Thursday, December 14, 2006



HEMP VS COTTON

Earlier this week, I trekked over to Mayfair, the glamorous bit of London where ambassadors and socialites meet up for tea...along with the odd former KGB man. My aim was the American Embassy, not because it is the most elegant of edifices, but the site where the climate change protesters were assembling for a candle light vigil.

Talk was on the recent by-election, where a green party candidate came in second (808) votes after the Lib Dem (1,000+ votes). Labour, due to the Quinetics scandal and the Iraq war, is losing ground fast these days. Today's Guardian mentioned the Labour environment minister David Milliband taking stock of the fact that his party better get it together. They in fact have renegged on promises to do less road building and are doing more, with resulting traffic jams all over the UK (but with lucrative contracts and the possibility of kickbacks).

The climate change debate is getting fervent these days, every time there is a major storm somewhere, the US press picks up on this; another story in the Guardian this week is about how lame reporters are in the land of the brave to tackle this one. Unless they are knocked down by Katrina, they prefer to pretend it's not happening, kind of like the overall press response to the truth about 9/11. But I digress. Back to climate change... this is an issue everyone ought to be aware of, before a tornado strikes (and strike one did, not in Kansas, but right here in London last week, which is odd...but would you believe that one reporter said it was only odd because we tend to notice them more? As if to say, ten years ago a tornado would destroy a sections of the city and, like, no one would notice...how observant we are now! To think we really just ignored it all before!) or the fish in the sea no longer have enough plankton to feed on.

Most people are in fact somewhat hip to the climate change debate, but there seems to be more confusion and inaction than change. As we realise our plight, no one really seems to do anything. One thing I noticed among the protestors was that they were all wearing cotton. They had some idea that cotton was destroying the water systems in many countries, that it used 50% of all the world's pesticides, that it was made in sweatshops, etc., but there they were wearing it head to toe.

The hemp plant is part of the answer to pollution, climate change, etc. Presently cotton is about 300 times as common as hemp, which means we have a long way to go. Most of the cotton that we buy helps to poison the environment and is processed in sweatshops. Muchof it is grown in America, with 1m acres in California alone. In that state, an actor turned politician named Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill to grow hemp in California. The cotton heads must have loved it. This means more profits to the pesticide companies, and Monsanto can continue to splice in genes to make cotton seed oil edible to humans. In the past GM cotton seed has been fed to cows, which is now known to be the cause of bovine diseases.

Much as Hemp for Victory is a mantra in environmental circles, Cotton for Victory may be the mantra in the board rooms of the pesticide companies. This will make slimebags rich as they turn California into a desert. Take a look at what happened to the cotton growing lands around the Aral Sea, and you get an idea where California is headed. But the last laugh may be with the cotton producers and the chemical companies, as the very people protesting so loudly are wearing it. Just ask George Monbiot what he is wearing the next time he gets up to make a speech and promote himself. Then you might wonder why change is taking so long.

For those interested in getting some hemp threads, check out Minawear Hemp Clothing in the US or The Hemp Shop in the UK. Not only clothes, but cosmetics, food, rope and paper are available. If each of us does a little, we can bring hemp into the mainstream and stop picking cotton and chopping down trees.

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