Three Ideas That Will Grow On You

hempAgricultural subsidies in both North America and Europe top $150B per year. This is tax money used to support business that would simply not be viable without it. Much of that money goes to the handful of global agribusiness companies that have oligopoly control over almost all food produced in the West; very little of it actually goes to small, community-based farmers. Much of that money is to encourage hugely inefficient, wasteful, and heavily polluting operations that raise non-native crops and farm animals and soak them with antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and petroleum-based fertilizers.

Meanwhile, with no big money behind them and no media attention given to them, there are some wonderful opportunities to make agriculture sustainable, healthy and beneficial to small, community-based farmers, that are completely ignored. In a previous article I wrote about the opportunity to grow Stevia, a native American plant that can be used for sweetening without either calories or the Frankenstein chemicals that today’s overpriced artificial sweeteners contain. Here are three more ‘growing ideas’:

Rooftop Agriculture: A combination of rooftop agriculture and hydroponics (using recycled ‘gray’ water) could make our cities self-sufficient in botanic (non-animal) foods. The benefits (health, cost savings, community self-sufficiency, security of the food supply, less reliance on foreign oil for both fertilizers and transportation) are obvious. And most city roofs aren’t used anyway.  We need to get the biologists and urban agriculture specialists working with green industrial designers to figure out how to make this happen. (Thanks to Dynamic Doug Alder for the links).

Hemp-Based Foods, Textiles and Other Products: Perhaps because agribusiness can’t corner the market on it, and hence are pressuring the Republicans and Democrats in the US to keep harmless and efficient industrial hemp illegal, neither party at the national level will stand up and advocate the repeal of the ludicrous federal law banning growing the crop in the US. Ironically, the US is the world’s largest importer of hemp, and representatives of both parties in farm states have been pressuring the government to at least turn over regulation of the crop to the states — so far unsuccessfully. If you’re an American, support the new bipartisan proposal for such a change. Hemp based foods are remarkably nutritious, hemp can produce more environmentally-friendly and durable paper and clothing than cellulose or cotton, and it can even be used to produce biodegradable substitutes for plastics, medicines, detergents and inks.

Afghan Poppies for Medicine: Today’s NYT has an editorial suggesting that licensing Afghanistan’s flourishing (90% of the world’s supply) poppy industry could take it out of the hands of drug dealers and use it to solve the desperate need for low-cost pain killers in much of the world (including the West). There are problems with the idea, which has backing from a major European drug research organization, but the real challenge is the bull-headedness of ‘war on drugs’ advocates. Perhaps the 30-50 million Americans who have suffered or will suffer from chronic pain at some point in their lives could put a bit of pressure on them. Solving two problems at once would seem like a slam dunk to me.

There are a lot of good ideas like this out there. Why is our economy so inept at capitalizing on them?

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7 Responses to Three Ideas That Will Grow On You

  1. Doug Alder says:

    Dave – Rationalitty will never end the WoD – how can it the war is irrational to begin with. THere are very few law enforcement groups, prison contractors and anyone else involved in the “justice” system, in the US that would ever consider weakening the WoD. Why would they – they gain enourmous power from the WoD, not to mention money. Consider what would happen if drugs were legalized. More than 50% of jail cells would be emptied, prisons closed, police departments slashed, budgets slashed. No that won’t be allowed to happen. A bureaucracy’s raison d’etre is to not just simply continue existing but instead to constantly grow larger. In this case it does so by scaring the public with phoney statistuics (eliminate drugs and the crime rate plummets – which it is anyway due to an aging population) then appealing to the need for law and order. It’s an old tactic but oh so successful.

  2. lavonne says:

    I just picked the first vegetable of my very first garden on my small apartment balcony. Very satisfying. I plan to grow most of my vegetables there by next year. [Stevia too, thanks for the suggestion!] Since I’m vegan, I hope to save a bundle on food.

  3. Cyndy says:

    I ran across this link today, The Sioux Turn Hemp into Homesan excerpt:The Oglala Sioux Tribe, from South Dakota, have been making use of a revolutionary, new building material made from hemp. Hempcrete is much lighter, tougher and more weatherproof than traditional concrete and it offers those who live on the Reservation the long-awaited return to a self-sustainable and independent life. Makes sense to me.

  4. Jon Husband says:

    I’ll bet you know the answer to your question. IMO, because capitalizing on such opportunities would pose a very real threat to a relatively well-connected group of business people with significant interests at risk … thus lobbyists, legislation favouring established and well-connected interests, political campaign contributions, a very real lack of interest in opening up and democratizing economic opportunities that may change current power and control relationships .. and so on.

  5. Amanda says:

    I am for legalization of marijuana myself.

  6. Pearl says:

    Why hasn’t it happened? It didn’t occur to or isn’t heard yet by the person who will do these particular natural opportunities.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Doug: I’m not quite so cynical — I think the zeal for the WoD is a true conservative ‘original sin’ battle, rather than a power grab. It’s a crusade in the true sense of the word.Cyndy: Great link, thanks.

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