hemp and the environment

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We tend to hear this word in connection with drug abuse, and it is true that the hemp plant can be used to make hallucinogenic drugs which are illegal and very widely regulated in most countries. As a result of…

Introduction

lized hemp, and this plant is an incredibly useful resource which we could and perhaps should cultivate in large amounts for various important industrial functions.
Robinson explains how the plant’s fibrous structure could be used instead of wood: “it yields four times more fiber per acre than trees do.” (Robinson: 1996, p. 21) When fibers are needed for paper and textile factories, for example, hemp would be a much cheaper alternative than wood. It grows much faster than wood, reaching heights of up to 16 feet in one season, and its dense leaves ensure that weeds do not grow in the ground beneath it. This means that farmers who plant hemp to harvest its fiber will not need to use large amounts of pesticides. Other plants which are used for fiber, such as cotton, on the other hand, require very high levels of pesticides to keep down the harmful insects which feed on the plants. It is obviously cheaper to avoid the use of pesticides, and it is much better for the environment, since pesticides can harm wildlife and pollute the soil and the water system for generations. Purely as an economical and environmentally sound alternative to wood and cotton, then, hemp is a very good investment. It benefits the users and prevents the widespread devastation of scarce resources which take a long time to grow, such as rainforests and oak or pine trees.
When considering traditional crops like cotton, people often forget the long term effects which cultivation of one single plant can bring. Such a monoculture drains the soil of important nutrients, and the farmers find themselves adding chemicals and biological materials to the soil. In addition to this, pesticides also have to be bought for plants like cotton. Cotton is an expensive crop: “Cotton is grown on 3 percent of the earth’s best arable land and uses a whopping 26% of the world’s pesticides.” (Robinson: 1996, p. 22) Hemp grown for fiber, on the other hand, is naturally resistant to pests, and it can be ...
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