As we enter a new millennium, we find ourselves reevaluating the paths
we\'ve chosen and the decisions we\'ve made. Have we made the best with what
we\'ve got or are we stumbling in the dark? How many gaps riddle the blanket of
our knowledge?
The problem lies in how we make sense of where we\'re heading. Do we
choose the path of economics and progress or do we choose the path of
environmentalism and sustainability? Is there a median available for us to take
where the greens of economy and environment are balanced or are we doomed to
blindly continue the path of short-term gain and comfort . . . living out a
flawed paradigm?
Canada is a prime example of a country that is continually weighing its
power and influence on the natural and manmade worlds. We\'ve found ourselves
sitting on the global fence between our magliomaniacal brother to the south and
our staunch traditionalist motherland to the east. From this division of powers
and alliances we find ourselves locked into a self-induced ignorance and
stifling conservatism. It\'s ironic that we have the opportunity to solve most
of Canada\'s critical environmental issues in one fell swoop . . . with one
simple plant. It is ignorance and the maintenance of the status quo that has
blinded and crippled our ability to realize this resource.

A plant exists that is so strong that it can be grown without requiring
chemicals in almost every part of the world. Many have touted this plant as a
possible way in which to wean society from its dependence on fossil fuels for
energy and the need to log forests for pulp, paper and wood. It is even said
that this plant could adequately clothe and feed the world more efficiently and
cheaply than we can do now!
Why is this miracle plant not used if all evidence points to its
versatility? The answer is bogged down in a century of law, sociology, the
corporate agenda and conspiracy theories. Since the early part of the
century, hemp has been considered a drug, though it has no euphoric attributes.
Hemp: the wonder plant and possible solution to the bulk of our problems is
illegal only because it is seen as guilty by it\'s association with marijuana.
Hemp is a herbaceous plant called "cannabis sativa", which means \'useful
(sativa) hemp (cannabis)\'. Fiber is the best known product, and the word \'hemp\'
can also mean the rope or twine which is made from the plant, as well as just
the stalk of the plant which produced it.
History has proven its acceptance of hemp: both the U.S. Constitution
and the first draft of the Declaration of Independence were drafted on hemp
paper; Ben Franklin started the first American newspaper with hemp hurds, while
Thomas Jefferson said, "Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection
of the country". Canvass, a hemp product, was widely used as sails in the
early shipping industry, as it was the only cloth which would not rot on contact
with saline sea spray. Archaeological digs in China have determined that hemp
was being used as far back as 4,000 B.C. as a civilization\'s answer for food and
the best fiber for clothes and ropes.
Only because we relate it to a natural drug have we justified the
banishment of a plant that\'s been in almost continual use for thousands of years.

Hemp is an annual herbaceous plant that can be harvested within four
months of planting after growing to heights of 5 meters (20 feet) tall. If
rotated with other crops, hemp can be grown without pesticides or herbicides,
naturally repels weed growth and, unlike most commercial grains and fibres has
very few insect enemies. Hemp requires little fertilizer, and grows well
almost everywhere, including most of Canada and even some areas of the Canadian
Shield, like North Bay and Sudbury. Hemp puts down deep roots, which is good
for stabilizing the soil from erosional forces, and when the leaves drop off
the plant, minerals and nitrogen are returned to the environment. Hemp has been
grown on the same soil for twenty years in a row without any noticeable
depletion of the quality and stability of the soil.
Using less fertilizer and agricultural chemicals is good for two reasons.
First, it costs less and requires less effort. Second, many agricultural
chemicals are dangerous and contaminate the environment -- the less we have to
use, the better.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, one acre of hemp can
produce four times more paper than one acre of trees.