All though some ‘experts’ remain sceptical over whether global warming is occurring or not, we should at least err on the side of caution. Freak weather incidents, and rising sea levels are likely to have significant negative effects upon human civilizations. Hemp could have a vital role to play in the development of friendly alternatives.
A report published by the FCDA of Europe outlines the Cannabis Biomass Energy Equation (CBEE), outlining a convincing case that hemp plants can be used to produce fuel energy CHEAPER per BtU than fossil fuels and uranium – WITHOUT PRODUCING GREENHOUSE GASES! Hemp plants have the highest known quantities of cellulose for annuals – with at least 4x (some suggest even 50-100x) the biomass potential of its closest rivals (cornstalks, sugarcane, kernaf and trees) (Omni, 1983). Biomass production still produces greenhouse gases, although the idea is that the excess of carbon dioxide will be used up by growing hemp plants – they are effective absorbers and thrive at high levels – Unlike fossil fuel energy which produces energy from plants which died millions of years ago.
Global warming is damaging the Earth’s climate as well as the physical environment. One of the most visible effects of global warming can be seen in the Arctic as glaciers, permafrost and sea ice are melting rapidly. Global warming is harming the environment in several ways including:
- Increased melting of snow and ice
- Sea level rise
- Stronger hurricanes and cyclones
What — or who — is creating all this warming?
Look no further than the nearest mirror, for in the last 200 years, the human race has increased carbon dioxide levels by 35 percent, according to scientists with the British Antarctic Survey.
The cause of global warming is the increasing quantity of greenhouse gases in the our atmosphere produced by human activities, like the burning of fossil fuels or deforestation. These activities produce large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions which is causing global warming.7 Greenhouse gases trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere to keep the planet warm enough to sustain life, this process is called the greenhouse effect.3 It is a natural process and without these gases, the Earth would be too cold for humans, plants and other creatures to live.
The majority of man-made carbon dioxide emissions is from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil so that humans can power various vehicles, machinery, keep warm and create electricity. Other important sources come from land-use changes (ex: deforestation) and industry (ex: cement production).
Methane is created by humans during fossil fuel production and use, livestock and rice farming, as well as landfills.14
Nitrous oxide emissions are mainly caused by the use of synthetic fertilizers for agriculture, fossil fuel combustion and livestock manure management.
Fluorinated gases are used mainly in refrigeration, cooling and manufacturing applications.
Deforestation has become a massive undertaking by humans and transforming forests into farms has a significant number of impacts as far as greenhouse gas emissions are concerned. For centuries, people have burned and cut down forests to clear land for agriculture. This has a double effect on the atmosphere both emiting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and simultaneously reducing the number of trees that can remove carbon dioxide from the air. When forested land is cleared, soil disturbance and increased rates of decomposition in converted soils both create carbon dioxide emissions.17 This also increases soil erosion and nutrient leaching which can further reduces the area’s ability to act as a carbon sink.
IT’S SO PRODUCTIVE!
- 1 acre of hemp = 1,000 gallons of methanol
- In fact, Henry Ford’s first car ran on hemp-methanol! – and at just a fraction of the cost of petroleum alternatives. Alternatives to coal, fuel oil, acetone, ethyl, tar pitch and creosote can be derived – from this one single plant!
- As regards depletion of the ozone layer – hemp actually withstands UV radiation. It absorbs UV light, whilst resisting damage to itself and providing protection for everything else.
- Risk-free, pollution-free energy. No acid rain, and a reduction in airborne pollution of up to 80% … There’s further potential for the same in industry.
Hemp has the potential to be grown sustainably – it is a hardy, tolerant annual plant, and consistently produces high yields. Rather than harvesting other resources to extinction to fuel our industrial demands, at the expense of the environment, this resource could become the foundation of a pollution free eco-industry.
Current demand for textiles is satisfied by the intensive production of cotton and synthetics. Both of these have associated environmental problems. To produce high yields, cotton crops require pesticides, fertilizers and much water. Over 50% of the world’s agricultural chemicals are used in cotton production. Synthetic production on the other hand involves the creation of toxic by-products.
