supremely separable from their
native ecosystems and from each other, malleable into commodities and transferable from
native contexts of knowledge, culture and religion into what the anthropologist Natasha Myers
calls the grid-able system of colonial science.15
Forged in the dismembering pressure and certainty-producing grid16 of acquisitive
relationships to nature, the principles governing the ordering and management of wildlife in
botanic gardens could then easily tip over into a suspensive mandate—from the productivist
applications of plant collection to the safe storage and propagation of endangered species.
Private botanical collections, curiosity cabinets and menageries became botanic gardens,
museums and zoos, allowing of an ever more nely granulated management of nonhuman
life, death and display. ese collections provided an obvious starting point for the banking of
wild genetic resources, situated as they were at the intersection between the necessary material
infrastructures and the developing biopolitical regime enabling the management of captive
wildlife.
e development of storage at subzero temperatures adds to the regime of the garden and
the zoo the possibility of stabilising and disjointing life materially and temporally, ‘the ability
to freeze, halt, or suspend life, and then reanimate’, as Hannah Landecker puts it:
e freezer (…) acted as a central mechanism both within individual laboratories and
companies and within the biological research community more generally to standardise and
stabilise living research objects that were by their nature in constant ux (…) In short, to
be biological, alive, and cellular means (at present) to be a potential ‘age chimaera’, to be
suspendable, interruptible, storable, and freezable in parts.17
e banking of frozen material has eects on several levels: informational (the standardisation
of the material), temporal (its synchronisation) and spatial/material (its stabilisation); eects
that come to bear on individual bodies, of course, but on species as well. Ice, as Erica Benson
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points out in her introduction to the history of plant cryoconservation, has historically
functioned as an evolutionary inhibitor; the parts of the planet that have known longer and
more frequent glaciation periods display a markedly more narrow plant diversity than those
that have remained out of reach of glacial onslaughts.18 As with the planet, so with the bunker:
freezing once more suspends potential evolutionary becomings and pins species to ontological
stability, an ironic twist on the claim regularly put forth by many seed and gene banking
projects: ‘e vault at the Millennium Seed Bank holds more living plant diversity per square
metre than anywhere on earth—arguably the world’s hottest plant biodiversity hotspot’.19
Combining a collection of the world and the salvation of endangered species is not,
however, the only or last mandate of ex situ conservation. In what might seem a return of
acclimatisation and landscape-moulding ambitions of colonial botany, recent years have seen
the emergence in the scientic literature of proposals for assisted migration, the ‘translocation
of a species to favourable habitat beyond their native range to protect them from human
induced threats, such as climate change’,20 or, alternatively and in a more nuanced language,
‘the purposeful movement of species to facilitate or mimic natural range expansion, as a
direct management response to climate change’.21 e terminology is still as shifting and
proliferating as can be expected from a ‘warm’ research in the making,22 and it has also been
variously called assisted colonisation (sometimes distinguished from the rst as the ‘movement
of species far outside their range for conservation purposes’23), assisted migration,24 managed
relocation25 or chaperoned relocation.26 is purposeful relocation of species would mitigate
both the eects of habitat fragmentation—mimicking plant dispersal along naturally occurring
corridors for example—and those of climate change, helping species migrate faster to keep up
with their natural range’s shifts in the coming years and decades.
As of now, most of these proposals for assisted migration are still highly speculative, with
notable exceptions such as the citizen-led Torreya Guardians project.27 Most articles oer
recommendations (for seed collecting or actual translocations),28 feasibility studies,29 ethical
frameworks,30 terminological reviews and clarications,31 theoretical contributions to the
ongoing debate32 or desiderata for future accessions.33 As a very new scientic proposal in the
making, it is engaged in exactly the dense tangle of rhetoric and citational practices described
by Latour in Science in Action—the past years have seen a urry of articles responding to and
contradicting each other, some of them engaged in direct dialogue, proposing everything from
unied ethical frameworks to methods for ecient seed sampling and examinations of species
invasiveness, and the debate is still ongoing.34
Why examine the question of assisted migration as a relevant topic to ex situ conservation?
e rst reason is a simple observation: the fact that some of these proposals take explicit
root in ex situ conservation projects, making use of the preexisting collections, breeding
and testing grounds and reserves in germplasm oered by botanic gardens possessing seed
banks; a good number of the authors of those scientic papers are themselves researchers
working in botanic gardens. ‘Although on its own [ex situ conservation] is not a sustainable
solution for conservation, it does provide an essential step in the process of introducing
species back to the wild’.35 e Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University proposes the
collection and cultivation of ‘marginally hardy taxa’, which might prove to be more suited
to the climate in Massachusetts in the coming decades than the species now living there,36
while researchers at the Missouri Botanic Garden have drafted a white paper calling for
‘chaperoned managed relocation’.37 e Finnish CO-ADAPT project has set up experimental
plots for three potential candidates for translocation in botanic gardens in Finland, Norway
and Estonia (the plant species Primula nutans, Oxytropis campestris ssp. sordida and Astragalus
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alpinus ssp. Arcticus), and Kayri Havens and Pati Vitt, both working at the Chicago Botanic
Garden, have published a set of articles on practices of assisted migration with various other
collaborators.38 Assisted migration projects are ideally poised at the junction of the garden
and the seed bank, and take root where two forms of ex situ conservation necessarily meet: the
living collection, kept in articial congregations of unrelated species and separated from the
outside world (although the unwitting role played by many botanical gardens in uncontrolled
species introductions and invasions complicates this point), and the seed bank, one more
(apparent) removal from relational aliveness and liveliness. Assisted migration projects rely on
the expertise accumulated by botanic gardens and on the material collected and sleeping in
frozen suspension, and might potentially aect how that material is managed and collected
in the future;39 but they also in turn extend the managed spaces of garden and bank back
into a changing and damaged landscape. ey allow for an unfolding of the biopolitical
and conceptual reworkings of the garden and the bank, applying them to the landscape
outside—perhaps the planet as a whole—becoming representatives of what the suspension
of endangered life might do for and to the rest of nature, now scrutinised through the lens of
what ex situ conservation makes possible.
