The Hemp Solution for the Post-Pandemic Era
These are unprecedented times we find ourselves in. Life, as we know it, has been brought to a grinding halt by Covid-19. This extremely infectious disease has already killed over hundreds of thousands around the world and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. A pandemic in the era of globalization has managed to brought our entire planet to a standstill. Offices and educational institutions are indefinitely shut down as we practice social distancing at home. Most forms of travel and business have been suspended to curb the spread of this disease. We are unable to see our friends; some are away from their families too. Some have lost jobs; many daily wage workers have been displaced from cities because they couldn’t afford to live there without a regular stream of income anymore. Numerous companies will be out of business when the dust settles. At the moment, we do not even have a clear timeline for the end of this lockdown.
To find a silver lining, a lot of people have now been able to find time for themselves and their families. Pollution has been cut down drastically as most human activity is shut down. Biodiversity is thriving as the water and air become clearer. An event like this is enough to put humanity into context. It reminds us that even though humans live as if it the only species on the planet, it is not so. The pandemic managed to put a pause on the endless global machinery, giving us a timely reminder of the irreversible impact that human consumption has on Mother Earth.
Since the industrial era, humans have been populating and polluting the Earth relentlessly. We are at a stage where are soon approaching the point of no return, after which our ice caps will melt, seasons will collapse and a food and water crisis will engulf our species. The pandemic has been an opportunity for us to see how much of a burden we have been on the planet.
It has given us time to introspect and find sustainable solutions for the future, as it becomes clearer every day that we cannot simply go back to “normal” after the lockdown ends. As people become more self-sufficient and more aware of what is essential and what isn’t, it will drive down the culture of mindless consumerism that has evolved over the last few generations. As businesses start shutting down, the future will call for a greater impetus on creating genuine value and sustainability over pure capitalism, which has built our evidently fragile economy.
Manifesto of The Netherlands: Planning for Post-Corona
Last month a group of academics working in the fields of development and environmental sciences in the Netherlands wrote a manifesto for post-corona recovery based on degrowth principles. After the Dutch manifesto was collectively written, it quickly gained the support of more than 170 academics working throughout the Netherlands, giving momentum to the ideas expressed within it.
You can read the manifesto and the list of signatories here:
For convenience we are reproducing some of the text below:
"The fact that COVID-19 has already had such a major economic impact is due, amongst other factors, to the economic development model that has been dominant globally over the last 30 years. This model demands ever-growing circulation of goods and people, despite the countless ecological problems and growing inequalities it generates. Over the last few weeks, the weaknesses of the neoliberal growth machine have been painfully exposed. Amongst other issues we have seen: large companies pleading for immediate state support once effective demand falls away for even a short time; insecure jobs being lost or put on hold; and further strain placed on already underfunded healthcare systems.
A further weakness of the current system, and one that is not yet prominent in discussions of the pandemic, is the link between economic development, the loss of biodiversity and important ecosystem functions, and the opportunity for diseases like COVID-19 to spread among humans. These are lethal links and could become much more so. The WHO has already estimated that, globally, 4.2 million people die each year from outdoor air pollution, and that the impacts of climate change are expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. Experts warn that with further severe degradation of ecosystems – a scenario that is to be expected under the current economic model – chances for further and even stronger virus outbreaks on top of these unfolding catastrophes are realistic.”
The manifesto proposes five key proposals:
1. A move away from development focused on aggregate GDP growth.
2. An economic framework focused on redistribution.
3. Agricultural transformation towards regenerative agriculture.
4. Reduction of consumption and travel.
5. Debt cancellation.
While the proposal may not be universally applicable to all nations, it offers viable suggestions as solutions that India can look to change and adopt according to its own needs. We believe hemp can have numerous positive benefits if integrated into the solution. A period of drastic change, such as the one we face, would be a good time to introduce hemp into the economic, legal and social structure. It is not the solution to all our problems, but a boost to a number of sectors that will face enormous strain in the near future.
The Impact of Hemp
1. On our Economy
As our nation is locked-down, most businesses have suspended operations, displacing a lot of daily wage workers back to rural areas. Businesses will face a loss of labour once all operations are ready to resume and a lot of the labour will turn to farming as their main occupation. Hemp can be an additional cash crop and also be used to eventually replace cotton as the main source for material fabrics. Cotton has a much higher land and water utilization than hemp, which has more versatility of use as well.
