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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 7/25/19

The Cheapest Way to Save the Planet Grows Like a Weed

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Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the cheapest and most efficient way to tackle the climate crisis. So states a Guardian article, citing a new analysis published in the journal Science. The author explains:

"As trees grow, they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that are driving global heating. New research estimates that a worldwide planting program could remove two-thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere by human activities, a figure the scientists describe as 'mind-blowing.'"

For skeptics who reject the global warming thesis, reforestation also addresses the critical problems of mass species extinction and environmental pollution, which are well-documented. A 2012 study from the University of Michigan found that loss of biodiversity impacts ecosystems as much as does climate change and pollution. Forests shelter plant and animal life in their diverse forms, and trees remove air pollution by the interception of particulate matter on plant surfaces and the absorption of gaseous pollutants through the leaves.

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The July analytical review in Science calculated how many additional trees could be planted globally without encroaching on crop land or urban areas. It found that there are 1.7 billion hectares (4.2 billion acres) of treeless land on which 1.2 trillion native tree saplings would naturally grow. Using the most efficient methods, 1 trillion trees could be restored for as little as $300 billion -- less than 2% of the lower range of estimates for the Green New Deal -- introduced by progressive Democrats in February.

The Guardian quoted Professor Tom Crowther at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, who said, "What blows my mind is the scale. I thought restoration would be in the top 10, but it is overwhelmingly more powerful than all of the other climate change solutions proposed." He said it was also by far the cheapest solution that has ever been proposed. The chief drawback of reforestation as a solution to the climate crisis, as The Guardian piece points out, is that trees grow slowly. The projected restoration could take 50 to 100 years to reach its full carbon sequestering potential.

A Faster, More Efficient Solution

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Fortunately, as of December 2018, there is now a cheaper, faster and more efficient alternative -- one that was suppressed for nearly a century but was legalized on a national scale when President Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.

This is the widespread cultivation of industrial hemp, the nonintoxicating form of cannabis grown for fiber, cloth, oil, food and other purposes. Hemp grows to 13 feet in 100 days, making it one of the fastest carbon dioxide-to-biomass conversion tools available. Industrial hemp has been proved to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop, making it the ideal carbon sink. It can be grown on a wide scale on nutrient-poor soils with very small amounts of water and no fertilizers.

Hemp products can promote biodiversity and reverse environmental pollution by replacing petrochemical-based plastics, which are now being dumped into the ocean at the rate of one garbage truck per minute. One million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic, and up to 90% have plastic in their guts. Microplastic (resulting from the breakdown of larger pieces by sunlight and waves) and microbeads (used in body washes and facial cleansers) have been called the ocean's smog. They absorb toxins in the water, enter the food chain and ultimately wind up in humans. To avoid all that, we can use plastic made from hemp, which is biodegradable and nontoxic.

Other environmental toxins come from the textile industry, which is second only to agriculture in the amount of pollution it creates and the voluminous amounts of water it uses. Hemp can be grown with minimal water, and hemp fabrics can be made without the use of toxic chemicals.

Environmental pollution from the burning of fossil fuels can also be reversed with hemp, which is more efficient and environmentally friendly than wheat and corn as a clean-burning biofuel.

Hemp cultivation also encourages biodiversity in the soil, by regenerating farmland that has long been depleted from the use of toxic chemicals. It is a "weed" and grows like one, ubiquitously, beating out other plants without pesticides or herbicides; and its long taproot holds the soil, channeling moisture deeper into it. Unlike most forestry projects, hemp can be grown on existing agricultural land and included as part of a farm's crop rotation, with positive effects on the yields and the profits from subsequent crops.

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A Self-Funding Solution

Hemp cultivation is profitable in many other ways -- so profitable that it is effectively a self-funding solution to the environmental crisis. According to a Forbes piece titled "Industrial Hemp Is the Answer to Petrochemical Dependency," crop yields from hemp can range from $20,000 to $50,000 per acre. Its widespread cultivation can happen without government subsidies. Investment in research, development and incentives would speed the process, but market forces will propel these transformations even if Congress fails to act. All farmers need for incentive is a market for the products, which hemp legalization has provided. Due to the crop's century-long suppression, the infrastructure to capitalize on its diverse uses still needs to be developed, but the infrastructure should come with the newly opened markets.

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Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books including the best-selling WEB OF DEBT. In THE PUBLIC BANK SOLUTION, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and (more...)
 

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14 people are discussing this page, with 17 comments


Richard Girard

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Our greatest Statesman, Henry Clay of Kentucky, was a huge proponent of the growing and use of hemp. This is an all-American idea, because hemp will grow places trees cannot.

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 at 11:45:49 PM

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Thanks Richard, you make good points!

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 12:20:39 AM

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One of the best ideas I am aware of. Even if we're out of time, we should be doing this asap. It's been written about for decades, fully documented, and makes utter sense.


I went to college in Garden City, L.I. (whose motto was "The Truth Shall Set Us Free"), and the town adjacent was Hempstead. It wasn't until long after I'd driven through there forever and ever that I read how the name came about. They grew vast amounts of hemp there for ropes and I believe sails for old sailing ships.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 12:07:40 AM

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So cool, I've been wondering about Hempstead!!! Thanks!


Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 2:50:22 AM

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b. sadie bailey

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I enjoyed your article extolling the virtues of hemp and agree wholeheartedly. One thing was not made clear: in the article, you seemed to switch tracks to talk solely about hemp production - but IMO, we need to do BOTH - plant a trillion trees, focusing on forest and watershed restoration (and wildlife habitat), AND grow and use hemp for all of the products the petrochemical industry doesn't want us to have because it will kill their profits and their business.

It was shocking to read the part the textile industry plays in water pollution; I knew it was bad, but had no idea how bad. It isn't just new clothing; buying new fabric for crafts such as quilting presents equal problems. Eye opening!

No answers on how to defy a military industrial complex hellbent on war and destruction of the planet, but we know we have to, and that planting trees and growing hemp are the 'what' that could keep us from full-on extinction of every living creature on the planet.

I always enjoy and am inspired by your articles, your common sense, and brilliant intelligence and bent for solving problems in simple, effective ways.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 4:25:25 PM

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Thanks! Yes I should have been more explicit about planting trees. We need that too. But hemp grows in places where trees won't grow and it grows very fast. Plus it can help save the trees by replacing their uses. My main goal in writing the article was to demonstrate that there are better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly solutions to the climate crisis than geoengineering and and Silicon Valley fixes.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:44:02 PM

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Excellent - including the role Hearst played on the 'criminalization' of hemp. I'd only add that the fact that industrial hemp is NOT psychoactive should be emphasized more. A lot of people don't know the difference. But, that farmers in western Colorado tried to get 'permission' to grow it, long before the legalization of recreational marijuana, should say something. That part of the state is one of the more conservative areas in the state, if not the country.

That, and the fact that marijuana is a hybrid, developed specifically to increase the production of THC, instead of fiber and oil, might also be useful information to impart.

Thank you for contributing to the public knowledge about this.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:15:35 PM

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And thank you for that additional data!

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:45:08 PM

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Yes. Hearst borrowed from the playbook of John D. Vilify a competitor and then fund (bribe) legislators to get the vilified product banned. With Hearst it was hemp. With John D. it was ethanol. click here

Today the use of gasoline could be reduced by 50%. Simply put E85 in your tank. Every fuel injected car can burn 50% ethanol without any changes. A download into the cars computer can turn it into a flex fuel car that can run on any ratio of gasoline to ethanol. Elon Musk is not needed to reduce carbon emissions. Electric cars require another centralized corporate structure and the build out of an entirely new infrastructure. Ethanol can use what is there and not have to change the whole vehicle fleet. Why have you not heard of this before? GOOD QUESTION click here



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Devil's Advocate

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Just think, if the product is engineered the right way, instead of crumpling up and throwing away those handwritten blunders, you can just roll 'em up and smoke 'em! :)

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:49:35 PM

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"Industrial hemp has been proved to absorb more CO2 per hectare than any forest or commercial crop, making it the ideal carbon sink."

I predict that Weed will win the war on drugs and hemp will save the planet.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 5:50:16 PM

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I'm voting for Ellen Brown for President.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 6:03:40 PM

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Thanks Molly. I'd settle for head of the Fed! Now that we know all the things you can do with a central bank without creating hyperinflation ....

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Having lived in I-owe-wa... a couple times, love the idea of how Hemp could get good jobs there from the paper, plastics, textiles and bio-fuel we can produce from it. Hopefully they will be worker owned jobs modeled after the $20 billion a year Mondragon Cooperative of the Basque in Spain, that has it's own bank and collage. See how that model could go far towards empowering communities to be able to take care of themselves.

We could fund them by removing the whole SS cap (Only way to get back the $-trillions stolen from it.) backing US Notes from the Treasury lent to Public City and State Banks at the Post Office.


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Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 6:51:59 PM

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My understanding is that Hemp was supposedly baned because it was to hard to distinguish from the marijuana plant.


I have always felt that the likely reason was because it was a source of income to the Native Americans.


Submitted on Friday, Jul 26, 2019 at 7:53:22 PM

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As I have said here many times before, it was the super filth rich, mainly, the DuPont's and Hearst who had hemp outlawed. They wanted trees, to make paper and nylon, to make rope for the navy, so they could get even richer. They were and are the true scumbags of the Earth!

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 27, 2019 at 12:02:52 AM

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The author doesn't make a clear distinction between the atmospheric CO2 (energy) problem and the petrochemical/plastics problem. Concerning the CO2 problem, hemp isn't as useful as trees because trees can sequester (store) CO2 for several decades, whereas hemp itself cannot for more than a couple years, and the products made from hemp will likely environmentally degrade and give back their CO2 perhaps within a decade or so. Thus, considering Global Warming, trees have the advantage to hold the carbon produced by fossil fuels long enough for us to find greener substitutes for energy. Yes, hemp can also be a factor in providing energy, as a substitute for fossil fuels, and such a concept has been discussed in great depth among scientists, and like many such remedies, still lies in limbo, supposedly until a panicked public demand that scientists cure their ills. As the author points out, hemp use can also provide substitutes for petrochemicals, which has value in its own right, but only a minor effect on the atmospheric CO2 problem produced by fossil fuels. It's good for the author to point out the varied potential benefits from hemp, but each of these benefits needs to be separated and analyzed on their own merits. To state that hemp is cheaper than trees as a solution to petroleum use is way oversimplified.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 27, 2019 at 1:48:52 PM

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