How do we stop global warming? I believe the answer is by creating another little ice age. Humans have done it once before (that we know about), so there’s no reason we couldn’t do it again. The first little ice age was caused by the genocide of the indigenous people of the Americas. When 90% of the indigenous population died, large areas of agricultural land returned to forest and massive amounts of carbon was pulled out of the atmosphere. The carbon was then stored in the trees and tons of carbon was sequestered back into the soil. This caused global temperatures to fall leading up to the Industrial Revolution.
So the obvious question is how do we reproduce that effect without resorting to genocide and completely giving up large amounts of farmland? I believe that mass industrial production of hemp building products and hemp biochar would create the same worldwide cooling effect. Biochar is basically just charcoal, but rather than being burned, it is added back to the soil to make it more fertile. Hempcrete, meanwhile, is a building material made of hemp fibers, lime, and sand. It can be used the same as concrete. Only it can be made to last way longer than traditional concrete. Hempcrete was rediscovered on a French bridge hundreds of years old and still standing. That is why some Roman streets are still fine over 2,000 years later while we use inferior concrete so it starts to break apart immediately. Romans even added volcanic ash to their concrete mixes so it would become even stronger, essentially becoming stone over time. There are better ways to build almost anything we just don’t do them.
Our capitalist society sees no need to build things that last. We have become a throw away society. There isn’t as much “profit” in things that last because how can a corporation sell you another one in a year if the one you already have one that lasts essentially forever? Hempcrete also acts as an insulator and moisture regulator and keeps pests out. Making it a great material for housing.
Theoretically, if we pull out every ton of carbon that man has ever released into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution that will reverse the effects of any human caused global warming. Essentially we need to reduce carbon in the atmosphere to the point where the current carbon levels touch to meet up the line on the graph where our levels would have been had we not spent the last 150 years burning every dirty resource we could get our hands on.
The most important thing to understand is carbon needs to be removed from the atmosphere and then not returned. A farmer could grow a crop of hemp. That would remove carbon from the atmosphere; however if that crop is then fully burned or allowed to decompose then the carbon will be released back into the atmosphere. So under this scenario if the crop is burned or decomposed it would be carbon neutral.
I think hemp building products and hemp biochar will be the key to the success of a program like the Green Deal. Industial Hemp is now legal in the United States, so we currently have an opportunity none of us have ever seen in our lifetimes. First off the most valuable parts of the hemp plant like the seeds could be manufactured into needed items like cooking oil, biofuels, food, or thousands of other products. While we may need those products to live they will eventually decompose or burn and become carbon neutral. However other parts of the plant could be turned into, for example, hempcrete bricks or hempcrete. These products will not decompose for long periods of time. The carbon will remain trapped in the hempcrete. We could start by repairing or replacing all our roads and infrastructure with hempcrete. Any project such as that will remove carbon from the atmosphere. The creation of these hemp based building products will allow the return of some much needed manufacturing to the United States. This will create jobs and the possibilities of what could be manufactured are practically endless.
The second part of the equation will be the manufacturing and production of hemp biochar. Essentially the biochar is charcoal created by starting a fire but not allowing it to burn and essentially through this heating process the carbon charcoal remains in a solid form. This is a great soil additive and helps add and trap minerals in the soil. This needs to be added to all of our depleted farm soil. This carbon will not be released back into the atmosphere for thousands of years. This healthier soil in combination with no till farming and the right combinations of natural fungi will ensure healthier plants and roots and increase the soils ability to naturally sequester carbon into the soil directly from the roots. My best guess it would take several decades for us to create enough hemp biochar soil additive to restore our soil. We could eventually even export hemp biochar to help restore other nation’s farmland as well. I find it unlikely we would ever run out of need for hemp building materials, consumer products, or hemp biochar. However if we did carbon is a safe and abundant compound. We could safely and easily stockpile it somewhere out of the way. We could even refill all those empty coal mines in West Virginia with carbon.
Chris Madsen is a writer and activist based in the great state of Hawaii. He frequently writes from the unique perspective of his Pacific home. His opinions are his own.
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