ese projects can be said to reside in what Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal have called a
thermal margin:
e production of these kinds of thermal regimes has also been accompanied by the spaces
between them, what we might call the ‘thermal margins’: zones of precarity, ambiguity, and
unexpected generativity that also reorganise ideas about what it means to be and to remain
alive.40
e articulation of ex situ conservation and assisted migration projects exist in such a gap
between regimes—under the looming shadow of climate change, it shifts between the
reanimation of frozen, suspended life (itself wavering between -5° to -20° degrees for orthodox
seeds, and the necessity of resorting to cryoconservation at -196° in the case of recalcitrant
seeds) under very specic and controlled conditions, the cultivation of plants outside of
their native climatic ranges, and their reintroduction to specic thermally transformed and
conditioned sites.
is leads me to the second point: as a projected outcome of seed banking, proposals for
assisted migration occupy a complex temporal as well as a thermal niche. Radin and Kowal
speak of the horizon of future salvation as eternally deferred by the suspensive cryopolitics
of subzero storage;41 but speculating on the possibility of translocating endangered species
brings this horizon forward, even just theoretically. Still speculative but present, that horizon
suddenly shifts into a very near future rather than remaining in the messianic time of post-
apocalyptic salvation;42 by connecting the repository to the landscape again, assisted migration
projects address some of the suspensive questions posed by biodiversity repositories and
provide an anticipated testing ground for what salvation after suspension might look like. Here
the future of biodiversity repositories takes shape, scientists test out theories and hopes and
present one of the possible projections and extensions of these collections into living futures.
As such, these projects represent one unfolding of the potentialities of the seed bank, one entry
into the fraught and teeming liveliness of suspensive conservation practices. If natures become
global through successful mobilisations of objects of concern in the transformative milieu of
the laboratory,43 and the garden and the seed bank become themselves a laboratory or testing
ground for scientic experiments,44 then what is at stake here is the development of future
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natures forged in the deep freeze of the seed bank and in the highly controlled living collection
of the botanic garden.
‘To rebuild nature on a landscape scale’: ex situ projects as
world-making devices
Seed banks and botanic gardens do not freeze worlds as instant mixes where you can just add
water and get fully-functional ecosystem back. ey are, by the very suspensions they eect,
as much an intervention into worlds, natures and lives as botanical collection expeditions
and acclimatisation societies have been in the past. ey are devices for inscribing specic
assumptions about catastrophic nature, and in turn for moulding new worlds through the
specic transformations life, generation and nature undergo in the seed bank and the ower
bed.
Paul Virilio, in Bunker Archaeology, asks of the bunkers left over from World War II on the
French Atlantic coast what kind of world and violence is inscribed by their architecture. His
answer: the warfare of instantaneous and complete uidication (annihilation by aerial attack)
and of a surface world made uninhabitable. A botanic garden is not a bunker, even though
it might be placed on a continuum including the wildlife refugium on the one hand and the
sterile shelter on the other. e seed bank isn’t either; perhaps with the notable exception
of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which functions less as a seed bank and more like cold
storage—and whose architects make marked use of bunker terminology and architecture.
Seeds kept at low temperatures are never entirely static, since they need to be regerminated
regularly in order to test viability and germinative ability, and in order to regrow the plants and
harvest new seeds to replace and replenish the collection45. is is yet another link between
dierent forms of ex situ conservation initiatives: the seed bank can hardly exist without the
garden or the experimental eld, and frozen seeds are in a constant movement that assures
their surveillance and eective management. But as protective, isolated and fortied spaces
dedicated to salvic conservationist mandates, the question posed by Virilio might legitimately
be asked of ex situ institutions.
While ex situ conservation does not inscribe only the momentary survival of a specic
onslaught (although a case could be made, perhaps, for bunkerisation conservation ecology
responding to climate change as an indenitely prolonged version of this kind of warfare),
it does speak of uninhabitable surfaces, more specically of a world so rapidly fragmented
that wild species can no longer follow those changes fast enough; in drawing them together
spatially it promises the ultimate safety of a decoupling from these uninhabitable landscapes.
While ex situ relies on absolute technological stability (a cold chain that can reveal itself to
be the frailest of threads—’how fragile, or mortal, the cold chain becomes in an overheated
world’46), its very mandate speaks of the disquieting instabilities it addresses. Social theory and
philosophy both are in the process of diagnosing a formidable shift toward a consciousness
of the planet as dynamic, unruhig, and life on its surface as immensely precarious as a result:
Emily Apter speaks of ‘planetary dysphoria’,47 Nigel Clark of inhuman nature’,48 both
following conceptual threads—starting with the impact of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake on
Kant in Clark’s case, and with Kant’s 1757 lectures on physical geography in Apter’s—that
allow them to arrive at counter-histories of technological and political dominion over nature,
and excavate the inhuman planetary movements that ssure and haunt human thought. Is
the circumscribed safety of ex situ conservation also a negative inscription of this inescapable
dynamism? In that case, the string of seed banks and botanic gardens along which plants could
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be exchanged and migrating49 starts looking like a fragile belt girding an explosive nature,
markers of stability implanted into precarious ground but denoting by their very existence
what they seek to defer and keep at bay. e mobile and connected networks of suspensive ex
situ conservation and reconnective assisted migration projects might change institutions of
conservation into outposts of relative stability, marks made in an attempt to secure a hostile
world like rural crosses in pagan country, or watchposts for the inexorable forward march of
climate change and Birnam Woods of our making both.
