The earth is in grave danger today. Global warming is a real threat. Our oceans are full of plastics, our rain forests are dwindling and we cover our crops in toxic chemicals. The fossil fuel-powered industrial revolution has failed our home – Earth. We are at the crossroads and the sooner we realize that, the better it is.
Our world needs more trees to tackle the environment, but trees take time to grow and it is a slow process. Hemp has emerged as the plant that might be able to restore the ecological balance and at a much faster pace.
Hemp is a strain of the cannabis Sativa plant that is also known as industrial hemp because of its varied uses. It is a multi-faceted plant that is in use as a fuel, food, textile, fiber and has been in use for more than 10000 years.
Hemp vs Plastics
Image Source: mrgreeneco.com
Petrochemical based plastics find their way to the ocean now. The results are death and mayhem. One million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic. Microplastic is small pieces of plastic formed by sunlight and waves. Microbeads are in use in body cleansers and facial cleansers are the ocean’s smog. They absorb toxins from the water, enter the food chain and get inside humans. The solution is hemp. Plastic produced from hemp is biodegradable and non-toxic.
Hemp vs traditional textile
Image Source: hempinc.com
The toxins arising from the textile industry are responsible for polluting the atmosphere. The second major issue with the textile industry is the amount of water that it uses. This is where hemp steals a march over other fabrics such as cotton. Hemp uses very little water and grows without the use of toxic chemicals. This is different from cotton which needs toxic chemicals and much more water than hemp. Hemp yields more crops per acre than cotton. Hemp produces 1500 pounds of fiber per acre whereas cotton only produces 500 pounds per acre. Similarly, the cotton industry uses 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and 10 percent of the world’s pesticides.
Hemp and its benefits for the soil and environment
Hemp acts as a potent drug for soil that has lost all nutrients by use of toxic chemicals. Hemp is a weed and since it grows like one, it doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides. It has a long tap root which helps in holding the soil together and passing the moisture deep into it. We can cultivate hemp on the same patch of land 2-3 times.
Hemp as a construction material
According to UNEP figures, the building sector is responsible for 30 % of global annual greenhouse gas emission and uses 40% of all energy.
Research from the University of Bath has shown that houses made of hemp can reduce carbon footprint. This is the carbon footprint left behind by the construction industry.
Hempcrete is a new innovation in this regard. It is a fiber-reinforced material made from hard, lime, and water. The result is a bi-composite material that is lighter and more flexible than concrete. Biofuel could mean a world without big monopolistic power corporations.
Hemp as a biofuel
Burning of fossil fuels and the ill-effects that it brings to the world is nothing new. Hemp can be used as a bio-fuel too. Bio-fuel could mean a world without big monopolistic power corporations. Each country and state could provide its own energy using renewable plants.
Hemp and deforestation
Hemp can help stop deforestation by saving trees that are cut down to make paper pulp. According to the USDA, one acre of land with hemp on it produces as much pulp as 4.1 acres of land with trees in it. Unlike trees that can be cultivated only once in a year, hemp can be cultivated two or three times a year.
A tree that is cut down needs to be replaced by another tree. A new tree takes 30-50 years to grow. The number of trees being cut and the number of trees being planted don’t match. Hemp takes as little as 100 days to grow. They can yield four times more paper over a 20-year period. Paper made out of hemp lasts longer than wood pulp paper. It is also stronger, acid-free and chlorine-free.
Image Source: Movement Media
By choosing to use hemp we can play our part in reducing deforestation and being part of a deforestation economy. The deforestation economy is the economy that thrives on deforestation for producing a handful of products such as palm oil, timber, paper and pulp, leather and soya.
Hemp – a natural carbon sink
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is most commonly produced. Carbon sequestration is the process where atmospheric carbon dioxide gets stored such that does not harm the environment. The goal of carbon sequestration is to reduce global climate change. This is where hemp comes in handy.
Carbon sinks or reservoirs prevent carbon from entering the earth’s atmosphere. Industrial hemp absorbs more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop. Thus, it is ideal for the carbon sink.
A self-funding solution
Sceptics bring up the questions of funding and cost of research whenever any new solution to environmental crisis is mooted. Here hemp, comes across as a self-funding solution as according to industry insiders, crop yields from hemp can range from $20,0000 to $50,0000 per acre. Hemp cultivation can give us independence from petrochemicals for fuel, plastics, textiles and construction material.
The time is short and the world needs to wake up to the disastrous consequences of unabated plunder facing it. A step in the right direction is the recent step to decriminalize hemp in Australia and the United States. Major producers now include Canada, France, and China. In Australia, the Department of Primary Industry is encouraging the growth of industrial hemp. It is issuing licenses to companies that meet the strict licensing criteria.
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