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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Thinking Outside the Box - by Rebecca Veenstra

India recently broke a world record that truly surprised me. Indian officials have reported that volunteers planted a whopping 49.3 million tree saplings blowing past the previous record for most trees planted in a single day --That record, a mere 847,275 trees, was set by Pakistan in 2013.  A reported 800,000 volunteers from Uttar Pradesh worked for 24 hours planting 80 different species of trees along roads, railways, and on public land. The saplings were raised at local nurseries. (1)

     Pakistan plans on increasing the number of planted trees to 1 billion by the end of 2018. The trees are being planted along the Hindu Kush mountain range in the northwestern region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The initiative, dubbed the “Billion Tree Tsunami” has also provided 500,000 jobs to impoverished locals. (2)

      I was a little bit shocked when I read that countries that I had always considered poor and underdeveloped were taking the lead in global revitalization in such an amazing way. I can’t help but wonder what Americans could accomplish considering we have much more vast resources at our disposal than many countries around the world.

Since the United States has suffered from massive unprecedented forest fires over the past few years I think a grand opportunity exists to establish a program for reforestation that could potentially put many of our nation back to work planting and managing forests.

      If we persevered to replant our forests future generations would reap the benefits of clean air and natural ecosystems that are currently declining. We could invest in our infrastructure in a revolutionary way by expanding our fisheries, putting American’s to work in agriculture, growing our own foods and raising our own meats, fuels and textiles.

People talk about the economy and jobs in such old terms these days. I hear a lot of banter about jobs, jobs, jobs… but it’s all centered around industry, refining, mining, oil production, harvesting—not replanting forests, automating and industrializing farming, reducing genetic diversity and modifying the environment to compensate for the negative effects of our industries.

     I think we all want clean air, blue skies, fresh water. I don’t think anyone out there is wanting smog, oil spills, toxic foods and waters. Maybe we aren’t all tree huggers but as a whole I think it’s fair to say basically all humans want a healthy environment that is safe with good opportunities to provide for themselves.

      There may be many things that divide us these days but I hold fast to the belief that the only argument anti- tree hugger people have is that they think the environment must be compromised in order for people to work and of course corporations enjoy higher profits when they cut corners at the expense of the environment. We all want clean air and water. “I could go for an oil spill, or some nuclear waste right now but I’ll settle for smog and poisoned water.” Said no one ever. Jobs and company profits do not have to go hand in hand with environmental destruction. What if we put on our thinking caps and thought ourselves out of that box?

     The new Michigan Legalization ballot proposal for 2017 takes that approach. Despite being lengthy and needing some important revisions to reign in government control the proposal could potentially clear the way for industrial hemp cultivation in Michigan. If this measure is successful, the potential for new jobs in Michigan could expand exponentially. Think of all the uses for hemp. Then, turn those ideas into jobs.

Hemp is well known for its fibers that can be used for textiles. If you look at the tags on your clothing I doubt you will find much of it was made in the US. Your tent, the rope in your toolbox, the particle board you just bought from the lumber yard…All of those things and much more can be created using hemp for less money and with less damage to the environment than cotton or wood fibers.

Hemp produces the strongest, most durable natural soft-fiber on earth. Until the 1820’s, up to 80% of all textiles and fabrics for clothes, canvas, linens and cordage were made principally from hemp. Hemp cloth is stronger, more durable, warmer and more absorbent than cotton. An acre of hemp will produce 2 to 3 times as much fiber as cotton, about 1,000 Ibs. of fiber per acre. Hemp requires no herbicide, fungicide or insecticide applications. Up to ½ of all agricultural pesticides used in North America are applied to the cotton crop. (3)

      Wouldn’t it be fabulous if Michigan built environmentally safe textile factories to make hemp fabrics? The market for these products would be global. Maybe Michigan could even land some military contracts to manufacture fabrics for uniforms and equipment. That sounds like good job potential to me. What if factories like Georgia Pacific re-opened to make hemp products for the construction industry? If clothing manufacturers built their factories In Michigan wouldn’t that be great?