But ex situ conservation projects do not only reveal understandings of a pre-existing nature;
they are active and creative participants in the shaping of natural worlds, in particular those
under threat and in need of management (or the performed absence of it). In Derridean
terms, archivisation ‘produces as much as records the event’,50 and, as one tantalisingly elusive
Foucauldian aside would have it, universals (the state as much as wild nature) can be tracked
by a counter-historical method that assumes they do not exist, and studies the ‘dierent events
and practices which are apparently organised” around them’.51 Concepts of natural, wild, or
pristine are created by the very institutions of captivity they are the counterpart of, and the
very structure of these institutions is a performative act. e emergence of the zoo was also the
precondition for the creation of the American wilderness; the latter coming into existence at
the same time and through the institution of captivity.
However, if ex situ conservation projects are the inscription of nature as essentially
inhumanly dynamic, they might also be read as participating in a dierent construction than
that of the captive/wild dynamic. Rather than just existing on a continuum that stretches from
the captive to the wild, the politics and materialities of ex situ conservation institutions, once
put back into an assemblage of conservation practices and coupled with proposed uses such
as assisted migration, seem rather to exist on a gradient of managerial practices that does not
necessarily presuppose a counterpart constructed as pure or untouched. Managed captivity
or suspension becomes a testing ground for future managed landscapes, and what is learned
from supervision might pave the way for a remaking of nature entire as a mobile arrangement
that can be stitched back together by exerting a nely calibrated control. e website of Kew
Gardens states:
In the ground-breaking report Making Space for Nature, Sir John Lawton and colleagues
(2010) set out an ambitious new strategy for UK conservation – to rebuild nature on a
landscape scale, creating resilient and coherent ecological networks to expand and link
existing habitats with buer zones, wildlife corridors and areas of active restoration and
habitat creation.52
Similarly, Vitt et al. observe the ‘envision a future where well-conceived translocations
of species may reduce the risk of extinction, as well as increase the number of potential
taxa creating new assemblages in a uid landscape responding to broad scale changes.’53.
Nature, recombinant, can be had for movable parts of a moving landscape, and assemblages
can be rebuilt starting with a reduced number of ‘bread-and-butter species’ to stabilise
communities54.
e justication for plant translocation, in fact, is often located in the previous cultivation
in botanic gardens;55 plants, it is argued, have already been moved in (supposedly) controlled
settings, and extending the practice to restoration ecology is not so much a break as an
explicitation of horticultural practices. is plaiting back together of disciplinary strands is
actually explicitly insisted on in several papers on assisted migration:
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Translocating plants is nothing new. Humans have been moving plants, particularly edible,
medicinal, and more recently ornamental, species throughout our history (...). Modern
horticultural and agricultural industries are responsible for wide scale translocations. (…)
In addition, there is a tremendous wealth of knowledge resident in the restoration and
horticultural communities in this regard, which needs to be formally documented so that it
can inform decisions about assisted migration.56
Conservation biology is a science of crisis, agriculture and horticulture practices of stability
(geological, climatic, political, social): here they come back together to inform a relationship
to wild plants—in the seminal agricultural gesture of seed saving and the horticultural
management of wildlife—complicated by interventions learned in domestication.
Is nature, then, in the process of becoming a garden—in a doubling back to the horticultural
interventions enacted in the 18th and 19th century through the introduction of exotic species to
European gardens and landscapes, for instance, and assuming Western botany has ever truly
left these pastoral conceptions behind? If so, the dislocations operated by ex situ conservation
might help in speeding along this horticulturalisation. Only by making endangered species
into the ‘immutable mobiles’ identied by Bruno Latour is it possible to imagine them in
new future interspecies and geographical assemblages, and only by buying the time allotted
to discontinuous life might the space for scientic debate, research and testing be carved out:
‘It gives us a little bit of space to understand how we are going to manage the material in the
wild’, according to Timothy Pearce,57 the Conservation Partnership Coordinator for Africa at
the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. ese dislocations, temporal and spatial, also allow
for an enclosure of nature, of the planet itself, through the extension of the managed capsule
that is the repository (or the living collection) to what lies outside; a blurred distinction, since
it can now be treated as an extension of the horticultural and agricultural ex situ regime. e
controlled migration of species, starting from biodiversity repositories, extends their reach to
encompass a future management ‘in the wild’.
But the wild so remade might be more than a garden; one more turning of the screw has
been added to conservation biology by the technological-military irruption of the Earth seen
from outside and above into the collective consciousness and specic scientic practices;58
Soulé’s millennium ark seems an obvious response to self-contained fantasies about Spaceship
Earth. e emergence of the environment as global and planetary was made possible by
the rise of distanciating and globalising visual, sensing and control technologies. Along
with the emergence of Earth as an exceptional and well-regulated vessel as fragile as it is
formidable, a ‘pale blue dot’ where life is contained, placed in the universe, and grounded, these
technologies might also have enabled the contrary movement of an extraterrestrialisation
of the planet now made alien and strange by distance. Terrestrial Mars analogues already
abound; and the interventions into ecosystems and landscapes allowed by the articulation
of ex situ conservation and projects of assisted migration could be seen as a practice parallel
to terraforming, a response to a terradeforming that has, arguably, been ongoing all through
the intensication of human interventions into the climatic, biotic and abiotic composition
of the planet. Only through the distanciation already performed by ex situ conservation is it
possible to look back at the planet and see it refracted as matter to be intervened into through
the judicious application of life and its adaptive powers. If in-situ conservation can be said to
aim for a ‘Holocene museum’, in which a good Anthropocene would just be a Holocene saved
and suspended,59 ex situ conservation, while also operating with miniaturisation and enclosure,
might be stockpiling the components for a future alien analogue of what the Earth once was,
with a mandate to tinker for maximal inhabitability rather than exact reproduction.
