How the Reemerging Hemp Industry Can Spark a New Industrial RevolutionKentucky HempstersDecember 8, 2015
Using renewable agricultural materials to make industrial products is not a new trend; in fact, Chemist Dr. William J. Hale coined the term “chemurgy” in 1934 to refer to this practice. Industrial hemp played a valuable role in the 20th century’s chemurgy movement, and today it has the opportunity to do so once again.
The Birth of the ‘Chemurgic’ Movement
Revered as the father of chemurgy, George Washington Carver believed that every human need could be met by synthesizing materials from things that grow, and that hundreds of products like ink and fuel could be manufactured from everyday crops.
Around the same time, more applications for industrial hemp were being discovered. They proved so useful and numerous that in 1938, Popular Mechanics published an article about hemp titled “The New Billion Dollar Crop.”
Automaker Henry Ford was inspired by the work of Hale and Carver, and became an early champion of chemurgy for exploring several farm crops (including industrial hemp) for their industrial potential. Ford said, “With one foot in agriculture and the other in industry, America is safe.”
Chemurgy demonstrated its importance during WWII, when the U.S. government called upon American farmers to ramp up production for the war efforts. Because hemp was used to manufacture essential wartime goods like rope and parachutes, it was such a crucial material during this period that the USDA released a film titled Hemp for Victory to encourage American farmers to grow it.
The Post-War Rise of Synthetic Materials
After the war, the chemurgy movement started to lose its momentum, and the dominance of synthetic petrochemical materials was ensured by low prices and technological breakthroughs. Look around you—the clothes you are wearing, the chair you are sitting on, even the device you’re using to read this article — the amount of petrochemical-based products we use every day is alarming, especially because they could be made from renewable materials.
In one of our earlier articles, Did the Industrial Value of Hemp Spark the Cannabis Prohibition, we discuss how big business interests of the time were successful in prohibiting all forms of cannabis, and in securing a petrochemical-dependent culture. As our nation became more industrialized, it transitioned further away from agriculture. The petrochemical products we have become dependent on are non-biodegradable, non-renewable, and toxic to the environment.
It’s time to change the way that industry and agriculture interact. Hemp is renewable, biodegradable, and beneficial to the environment. With hemp’s reemergence, it has the opportunity to become an important industrial component once again.
One day, oil will become scarce and renewable resources will be more highly valued. American farmers can be put to work growing these renewable resources, and industrialists will be able to secure raw materials for reasonable prices. This will reduce our dependence on expensive, unrenewable materials imported from overseas.
If we can grow hemp for war production, why can’t we grow hemp to supplement resources we go to war over?
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