      If construction companies bought hemp products to build homes instead of things made from wood pulp from our over-harvested forests wouldn’t that have far reaching positive impact on both the economy and the environment? Think of the trade benefits of the US exporting high quality hemp textiles and construction materials worldwide.

Hemp can be used for paper making as well. From 75 to 90% of all paper was made with hemp fiber until the late 1800’s. The hemp paper-making process requires no dioxin-producing chlorine bleach and uses 75% to 85% less Sulphur-based acid. Hemp paper is suitable for recycle use 7 to 8 times, compared with 3 times for wood pulp paper.

     By utilizing hemp pulp for paper, we could stop the deforestation of our country and produce stronger, more environmentally sound paper for less than 3/: of the price of wood pulp paper. The paper mills now in place would need almost no conversion in order to switch from wood to hemp pulp. (4)

     Which leads me back to the tree planting. Think of how using hemp could salvage our forests from being ground to pieces to make envelopes, paper for our copiers, toilet paper and construction materials.

     Industrial hemp can be used to produce fuel for machinery and vehicles. Hemp is the #1 producer of biomass per acre in the world. Hemp grown for the production of biomass fuels can provide all of our gas, oil and coal energy needs and end dependency on fossil fuels. (5)

Imagine the impact that could have on the frantic escalation of fracking. If we don’t need to destroy the earth to make fuel shouldn’t we strive to use alternatives available to us?

     I’d rather my family and friends worked at a hemp fuel production plant here in Michigan than being shipped to other states to work on projects for oil companies that devastate the environment.

     In addition to the uses for the actual plant-- hemp benefits the soil it is grown in. Just think of how that fact alone could result in less toxic fertilizer being spread across the Great Lakes State?  Farmers could rotate crops with industrial hemp resulting in the potential for healthier produce for human consumption as well as feed for cattle.

     I’m all for new jobs. I agree wholeheartedly that we need more opportunities to work in the United States. However, the proposals to re-open mines and build factories to create products made from fossil fuels are counterproductive because the main benefactors are big corporations while the workers and the environment suffer.

I believe American’s given the choice are united in their preference for jobs that don’t include smog, polluting the waterways, and devastating ecosystems.

     I encourage you to explore the research and voice your opinions to our lawmakers. Also, take the initiative to read the 2017 Michigan Legalize ballot proposal. It has been posted on line and the organizers have asked for our help in molding a proposal we can all agree on. Just read it and then reply with your comments and suggestions. If we all put our 2 cents in, hopefully the ballot proposal will be one we can all enjoy the benefits of once it is voted into law.

We all know money talks and bullshit walks, but if the powers that be are presented with alternatives that will allow them to profit they will not turn a blind eye.

     In order for America to prevail in the neworld economy it is imperative that we think ourselves out of the box of the industrial revolution and fossil fuel dependence.

     Ireland just took drastic measures to begin divesting in fossil fuels. If new legislation is passed, Ireland would become the first country in the world to introduce legislation banning fossil fuel investment. (6)

     The new Michigan Legalize initiative’s declaration of the legality of industrial hemp production would unite us with our allies in the pursuit of more environmentally sound economics. Canada, England, France and Spain have all legalized low THC varieties of hemp for an agricultural crop. England planted 1,500 acres of hemp as a first-year crop. Reports from England state that farmers are receiving in excess of $3,000 per acre for their hemp crop. (7)

     The new Michigan Legalize initiative, if re-written to assure that it is inclusive to every Michigander and not just big corporations-- and if the new draft removes entirely the   opportunity for governmental over reach and over regulation--It could have the potential to change the fabric of our state, not only by removing the criminality of cannabis use and cultivation-- but also by catalyzing ground breaking changes in the way we perceive job creation and our role in industry and environmental responsibility.

Resources/Links Pakistan trees (1.2) India trees (1,2)  India trees (1,2) hemp facts (3,4,5,7) (Ireland) (6)

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