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Accommodate species in a changing world’60: temporal
potentialities
What does extinction become, then, in this shifting margin where ex situ conservation and
assisted migration projects meet? e event seems to be indenitely deferred in the deep freeze
of seed vaults, that zone of the incomplete where, as suggested by Matthew Chrulew, species,
‘rescued from the catastrophe menacing their places of origin, oat free of the encroaching
risks of existence’.61 Latent life exists at what om van Dooren has called the ‘dull edge
of extinction’62—the time between the eective extinction of a species and the death of the
last individual, made immensely plastic by the practices of ex situ conservation and frozen
suspension. Ex situ conservation projects frame extinction as a problem of species plasticity
(that which threatens the unadapted) as well as mobility (that which threatens those who
cannot move), as Hällfors et al. note.63 Both are problems solvable by making endangered
species into immutable mobiles with controllable life rhythms. Or rather, solving the question
of mobility might make plasticity obsolete, since all it takes for species that cannot adapt is to
follow shifting habitats, and given the means to do so quicker than they would without human
intervention (a seemingly accelerationist response to accelerating climate change).64 While
this approach coexists with a focus on last individuals and on the preservation of species as
genotypes, counter-extinction here takes on a particular, distinctive meaning: safeguarding the
mobility of species across landscapes.
While ex situ conservation enables the half-presence of species in entirely non-generative
spaces (the freezer) or in environments where generational transmissions and entanglements
might have been irrevocably severed through displacement and management (the zoological
and botanic garden), it also enacts the spectral presence of endangered species where they are
not yet, to where they might one day be translocated, resurrected or transplanted from their
repositories into unravelled and shifting landscapes. Absence in the world is remediated by the
passage of life through this place of deferral, a spatio-temporal valve that can remake species
from ecological nomads—in Gille Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s sense—into migrants, having
left behind ‘a milieu that has become amorphous or hostile’ and seeking conditions similar
to their previous territory. e anthropologists Tracey Heatherington and Bernard Perley
have described the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a liminal space65, and perhaps the freezer is
indeed such a space for plants, a marginal no man’s land where they are brought to the very
brink of continued existence in order to be restored to, redeemed into new environments,
ostensibly unchanged but in fact existing no longer as ontologically fragile endangered species
in disappearing landscapes but as fully alive and ourishing migrants ready to take root in land
made newly available by climate change, on a planet extraterrestrialised.
Whether we attribute such a liminal quality to the seed bank or not, we are pointed
here toward the peculiar temporal regimes at work in the salvation enacted by ex situ and
assisted migration projects. e freezer remakes not only individual bodies and the species
they represent, but also their interconnections; intraspecic, interspecic, with the abiotic
components of their historic habitats, with climatic and seasonal rhythms, and so forth.
Freezing endangered species means spatio-temporal connections severed or partitioned for
storage, knots of time66 unraveled in the hope of future reconnection. But it also tells of missed
connections, of those which endangered species are not able to forge or catch anymore, of
missing corridors, disjointed landscapes, disrupted synchronicities (owering times, droughts,
unseasonal frosts), and of the hopes of arresting this unravelling in order to help them remake
connections, to stitch together what the theorist and artist Andrew Yang calls ‘vast ecologies
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of interruption’.67 Michelle Bastian reminds us of the fact that asynchronicity can sometimes
be the goal of conservation strategies, the deliberate disconnection of a ‘deadly sharing of time’
between humans and nonhumans the only hope for salvation for some species—estrangement
rather than more synchronicity68. e same kind of unlinking is at work in ex situ conservation
in general, in its eorts to safeguard species from an encroaching environment, the only
remaining solution a radical decoupling of timelines, that of the geographic adaptation of
species from the accelerating unraveling of rapid climate change. is decoupling, unlike the
practices for leatherback turtle conservation described by Bastian, do not take place in situ
but rather through practices of stockpiling, a form of proprietary relationship to endangered
and extinct species which foregrounds their suspended past as a reservoir for future temporal
rewirings.
Here we might take a short detour through anthropology, and in particular the evolutionist
and comparative anthropology of Alain Testart, to unpack the temporal practices at work in
ex situ conservation and its projected uses. Frédéric Keck, in an article on u vaccines and
the conservation of the past for ‘unpredictable futures’, builds on Testart’s work on hunter-
gatherers and storage to understand both the behaviour of ‘virus hunters’ and the dierent
temporal and thermal regimes of u sample and vaccine stockpiling, an example of how
relevant comparative anthropology can be to cryopolitics. Testart sees in food storage the rst
step toward sedentarism in its deferral of immediate consumption, and, according to Keck:
Food storage […] brought about a ‘total change of mentality’: the past became more privileged
than the present to anticipate the future, and nature came to be seen not as an ever-providing
source of sustenance but as a capricious source of disasters.69
is is what the calls for seed sourcing and sampling put forth by Guerrant70 and Havens71
are preparing for. Dwelling in the past of preservation rather than in the furiously paced
present of extinction, stockpiling makes extinction a matter of property at least as much as
mourning, and restoration and salvation matters of preparedness; stockpiling is not the same
thing as mourning or memory work, as it is always a projection into a concrete future of use or
consumption, of active and practical transformation. As I have argued earlier, the persistence of
the past in suspensive conservation does not necessarily lead only to fantasies of its recreation;
anticipating the future means activating uses of the past that go beyond simple self-identity. Ex
situ conservation does not solely try to loop back into Holocene stability, but is pushed into
the presence, shimmering between projection and existence, of its futures, already taken up by
them, enacting them theoretically, testing what it might do with its accumulated stock.
