There’s been so much buzz surrounding the topic of climate change lately, and recent protests across the globe have really brought the subject to the forefront. The signs of climate change are vast and include symptoms such as increased temperatures across the globe, warming oceans, decreased size of ice sheets, rise in sea level, and extreme natural disasters, among many others.
People have long been encouraged to minimize their carbon footprint by doing things such as recycle, reduce the use of non-disposable products, and even trade in their emissions-fueled vehicles for electric models. But perhaps one of the most basic ways to slow down climate change and even reverse its effects is by simply planting more trees. It’s a well-known fact that trees are instrumental in removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and infusing it with oxygen, but perhaps their role may be even bigger when it comes to climate change. According to studies, the growth of trees allows them to absorb and house all the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere every day, which is the driver behind global warming. By planting more trees, we can effectively reduce the emitting of carbon dioxide into the air and even eliminate as much as two-thirds of all emissions that currently exist as a result of human activity.
Forests provide plants and animals with shelter and play an instrumental role in removing pollution by absorbing pollutants through the leaves. Given the potential that trees have to help improve air quality, reduce pollution, and potentially minimize the effects of climate change, it would make sense to fill the planet with more trees to fight the effects of global warming. According to research, there are approximately 4.2 billion acres of treeless land where trees could be potentially planted without invading urban centers or farmland. On that land, approximately 1.2 trillion trees could be planted and grown. But perhaps there’s one type of plant that we should be focusing on that could play a major role in the alleviation of climate change: hemp.
Hemp Cultivation Could Be the Cheapest, Most Effective Way to Target Climate Change
The biggest issues that may stand in the way of the planting of trees on available land across the world are cost and time. But there may be a different type of crop that can still have a similar effect that trees have on the environment that may be faster and more cost-effective: hemp crops. The widespread cultivation of hemp may be able to pay a big role in tackling the issue of climate change in much the same way that growing more trees would. Unfortunately, for decades, growing hemp has been illegal in the US.
But decades before hemp was illegal, it was actually encouraged by the government to be grown and used for industrial and commercial purposes. Hemp in the US was a legal crop in the 18th and 19th centuries, but by the 20th century, it became a banned substance because of its association with the psychoactive marijuana plant. Thankfully, hemp has once again been legalized thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill signed late last year by the Trump administration, and such legalization has made the US the third-largest producer of hemp across the globe, behind China and Canada. Hemp farmers are now legally permitted to cultivate hemp crops that can not only improve local economies and provide consumers with a number of products, but may also be able to quash climate change.
From hemp comes a myriad of products, including textiles, rope, food, oil, cell phone, and even dynamite, and many others. In fact, hemp can actually be used to create 25,000 products, and new uses continue to be discovered. Cannabidiol, also known as CBD which is mainly found in the hemp plant has not only contains a plethora of therapeutic properties for addressing a number of ailments, but the non-psychoactive cannabinoid has the potential to preserve our planet.
Hemp plants can grow as tall as 13 feet in 100 days, a rate of growth that is tough to match, giving it a great deal of potential when it comes to quickly growing greenery specifically to tackle CO2 emissions. In fact, it’s already been shown that hemp plants can absorb more carbon dioxide per hectare than any commercial or forest crop and can even be grown on poor-quality soils with very little water.
Hemp’s Climate-Assisting Uses Are Far-Reaching
In addition to hemp’s ability to reverse the effects of carbon dioxide emissions in the air is its ability to be used as an alternative to petrochemical-based plastic. Not only can hemp be used to create products like rope and cloth, but hemp products can also be used to create plastic. All those water bottles that are dumped into the ocean wreak havoc on sea life and destroy the health of the ocean. Plastic made from hemp, on the other hand, is non-toxic and biodegradable, allowing it to be broken down to avoid the toxins being absorbed in the ocean water and eventually make it along the food chain. Bio-products made from hemp has the potential to produce eco-friendly products that can be easily and quickly recycled or broken down, which can be a huge relief not just for the oceans where many of the world’s plastic products wind up, but also for landfills.
The world desperately needs an alternative to fossil fuels, and even though there are already a few possibilities, hemp appears to be one of the most environmentally-friendly and cost-effective options. In fact, hemp may be a much cleaner energy source that can cut out the smog created by more traditional fuel sources. It may also help to eliminate radioactive water from the soil that ends up on the food chain, and has also been shown to be a nutritious food source for both humans and animals.
On the Road to Greenness
Our wasteful, single-use society has seemingly been a huge contributor to the changes we’ve been seeing in the environment — which have been well-documented. But perhaps the planet can help itself – with human intervention – in the form of growing more greenery to help make a big dent in climate change, and perhaps hemp crops may be able to play a big role in this endeavor. With the recent US legalization of hemp, perhaps we may be able to be a prime contributor to fighting climate change and the dire effects it can have on the planet.
Written by NHA Volunteer Mell Green