Article by Bruce Ryan, High Canada
The perfect storm arrives in a circular fashion. Full circle: nine decades since 1923, the Canadian government is going to “legalize” cannabis in 2018. What a strange affair… except it’s not very funny in so many ways. The mere fact that arrests continue, records remain on the books and prison terms are on the table shows how twisted the agenda really is. One would believe that cannabis is indeed already fully legal, the way the general population is behaving. Except for the thin rhetoric from the governmental agencies, it’s prey well game on. Innovators and entrepreneurs are pouring into the public marketplace in droves. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in the sector. Farmers are gearing up for planning thousands of more acres of cannabis this year. It’s going to be another record for crops in Canada and the US. Ironically, as medical goes mainstream and “recreational” becomes legalized, the industrial hemp (cannabis) sector becomes normalized. Even the editors of Time magazine have a weed leaf on the cover month. Most excellent.
My somewhat radical Vision still remains: 85 million hectares of cannabis growing globally ~ a bit of land about the size of Texas. Sounds rather ambitious. Yet this is not even a significant portion of the two billion hectares of productive land that are degraded worldwide. This is an area larger than South America or twice the size of China. Worse, 500 million hectares of this is abandoned agricultural land. We need to break this destructive cycle. The benefits of preventing land degradation and reversing it are far greater than the gains from degrading new land year after year. Just by shifting to sustainable land management practices, for instance, we could gain up to $1.4 trillion US in increased production value. Planning half of this abandoned land with cannabis would generate huge benefits. The objective is to capture 420 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. This has the potential to create 64,200,000,000 lbs of food/seed AND 1,712,000,000,000 lbs of fibre/core for manufacturing products. A full third of that vast tonnage is stored in the soil as root mass, thus enriching the farmland. All at the same time reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizers and helping restore the bio-sphere through agriculture. It’s a small Vision, one that our future. as a species, may depend upon in the immediate future.
Since the year 1750, nitrous oxide levels have risen 20% (1), and extreme weather events have caused significant yield reductions for farmers (2) globally. By 2050 climate change (3) could reduce irrigated wheat yields by 13%, irrigated rice by 15% and African maize by 10% to 20%. Viable farmland is decreasing too; (4) abandoned farmland represents a quarter of the two billion hectares of degraded, once-productive land worldwide and we continue to degrade another 12 million hectares of land every year. The world’s oceans have become 30% more acidic since pre-industrial times. Historical CO2 levels have climbed from 313ppm in 1958, crested 350ppm in 1989 and reached 366ppm in the year 2000. The first World Agricultural Strategy proposal to capture CO2 was submitted to the Virgin Earth Challenge in 2007 when global CO2 levels had reached 380ppm. The rate seems to be accelerating: NASA is reporting 404ppm on a worldwide basis and September 2016 was the warmest, ever, during the past 136 years. Today, levels have crested 405.6ppm – the highest levels in 650,000 years (5) and show no signs of dropping this year. Cannabis is one of the agricultural solutions to this downward spiral. As an ancient “3C” species, it simply grows larger and faster as CO2 levels rise. This simple fact provides a means of capturing the carbon from the atmosphere on a sustainable basis.
As a goal, this “Vision” of 214 million acres of cannabis is achievable within five years.
This year several world governments are taking steps to encourage, promote and enable “circular economy” business practices. Looming carbon taxes and sustainability initiaves will favour those who engage the future. Companies that manufacture carbon negative products can and will make a serious difference. Taken to heart, our own community can advance this process by embracing cannabis products. From paper to clothing to housing and more, the simple act of buying cannabis (hemp) products drives the economy forward. All we have to do is turn the farmers loose.