In this sense, assisted migration projects emerge as the science-ctional expression of the
frozen arks we have now, themselves part of the restorative and narrative potential banked
along with seeds and gametes. As the science-ction writer and theorist Samuel Delany puts
it in his seminal denition of the genre, science-ction is not so much a representation of the
future as a ‘signicant distortion of the present’,72 a denition which might be, without doing
it too much violence, applied to speculative conservation projects. Assisted migration, as of
now, is still conned to very small-scale feasibility studies in carefully controlled environments
and at early and prudent stages of implementation. Proposals for future wider applications of
these projects are entirely science-ctional, in the sense Delany gives to the word: they distort
the present, a present in which vast quantities of the past have been stockpiled for uncertain
planetary futures. Assisted migration is one possible expression of this stock and of the world
and events (extinctions or environmental catastrophes) inscribed and constituted by that stock
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– and a signicant distortion in that it choses very specic elements to actualise or to amplify,
out of which to worldbuild new natures that represent only one possible planetary future.
Perhaps a ner and more accurate lens through which to read the temporal relationships
between ex situ conservation and the worlds made through their use in assisted migration
projects would the philosopher Elie During’s concept of retrofuturity,73 adding a metaphysical
layer to an anthropological and literary understanding of conservation biology practices.
While During applies the idea to art, design and architecture specically, it does useful
work for understanding proposed conservation projects as well. Futures do not exist, they
insist; reactivating a Bergsonian understanding of the possible, which is not the future but
contemporaneous to the present, During unpacks the mode of functioning of retrofuturism,
the creation of a ‘oating temporality’ that inhabits the present. ‘is retro-futurism is signaled
by the capacity of the present to carry an image of itself as the future; but also, simultaneously,
as the past’; the future is already here, still here, ‘a phantasmagoria of the present, not a dream
of the past. And this phantasmagoria is eective; it is not a simple projection, but an objective
tendency working at the heart of the contemporaneous’. What During calls retrotypes (rather
than prototypes, which would be elements in a simple linear development from idea to
object) are the manifestation of this retrofuture, the activation of the potentialities inherent
in a present that is also the future of the past. e artwork needs not simply ‘to become but
to be made’, and it is made by reactivating those retrofutures, explicitating them through an
intervention in the form of a project, a model, a sketch, always kept at the level of virtuality.
If ex situ conservation as we know it now is the future of colonial pasts, and if we think of
assisted migration projects as one explicitation of all the temporal potentialities compressed
into ex situ conservation that bypasses some futures by reactivating others, we might start to
think about the fraught, dangerous, connected and dizzying vitality of ex situ worlds as ‘works
to be made’ through the projected uses they are put to.
e present of ex situ conservation, be it living or suspensive, a present which relies on
the accumulated presence of an evolutionary and planetary past kept in reserve to anticipate
uncertain futures, is worked through with a shimmering set of potentialities that must be
studied in order to understand the full scope of suspensive practices and their interventions
into future worlds. Fragmentation, control, extraterrestrialisation, cataclysmic environmental
catastrophe, climate change as warfare, Earth as a self-contained and recursive cybernetic
entity, the reactivation of colonial terraforming ambitions, all exist as possible world-making
projects banked along with the collection of seeds – their own conceptual metabolism slowed
down in the deep freeze but ready to be reactivated at any given moment, through virtual
projects of which assisted migration is but one example.
Assisted migration, in a few years’ or decades’ time, might then stand as a monument of
retro-futurity, as one of the ecological futures that might have emerged from the capsular
enclosure of ex situ conservation—remaking nature as an extraterrestrialised space of
transformation and horticultural care. A technoscientic entity that could be placed squarely
into Donna Haraway’s litany of chimerical ‘objects into which lives and worlds are built—
chip, gene, seed, fetus, database, bomb, race, brain, ecosystem’,74 the suspensive repository
thus becomes a place where past, presents and futures simmer alongside each other, for
better or worse, but certainly animating the suspended bodies in their safe cryosleep with a
wealth of potential temporal becomings, binding them back into complex networks of hope
and mourning, material and discursive work, despair and technological xes. Informing
various forms of thermal margins, ex situ conservation is just as explosive as it is suspensive,
teeming with the manifold virtualities of the future. Just as the eighteenth-century garden
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was a political ‘place of investigation into the relative importance of natural powers and social
interactions in remodeling the living being’75, the experimental garden-with-seed bank is a
reduced model in Lévi-Strauss’s sense of the term,76 a sketch or blueprint for various kinds of
natures. Whether it becomes a device for a humbly modied attention to species, relationships
to extinction and the management of disrupted landscapes and climates or a proposal for
queering too self-evident technoscientic linearities depends on which experiments can be
grafted on the fraught and impure pasts they have accumulated, which distortions, eventually,
come to pass.
