Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RIP Greenhouse

Well, right after I posted pictures and text about how much I love the greenhouse and hope it stays around, guess what? The greenhouse is to be closed.

There are a few players in this drama at McMurdo. Gary is the station manager. Bill is the NSF station manager. Angie is the boss over food services, which covers the greenhouse operation.

On Wednesday, everyone who is involved with running the greenhouse was sent an e-mail from Angie which was forwarded by Gary (the station manager). The gist of the e-mail was that a decision was made in Denver to close the greenhouse. No mention of who made that decision, or why. The story is that someone in Denver decided we could assure a greenhouse technician job for next winter was to forgo a greenhouse technician for the summer of '09-'10. It was presented to us as a choice between having a greenhouse in summer '09-'10 or winter of '10.

Because everyone's jobs will get really busy during Winfly (August 20 to late September), it would be better to just close the greenhouse before the Winfly folks get here. Again, it is not clear who made that decision, or why.

A meeting of all the greenhouse volunteers was called to explain the situation, and to give a forum for us to discuss the issue. Around 20 folks showed up for the meeting. It was, in my observation, a very emotional encounter. A lot of us have put a lot of work into nurturing our little green babies, and it is not a small deal that a decision was made by someone 9000 miles away to pull the plug. Some were clearly furious, and several were close to tears. Evidently, one of the workers who actually has greenhouse tasking on the weekly duties went up to the greenhouse and 'terminated' a bunch of plants without giving notice to the folks who were tasked with keeping those babies alive. Some among the group of us assembled were quite stunned that plants were ripped out without the knowledge of their caretakers.

It may seem strange for folks to get choked up about the death of plants. If you haven't been here, don't judge too quickly. There are no plants on the continent-- certainly not around here. Having a haven of light and humidity, with greenery everywhere is a major solace to an ice-ravaged population in the wintertime. I literally can't imagine working down here in the winter without the greenhouse. It is like a tiny island of the real world, in a vast wasteland of dry, cold, and dark.

I know the folks of Denver and Washington probably look at the greenhouse as 25K Kilowatts of drain, yielding a small amount of lettuce. I would remind those bean counters that we have NO PLANES FOR AT LEAST SIX MONTHS. Would you like to go that long without eating a plant that has been dead for less than six years? I don't think so.


1 comment:

Sara said...

The green house was the only thing that kept me from going completely insane the year I wintered over. The light, the warmth, the fresh food...how can they get rid of it? What a shame.