Friday, September 05, 2008




This month the Ecologist hails hemp, and much as I would like to start, and end with that, there are quite a number of other worthy articles that were more than just a good read. The first to catch my eye was a short piece on how the government has actively tried to play down the launch of ground-breaking legislation that could give local communities a direct say in how they are governed. The Sustainable Communities Act of 2007 was not even given a press release on the day it received royal assent. Sometimes the only way to get the government to work is to take it to court, and this is the subject of another short piece on Georgina Downs, who is doing just that. She is famous in the UK for acting against pesticide spraying. It seems that the French, however, are a bit ahead in terms of getting the government to act, as Sarkozy has launched the Mediterranean Solar Power Plan, which will set up mirrors to reflect sunlight into tanks that will heat water to drive turbines. This is a very efficient device, it loses only three percent of its energy in transport every 1,000 km. Even though this might not work for more northern nations, it would help these nations as the demand for other forms of energy would decrease, and we could have cheaper petrol.

Hardly any magazine is without some coverage of the US presidential race, the Ecologist's contribution to this is a piece by Joss Garman who debunks the green claims of McCain. Not that anyone thought he was that green to begin with. Last time this year Mark Anslow interviewed the US Green presidential candidate, Cynthia Mckinney, who needs no fig leaf to be green - she was in fact cooking up hemp porridge when he arrived. Obama seems to be Garman's choice, and I can only roll my eyes thinking about the damage this political neophyte would do in every way to the nation and the world. I do not look forward to an Obamanation or a McCainnation.

Another issue with US overtones is peak oil, which Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything, weighs in on. "Reducing oil dependency is seen as a matter of economic survival", he asserts. Tell that to the Obama and McCain.

Pat Thomas, the editor, spills the beans on soya. This plant is a monster, but like cotton, it has a devout following and criticising it is frowned upon. The people who promote it all wear green fig leaves and hang out at vegan fairs and left wing rallies, so they must be really good people, right? No way. They are exploiting a certain image and the good intentions of their fellow vegans to sell them a crop that is for the most part GM modified and full of phytates which block the uptake of essential minerals in the intestines. In addition, it inhibits enzymes, messes with our red blood cells, contains isoflavones which can disrupt homone function and often contains aluminium as the acid wash/alkaline wash processes used takes place in aluminium pots which leech this metal into the soya. Yummie! But try to tell that to the vegan high priests who are turning the temple into a market place. Oh, and one more thing, the soya cultivation is destroying the rain forest. But stopping zealots with facts is just about impossible. I will try on Sunday, 7 September when I talk at the Vegan Fest in Kensington, but I may just get thrown out. The money changers like to keep the show going and inconvenient fact finders are brushed aside.

A few pages down there is another article on the US, this one about the nation at war, with moths. It seems just like a deja vu; California is spraying tons of harmful pesticides made by a pesticide company that gave lots of money to the powers that be. Schwarzenegger and his team are making money this time. Where is his green fig leaf? Surely not to be found in a hemp field, as he vetoed the state hemp initiatives twice. Since hemp is a crop that does not use a lot of pesticides, maybe it was in the financial interests of these companies. This article, by Clare Robinson, is a must read for anyone in that state. It will go much further than any by the LA Times etc.

Bringing this back to the UK, an excellent piece on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which are proving themselves to be cost efficient. Ed Hamer, the author, is himself a farmer in Devon. There is also mention of the certification process, which has been a somewhat of a hoax, or another way to raise money by self appointed green gurus who take lots of cash to fly around the world and stay in luxury hotels. In reality this excludes a lot of very deserving small businesses and favours those who pay thousands for their kosher certificate. Another UKcentric piece takes us to Sussex, where Louise Amos revives the art of 'close shepherding', which has the advantage of reviving eroded heathland.

And then on to hemp...with an essay by Laura Sevier. She begins by telling us how she has the "Real Eco Bags are Made from Hemp" 100% organic hemp bag with her everywhere she goes, so this woman is no mercenary freelancer just trying to fill up pages. She then goes on to give the basic information, on which there is no need to enter at large upon here, and then onto a number f UK based companies. Although the article tends to focus a bit too much on BioRegional, which is not in the hemp business and did not produce much, if at all, from their fields, much due to a lack of having researched the subject, it deserves much credit for having mention of a number of the more productive enterprises in the field of hemp, such as House of Hemp, which produces some really colourful and tactile womens apparel. Too many reporters go for the hemp as sackcloth story and get it all wrong. And another fault of reporters is to shy away from the 'activist' brigade in hemp. Were it not for the 'activists' hemp would not even be legal in the UK, and there would be no story. At present Henry Braham, a wealthy Londoner who drives a large 4x4, is trying to cash in on hemp and has made it known that he only wants a certain mainstream type of blogger and reporter - he has specifically discriminated against those who are 'too political'; or, perhaps, those who know a thing or two about hemp and would ask him inconvenient question like what kind of defoliant he uses on his plants and if the seeds are hot or cold pressed. He is NOT mentioned in the Ecologist article, despite his wealth, or the fact that he has his oil in Tesco (not a fact to be proud of). But one might argue he is green indeed; or at least his 4x4 is, a fact pointed out with comic effect in the 2004 Telegraph.

It's good to see a journalist avoid these flashy wide boys and give credit where credit is due. The people Sevier features have all made real contributions to the industry, including Bobby Pugh of the Hemp Shop, who designed the aforementioned hemp bag (see related posts on this site by clicking on tags for Anya Hindmarch, hemp bag). A number of hemp businesses are featured in a photo essay which includes: The Hemp Trading Co., Green Stationery, The Hemp Store, The Hemp Shop, Braintree, Sativa Bags, Pukka Herbs, Hemp Garden, Innocent Oils, The Natural Store, Howies, Enamore, Inbi-Hemp, Green Fibres, Whitaker Publising, and Green Kickers.

If I might make some small criticism of the article, it would be to note that the assertion "hemp...needs to be laid on the ground to allow the natural fungi and bacteria to loosen and separate the bast fibres from the woody core..." is misleading. Sevier is quoting BioRegional a few lines down, and I assume this comes from them? Hemp is much more suited to other forms of retting, and again, such discussion can be found on this blog. Nice people that they are, hemp is not their field, though they raised some fields of hemp once (which they have not done much with). It all seems to have gone to Katherine Hamnett who made a rather, may I say, uninspired jacket out of it all and has done nothing with it since. Flashy, but not what we need. I say the activists, anoraks and real scientists who spend their time perfecting the hemp movement are what we need, not 4x4 driving media types and cotton loving fashionistas.

We do need real media coverage, and may I say the Ecologist and Laura Sevier get my vote here. Not for nothing are they known as the leading environmental magazine. The Goldsmiths and their crew have worked hard over the years to bring us cutting edge and very accurate articles. They cover ground which others fear to tread. This is real journalism, and we'd all like to see more of it. Thank you Ecologist for all your support over the years, we hope to see more articles on hemp, many of us who have read this present one are hoping that the next one will be on hemp food.

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