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Matthew Chrulew and Rick de Vos for the opportunity to write this
article, their patience, and their feedback at various stages of this draft. is article could
not have been written were it not for the stimulating and welcoming atmosphere fostered
within the Extinction Studies Working Group, both during the conference “Speculative
Ethology: e History, Philosophy and Future of Ethology, III”, held at Curtin University in
December 2016, and beyond. I also extend all my thanks to the journal editors, and to the two
anonymous reviewers for their time, attention, and helpful comments.
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Endnotes
1. Ross Mounce, Paul Smith and Samuel Brockington, ‘Ex situ conservation of plant diversity in the
world’s botanic gardens’ Nature Plants, no. 3, 2017, pp.795–802.
2. Deborah Bird Rose, ‘Reflections on the zone of the incomplete’, in Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal,
Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017.
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3. Michael Soulé, Michael Gilpin, William Conway, and Tom Foose, ‘The Millenium Ark: How Long a
Voyage, How Many Staterooms, How Many Passengers?’, Zoo Biology, vol. 5, no. 2, 1986, pp. 101–114.
4. “The “ark paradigm,” the idea that ex situ facilities would hold cultivated stocks of threatened species
during a period of habitat degradation, was established as a working objective by botanic gardens in the
1970s. However, the traditional ark model for gardens is no longer sufficient. While ex situ seed storage or
cultivation will continue to be an important conservation function, we believe that in order for gardens to
operate in a biologically and financially viable manner, the species banking approach must be integrated
with a habitat and ecosystem approach. […] Integrated plant conservation (sensu Falk 1990) combines the
protection of plants in their native habitats with an ex situ conservation program to provide a safety net
against extinction in the wild.” (Kayri Havens, Pati Vitt, Mike Maunder, Edward O. Guerrant and Kingsley
Dixon, ‘Ex situ plant conservation and beyond’, BioScience, vol. 56, 2006, pp. 525-531.). See also Jozef
Keulartz, ‘Towards an Animal Ethics for the Anthropocene’, in Bernice Bovenkerk and Jozef Keulartz
(eds.), Animal Ethics in the Age of Humans: Blurring boundaries in human-animal relationships, Springer
International Publishing, Cham, 2016.
5. Havens et al., ‘Ex situ plant conservation and beyond’
6. Irus Braverman, ‘Conservation without Nature: The Trouble with In Situ versus Ex Situ Conservation’,
Geoforum, vol. 51, 2014, pp. 47-57.
7. Rose, ‘Reflections on the zone of the incomplete’ and Matthew Chrulew, ‘Freezing the Ark: The
Cryopolitics of Endangered Species Preservation’, in Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal (eds), Cryopolitics:
Frozen Life in a Melting World, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017.
8. Joanna Radin, ‘Planned Hindsight’, Journal of Cultural Economy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2015, pp. 361-378.
9. A quote from a New York Times article on the Chicago Botanic Garden’s efforts to collect and bank
seeds of species targeted for assisted migration (Anne Raver, ‘A Hunt for Seeds to Save Species, Perhaps by
Helping Them Move’, The New York Times, 9 November 2009.)
10. Quoted in Andrea Wulf, The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession, Vintage
Books, New York, 2008.
11. Londa Schiebinger, Plants and Empire. Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World, Harvard University
Press, Cambridge, MA and London, 2004.
12. Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism. The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 1986 and Bruce L. Webber, John K. Scott and Raphael K. Didham,
‘Translocation or bust! A new acclimatization agenda for the 21st century?’, Trends in Ecology and Evolution,
vol. 26, n. 10, 2011, pp. 495-6.
13. Michael A. Osborne, ‘Acclimatising the World: A History of the Paradigmatic Colonial Science’, Osiris,
vol. 15, 2000, pp. 135–51.
14. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism.
15. “I speculate on the possibilities of a decolonial feminist mode of inquiry that can build on the best parts
of science – its situated, embodied, and responsively attuned forms of knowing – while simultaneously
refusing its foundational logics: the colonial, capitalist, military, mechanistic, and neo-Darwinian forms
through which science has gained its traction as the sole arbiter of truth. This is a call for a robust mode
of knowing that can break from the very forces that science was designed to serve: those capitalist and
colonial desires for knowledge forms that facilitate the management of lands and bodies.” (Natasha Myers,
‘Ungrid-able Ecologies: Decolonizing the Ecological Sensorium in a 10,000 year-old NaturalCultural
Happening’, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, vol. 3, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-24).
16. Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999.
17. Hannah Landecker, Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies, Harvard University Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2006. See also Carrie Friese, Cloning Wild Life: Zoos, Captivity, and the Future of
Endangered Animals, NYU Press, New York, 2013 and Chrulew, ‘Freezing the Ark’.
18. Erica E. Benson, Barry J. Fuller, and Nick Lane (eds), Life in the Frozen State, CRC Press, Boca Raton,
2004.
19. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, ‘What is in the Bank?’ The notion of biodiversity itself, which is of
structural importance for most ex situ conservation initiatives, is a problematic blind spot whose
implications must be teased out; while this is not the scope of this article, it will be addressed in future
work.
20. Anthony Ricciardi, and Daniel Simberloff, ‘Assisted colonization is not a viable conservation strategy’
Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol. 24, 2009, pp. 248–253.
21. Pati Vitt, Kayri Havens, Andrea T. Kramer, David Sollenberger, and Emily Yates, ‘Assisted migration of
plants: changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes’, Biological Conservation, vol. 143, 2010, pp. 18-27.
Collect, Save, Adapt: Making and Unmaking Ex Situ Worlds
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22. Bruno Latour, Science in Action. How to follow scientists and engineers through society, Harvard
University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987.
