In order for something to be considered sustainable, it must maintain a balance between production, use, and growth. It should utilize natural resources without depleting them altogether and, above all, it must be able to renew resources faster than it can deplete them.
Another key component of sustainability is the ability to create and maintain a socioeconomic structure that offers quality of life while renewing and regenerating the environment and its resources.
Hemp, or Cannabis Sativa L., is a fantastic example of this concept. Throughout history, we’ve seen multiple civilizations cultivate and use hemp as a fiber that rivaled cotton, jute, or even sisal, among others. It was used by the British Navy to out rig their ships. In America, farmers were required to grow hemp and were actually fined if they refused. When harvested, almost every part of the plant was used in some practical way, from textiles to paper, to medicine and even fuel. In fact, they even used it as a currency to pay tax
For all practical purposes, hemp once was a respected member of society. As a result of that, many communities took advantage of its stable nature and capitalized on its versatility.
Sounds like the ultimate example of sustainability, doesn’t it? It was, until Herbert Hoover became the president of the United States and decided that hemp would never make large corporations that he was involved with any money. He renamed hemp “marihuana”, which was a Mexican slang for cannabis that was smoked and contained THC. Americans were lead to believe that all hemp was “bad” and should be eliminated. This bigoted and ignorant perspective changed the landscape of American farming for years to come.
More recently however, our world is beginning to understand that concept of sustainability more clearly and perhaps out of necessity. Deforestation is rapidly changing the topography of our world, as are multinational corporations who have little or no concern for any detrimental environmental impact that will occur.
Hemp could be the environmental miracle that our world is so desperate for right now. Due to its adaptive and resilient nature, hemp promises to be one of the most regenerative and multi-purpose crops that could be grown, harvested, and marketed today.
Take for example, the paper industry. Ninety-three percent of all paper comes from trees. If over forty percent of our forests are being clear cut, we are literally chopping down trees so that we have paper products. Hemp could easily replace that entire industry, as it had always been processed for paper products in the past, and very successfully, I might add. An easy fix, right…?
What about hemp as a fiber? Could it replace cotton as a major producer? Of course it could! Unlike cotton, which needs large amounts of space to grow properly, hemp likes to grow close together and in compact rows. Each hemp plant feeds off of the other, almost negating any need for extra fertilizer or special care. Also unlike cotton, which requires copious amounts of water for adequate propagation, hemp’s long roots make the plant almost self sufficient in terms of water.
Not only that, but hemp can be used for bio-fuel. It can be made into plastic and it’s seeds are now considered a “superfood”, like chia or flax. All in all, hemp is just what the environment is calling for.
Our planet needs hemp, and it needs it now! Our job is to remind the country and the world of this fact. Now, get out there are educate the people!