Relaxation of the hemp laws can also introduce a sizeable addition to the economy. Currently most of the operations of cannabis in India deal in drug trade with black money. Legalization can turn it into diverse industry based on a multifunctional product and bring in additional tax revenue.
Pharmaceutical companies can utilize it in different forms to treat a number of conditions and diseases. This would ensure a steady demand for the farmers, who are usually the ones to suffer when the crop prices fluctuate.
It can be used to make dietary supplements and its seeds can be used as food. It is also used in skin care and Ayurvedic products. Hemp has been used as a reliable substitute for plastic and concrete; two products that are essential to our lifestyles but also extremely toxic. As we begin to change our existing structures it will be crucial to shift the reliance of our economy from toxic substances to reliable alternatives.
2. On our Health
Cannabigerol (CBG) or Cannabidiol (CBD) are non-psychoactive cannabinoids derived from the cannabis plant that are used for the treatment of glaucoma to improve eye health. They also have anti-anxiety and potentially anti-depressant effects as endo-cannabinoid compounds stabilize moods. It has also been known to relieve pain for patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
It is already being used in the making of epilepsy medication in some countries. A lot of the medical curiosity generated by hemp is with regards to the treatment of cancer. It has the potential to slow down tumour growth and aids in the recovery from post-chemotherapy side-effects like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, immune suppression. It also acts as an appetite stimulant and relieves rheumatoid arthritis.
Its seeds are edible and extremely nutritious. They are high in fibre and a good source of omerga-3 and omerga-6 fatty acids which improve the heart and skin. They contain anti-oxidants and a number of other essential vitamins and minerals. It has anti-inflammatory properties too.
Cannabis was mentioned in the Vedas as one of the five sacred plants and has been used extensively by indigenous people over generations. Even today cannabis oil is used in making Ayurvedic products.
More urgently, it may prove to be very useful against Covid-19. Researchers at the University of Lethbridge in Calgary have found that some strains of cannabis, in some instances, have managed to reduce virus receptors, which reduces the chances of an individual to catch coronavirus. A number of them have reduced these receptors by 73%, which means that the chances of getting infected are much lower.
A new study in Ichilov Hospital in Tel-Aviv is conducting a study investigating whether cannabis can slow down the inflammatory process that accompanies the deterioration of severe coronavirus patients and alleviate the symptoms of disease. The study is expected to involve dozens of moderately ill patients.
The perception of this plant around the world is changing and more research is needed for its potential to be explored fully. We should be able to put health above political debate over the legalization of hemp in India.
3. On our Climate
Arguably, the most urgent need for a change in structure comes from the environment. As the human population continues to explode and man continues to pollute earth, we are moving towards a grave future where all ice on earth will melt and seasons will collapse.
Over the last few decades construction has grown with the population. Traditional building materials like cement are very polluting as they utilize large quantities of water. It produces enormous amounts of waste and is a major reason our planet faces a global shortage of sand today. Hemp can be used as a reliable alternative to concrete, ensuring future construction is much more sustainable. Hemp-crete is pest resistant, fire resistant, steadies interior temperature, utilizes less energy and is carbon negative.
Hemp is a less water intensive and land utilizing crop than cotton, so it can be grown much more sustainably. It increases carbon and microbial content in the soil and reduces CO2 content of the air. There are exhaust pipes for vehicles made of hemp that reduce pollution levels emitted into the air.
Plastic has become an integral part of our lives and it is non-biodegradable waste that does not decompose for extremely long periods of time. It is clogging up our waterways and littering our oceans. Bio-plastic has the potential to replace plastic in most of its uses in a much more sustainable manner.
Hemp paper can replace traditional timber made paper which causes a lot of deforestation that is needless with the knowledge and technology we have available today. It also has the potential to replace fuel in most forms of usage, which would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by a vast degree.
Cannabis is a multipurpose plant with numerous benefits that can make a meaningful impact on our societal structures. As we move towards a new era that will emerge from the aftermath of this virus, it would be advisable to relax cannabis laws. That would allow hemp to be explored further and fulfil its potential.