23. Laura K. Gray, Tim Gylander, Michael S. Mbogga, Pei-Yu Chen, and Andreas Hamann, ‘Assisted
migration to address climate change: recommendations for aspen reforestation in western Canada’,
Ecological Application, vol. 21, no. 5, 2011, pp.1591–1603.
24. Cathy Whitlock, Sarah H. Millspaugh, ‘A paleoecologic perspective on past plant invasions in
Yellowstone’, Western North American Naturalist, vol. 61, 2001, pp. 316–327.
25. David M. Richardson et al, ‘Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation’, Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, vol. 106, 2009, pp. 9721–4.
26. Adam B. Smith, Matthew A. Albrecht, Quinn G. Long and Christine E. Edwards, ‘Chaperoned managed
relocation: a plan for botanical gardens to facilitate the movement of plant in response to climate change’,
2013.
27. Jason S. McLachlan, Jessica J. Hellman, and Mark W. Schwartz, ‘A framework for debate of assisted
migration in an era of climate change’, Conservation Biology, vol. 21, no. 2, 2007, pp. 297-302.
28. See Edward O. Guerrant, Kayri Havens and Patti Vitt, ‘Sampling for Effective Ex Situ Plant
Conservation’, International Journal of Plant Sciences vol.175, no. 1, 2014, pp.11-20, and Kayri Havens,
Pati Vitt, Shannon Still, Andrea T. Kramer, Jeremie B. Fantand and Katherine Schatz, ‘Seed sourcing for
restoration in an era of climate change’, Natural Areas Journal, vol. 35, 2015, pp. 122-133.
29. Laura K. Gray et al., ‘Assisted migration to address climate change’.
30. Mark Schwartz et al.,‘Managed Relocation: Integrating the Scientific, Regulatory, and Ethical
Challenges’, Bioscience, vol. 62, 2012, pp. 732-43.
31. Maria H. Hällfors, Elina M. Vaara, Marko Hyvärinen, Markku Oksanen, Leif E. Schulman, Helena Siipi
and Susanna Lehvävirta, ‘Coming to Terms with the Concept of Moving Species Threatened by Climate
Change – A Systematic Review of the Terminology and Definitions’, PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no.7, 2014.
32. Maria H. Hällfors, Elina M. Vaara and Susanna Lehvävirta, ‘The Assisted Migration Debate – Botanic
Gardens to the Rescue?’, BGjournal, vol. 9, no. 1, 2012, pp. 21-24.
33. William E. Friedmann et al., ‘Developing an exemplary collection: A vision for the next century at the
Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University’, Arnoldia, vol. 73, no. 3, 2016, pp. 2-18.
34. See for instance the interplay of response and citation between articles and letters such as Ricciardi
and Simberloff, ‘Assisted colonization is not a viable conservation strategy’, and Vitt, Havens and Hoegh-
Guldberg, ‘Assisted migration: part of an integrated conservation strategy’, or the set of tightly interlinked
articles comprised, among many others, of Hoegh-Guldberg et al., ‘Assisted colonization and rapid
climate change’, Thomas, ‘Translocation of species, climate change, and the end of trying to recreate past
ecological communities’, Webber, Scott, and Didham, ‘Translocation or bust! A new acclimatization agenda
for the 21st century?’, Vilà and Hulme, ‘Jurassic Park? No thanks’.
35. Hällfors, Vaara and Lehvävirta, ‘The Assisted Migration Debate’.
36. “In the spirit of exploration and experimentation, the Arboretum has continually acquired germplasm
of marginally hardy taxa to be coaxed into cultivation, despite and against all odds. To ensure that the
Arboretum stays at the cutting edge of plant introduction (especially in a world of rapid environmental
change), it must seek out, acquire, and test untried species for growth on the grounds. Importantly,
identification of new “marginal” taxa should be coupled with targeted field collections of germplasm from
parts of the taxon’s natural range that are likely to predispose such accessions to ultimate success on the
grounds.” (Friedman et al. ‘Developing an exemplary collection’)
37. Smith et al., ‘Chaperoned managed relocation’.
38. Guerrant, Havens and Vitt, ‘Sampling for Effective Ex Situ Plant Conservation’ and Havens et al., ‘Seed
sourcing for restoration in an era of climate change’.
39. Pati Vitt, Kayri Havens, and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, ‘Assisted migration: part of an integrated
conservation strategy. Letter in response to Ricciardi and Simberloff’, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol.
24, 2009, pp. 473-474.
40. Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal, ‘Introduction. The politics of low temperature’, in Joanna Radin and
Emma Kowal, Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017.
41. Radin and Kowal, ‘Introduction. The politics of low temperature’.
42. Donna J. Haraway, Modest Witness: Feminism and Technoscience. Routledge, London, 1997 and Rose,
‘Reflections on the zone of the incomplete’
43. Nigel Clark, Inhuman Nature: Sociable Life on a Dynamic Planet, SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles,
2011.
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44. Uncertainty – both about the strategies to adopt now and their predicted outcomes in the future - is
stressed time and again in most papers on the topic and echoed by Peggy Olwell in an article of the New
York Times: “Because frankly, we don’t know what it is we’re going to need when we’re talking restoration
in light of climate change. It’s going to be one big experiment” (Raver, ‘A Hunt for Seeds to Save Species’).
45. Rachael Davies, Alice Di Sacco, Rosemary Newton, ‘Technical Information Sheet 13a: Germination
testing: procedures and evaluation’, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, 2015.