Hemp however, can be grown organically. Fibres are hand stripped from the stem rather than big factories with smoke stacks and hazardous chemicals. Riddlestone et al claim that the crop certainly ‘merits consideration as a new linen-like, environmentally friendly , textile fabric’. It is similar to flax (the fibres which make linen) in texture and cost, although contains twice the amount of fibre and is stronger.
It could be successfully grown in the South of England and could be produced with adapted flax machinery.
Hemp even has street cred! Kathryn Hamnet, the famous British clothes designer has recently offered to design hemp-wear, and the first pair of Levi Strauss jeans were made from hempen cloth.
Clothing, upholstery, nappies and much more!
Forest clearing and paper and clearly related. Whilst many suppliers now claim to be using paper from sustainable tree plantations – can we really be sure? Most European and North American forests have already been cleared, and the paper industry clearly had a stake in it. Since the beginning of the 20th century, increasing demand has been used to build profitability, and timber has been regarded as a cheap and readily available resource. Clearing of forests is most unsustainable. Traditional chlorine paper bleaching and the use of sulphuric acid to break wood down into pulp are also particularly harmful.
WE NEED A SUSTAINABLE PAPER SOURCE, INVESTMENT AND TECHNOLOGY. What is the resource…..HEMP!
Hemp is an annual, fast-growing plant with 3-4 times the productivity of trees for paper production. Before 1900, paper was made from recycled rags which usually consisted of 75-90% hemp. Hemp paper is known to be durable and flexible and this has more recently been confirmed (Palni et al 1999). Pressures upon forests could be reduced and chemicals deposited into waterways would be reduced by up to 80% – sulphuric acids are not required to break hemp fibres into pulp and the product can be effectively bleached with the relatively harmless hydrogen peroxide rather than chlorine.
Traditional plastic manufacture involves the use and creation of many toxins. Some plastics themselves are even declared to be toxic to humans. These include PCBs which disrupt hormones, PCTs – endocrime disrupters (which have now been outlawed, but not removed from the environment), non biodegradable phylates found in childrens’ toys and PVC construction materials, and the hormonal disrupting Bisphenol a.
The primary constituent (77%) of plastics is cellulose …. What’s the highest cellulose content plant known to man? …. hemp! Cellulose can be extracted to produce non-toxic plastics!
The use of hard woods unless certified sustainable has become infamous and unpopular thanks to the work of charities like WWF. Hard woods have been all too often the result of large scale forest clearances from the world’s richest and most precious resource – the rain forest. Is there a viable alternative for our building trade?
Hempen-plastic alternatives can be used to replace PVC window frames. The hurds from hemp stalks can be petrified by the addition of lime to form a mineral. Archaeologists have discovered a bridge built in Southern France between 500-751AD made by such means. There is a huge potential for all types of building materials to be created using this method – bricks, roofing tiles and plumbing pipes. Non-toxic paints, sealants and alternatives to bitumen can also be created.
It’s been over 75 years since cannabis was outlawed by the federal government — but just a few years after deeming it illegal, the United States was forced to embrace the versatility of hemp with the onset of World War II (as immortalized in the 1942 US government film Hemp for Victory). Many would argue that global warming is the worst crisis we’ve faced since the Second World War, so it’s no doubt fitting that hemp could again be in demand — once legalized — as a crucial material to help combat the planetary threat of climate change.
Jack Herer notes that hemp was outlawed around the same time as nylon, plastics from coal derivatives and the wood-paper pulp sulphide process were patented by DuPont. This was also around the time that the first machinery for mechanical hemp fibre stripping had been developed. Timber and paper industries would have lost out and, if hemp remained legal, ‘80% of Du Pont’s business would have never come to be; nor would the great majority of pollution’.
If the human race has any intention of even beginning to respond in a meaningful way to the threat of global warming, a powerful first step would be exploring the potential of cannabis fiber in the spheres of energy, sustainable resources and build- ing materials. In short, it’s long past time for the Industrial Hemp Revolution.