46. Warwick Anderson, ‘The Frozen Archive, or Defrosting Derrida’, Journal of Cultural Economy, vol. 8, no.
3, 2015, pp. 379-387.
47. Emily Apter, ‘Planetary Dysphoria’, Third Text, vol. 27, no. 1, 2013, pp. 131-40.
48. The concept is used by Clark to qualify the “elemental underpinning” of social thought – the
cohabitation with geological processes that predate any sort of human history and with natural
catastrophes exemplifying how asymmetrical the distribution of power between humans and the planet
actually is.
49. Hällfors, Vaara and Lehvävirta, ‘The Assisted Migration Debate’.
50. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz. University of Chicago
Press, Chicago, 1996.
51. Michel Foucault, Naissance de la biopolitique : Cours au Collège de France (1978-1979), Seuil, Paris, 2004.
52. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, ‘Banking the UK’s Seeds’.
53. Vitt, Havens and Hoegh-Guldberg, ‘Assisted migration’.
54. Havens quoted in Raver, ‘A Hunt for Seeds to Save Species’.
55. “Similarly, horticultural planting outside native historical distributions contributes to passive range
expansions (Van der Veken et al. 2008, Woodall et al. 2010), and botanic gardens are beginning to explore
their capacity to actively foster range expansions under climate change (e.g., Vitt et al. 2010).” (Schwartz
et al., ‘Managed Relocation’)
56. Vitt, Havens and Hoegh-Guldberg, ‘Assisted migration’.
57. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, ‘An Interview with Tim Pearce’.
58. Sebastian Vincent Grevsmühl, La Terre vue d’en haut: L’invention de l’environnement global, Seuil, Paris,
2014 and Haraway, Modest Witness.
59. “(...) the Isle of Man is, indeed, the Earth in the Anthropocene. It is enclosed, ultra-small (…), an
Anthropocene biosphere whose ultimate ambition may be defined as becoming an artificial Holocene—a
Holocene sustainable over long periods of time, thereby freezing and eternalizing the evolutionarily
produced, hence somewhat arbitrary content of holocenic Earth.” (Daniel Falb, ‘Isle of Man. Poetic Co-
evolutions towards the Holocene Museum’, 2015.)
60. Hällfors, Vaara and Lehvävirta, ‘The Assisted Migration Debate’.
61. Chrulew, ‘Freezing the Ark’.
62. Thom Van Dooren, Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, Columbia University Press, New
York, 2014.
63. Hällfors, Vaara and Lehvävirta, ‘The Assisted Migration Debate’.
64. It is worth noting that assisted migration projects are marked by an insistence on the fact that they do
not suspend evolutionary becomings: “We propose a framework in which the ecological aspects of assisted
migration are evaluated using rubrics from restoration ecology, i.e. establishing or preserving functional
ecosystems, while preserving the evolutionary trajectories of individual species, as most conservation
biologists seek. The end goal is to preserve both the ecological roles and evolutionary potential of the
greatest number of species.[...]In the context of future climate change, the greatest survival limitation for
many species is not their ability to adapt, nor even their intrinsic ability to migrate appropriately, given
a landscape with sufficient connectivity. The most significant hurdle is that the landscapes across which
they will need to move lack connectivity, and scenarios in the latter half of this century predict increasing
fragmentation and decreasing effectiveness of corridors, which will impact species differentially.” (Vitt
et al., ‘Assisted migration of plants’). See also: “We also assert that, rather than paying ‘little attention
to the evolutionary context,’ we embody a deep commitment to ensure that long-standing products of
successful evolutionary lineages have a chance to persevere and continue their adaptive pathways.” (Vitt,
Havens and Hoegh-Guldberg, ‘Assisted migration’)
65. “The Global Seed Vault excites the imagination because it is a liminal space where the material
substance of biodiversity—our seed heritage— returns to a state of seemingly infinite potential. However
we perceive the eventualities that might unlock that potential, such places offer us resilience against the
burgeoning disorder of species loss and the fateful temporality of extinctions. Highlighting illusions of
endless resources and endless development that underpin late capitalism, places like the Global Seed
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Vault nevertheless rescue modernity from forbidding chaos, and give us hope.” (Tracey Heatherington and
Bernard C. Perley, ‘Fieldnotes from Svalbard: How Global Dreamings Take Root in the Arctic Frontier’,
2017)
66. Michelle Bastian, ‘Encountering Leatherbacks in Multispecies Knots of Time’, in Rose, Deborah Bird,
Thom Van Dooren, and Matthew Chrulew (eds), Extinction Studies: Stories of Time, Death, and Generations,
Columbia University Press, New York, 2017.
67. Andrew Yang, ‘Flying Gardens of Maybe’.
68. Bastian, ‘Encountering Leatherbacks’.
69. Frédéric Keck, ‘Stockpiling as a technique of preparedness: conserving the past for an unpredictable
future’ in Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal, Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World, MIT Press,
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2017.
70. Guerrant, Havens and Vitt, ‘Sampling’.
71. Havens et al., ‘Seed sourcing’.
72. Samuel R Delany, Starboard Wine. More Notes on the Language of Science-Fiction. Pleasantville, Dragon
Press, New York, 1984.
73. Elie During and Alain Bublex, Le futur n’existe pas. Rétrotypes, B42 Editions, Paris, 2014.
74. Haraway, Modest Witness.
75. John Hartigan, ‘Plant publics: Multispecies relating in Spanish botanical gardensAnthropological
Quarterly, vol. 88, no. 22, 2015, pp. 481–507.
76. Claude Lévi-Strauss, La Pensée sauvage, Plon, Paris, 1962.
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