Can Hemp, Marijuana and Mushrooms Fix Fukushima? Part 5: The Solution
By David Malmo-Levine
Cannabis Culture: April 11, 2014
Hemp, cannabis and mushrooms can be used to clean up and protect us from radioactive pollution and nuclear disasters.
Read “Part 1: What Happened?”.
Part 5 of this multi-article work looks at the surprising solutions to the growing nuclear threat to humankind.
The true economies of the nuclear industry are never fully accounted for. The cost of uranium enrichment is subsidized by the US government. The true cost of the industry’s liability in the case of an accident in the US is estimated to be $US 560 billion ($726 billion), but the industry pays only $US 9.1billion – 98 per cent of the insurance liability is covered by the US federal government. The cost of decommissioning all the existing US nuclear reactors is estimated to be $US 33billion. These costs – plus the enormous expense involved in the storage of radioactive waste for a quarter of a million years – are not now included in the economic assessments of nuclear electricity.
– “Nuclear Power is the Problem, Not a Solution”, Dr. Helen Caldicott, April 15, 2005 (236)
We should do everything in our power to make all nuclear facilities safe and secure. We should also start seriously working on the production of the alternative sources of energy.
– Mikhail Gorbachev, 2006 (237)
Action doesn’t disappear. Once you take a step, the next step is made from the previous step. It takes you to the new place. Emotion takes your effort to recall but action lets you forget your past. Emotion never take you anywhere, you never forget you felt something, but you cannot remember the taste. You are stuck in the jail of the memory. Emotion is the matter only in your mind. Action is the matter in reality. Let your action change your way.
– Mochizuki, Fukushima Diary (238)
Estimates of the cost of cleaning up the Chernobyl nuclear disaster are in the $250 to $300 billion range. (239) Imagine how many renewable power plants that would buy. Hundreds. Maybe thousands.
When evaluating the true cost effectiveness of nuclear power, one must be aware of the hidden costs: research and development, direct subsidies, decommissioning costs and the potential clean-up costs.
Each Japanese nuclear power plant costs the Japanese people about $238 million CAN per plant per year in R&D (about $10.7 billion CAN per plant over 45 years for a grand total of about $235 billion in R&D for all 22 of Japan’s nuclear reactors over 45 years), (240) about $26 million CAN per plant per year in direct subsidies (about $1.17 billion total per plant over 45 years, for a grand total of $25.7 billion for all 22 reactors over 45 years), (241) $400 million to $1 billion US per plant decommissioning cost (for a grand total of $8.8 billion to $22 billion to decommission all 22 reactors), (242) and potential damage cleanup costs of $25 to $150 billion (or more) CAN per disaster (243) – the vast majority of such cost taken on by taxpayers.
When all costs are factored in, the total subsidies over the course of 45 years for all 22 reactors is a staggering amount – anywhere from $294.5 billion (235 + 25.7 + 8.8 + 25 billion) to $3.58 trillion or more (235 + 25.7 + 22 + 3,300 billion) for all of Japan’s nuclear power plants together, depending on how many more of them get hit with disasters, and how big the disasters are.
To put this in perspective, the high-estimate cost of cleaning up 5 Fukushima-like disasters is about the same cost to Germany of transforming it’s entire energy grid to renewable energy – around $750 billion. (244) These numbers are on par with the massive subsidies given to fossil fuels, directly and in the costs of oil wars, oil spill clean-up and climate change. These costs are also said to be in the 100’s of billions, if not trillions. (245)
Unlike nuclear power and fossil fuels, the “clean-up” and “decommissioning” costs of renewable energy is negligible. Nobody dies prematurely of some horrible renewable-energy-related cancer. The soil surrounding renewable energy plants can be used to grow food. Both nuclear AND fossil fuel subsidies should be transformed into renewable energy subsidies. Now … what sort of renewable energy power plants could Japan get for $294.5 billion? Or $3.58 trillion for that matter?
Shopping Around For Different Energy Systems
Small solar, wind, micro-hydro or geothermal energy systems designed for individual homes can run between about $10 and $50 thousand each. That, combined with energy conservation practices, can supply energy to between 6 to 30 million households for $300 billion, or 60 to 300 million households for $3 trillion. Japan’s entire population is only 127 million. The solar systems, for example, are expected to pay for themselves in 3 to 14 years, and last 25 to 30 years. (246) While more expensive over-all than mega-projects, the mini-projects have the added bonus of being income-generators for the millions of owners.
On the other end of the size scale, the world’s largest solar power project – the Agua Caliente Solar Project – will take about 4 years to complete (it will be completed some time in 2014), costs 1.8 billion dollars to make and will supply a maximum capacity of 397 megawatts (397 million watts) at one time – or over 626 gigawatts (626 billion watts) per year. (247) The average US home uses about 11 thousand kilowatts per year, (248) Which means, for 1.8 billion, one major solar project can supply power to nearly 57 million homes. 300 billion can provide for 166 major solar projects – power to 9.5 billion homes. At this point it should be pointed out that there aren’t even 9.5 billion people – let alone 9.5 billion homes – on planet earth.
Just slightly less amazing is wind power. The largest wind farm in the world is the Alta Wind Energy Center. It’s forecasted annual generation is between 306 and 552 gigawatts, (249) and it’s price tag is about 1.85 billion dollars, and it’s taken about three years to build – construction began in 2010. (250)
Less massive but still much cleaner and safer than nuclear energy and fossil fuels is geothermal. The largest geothermal power plant in the world is The Geysers. Built in 1960, it served 1.8 million people with power back in 1987, and currently serves 1.1 million people with power. (251) Some geothermal operations, such as the Svartsengi Power Station in Iceland, also provides a massive heated pool – the “Blue Lagoon” – to bathe and swim in. (252)
The world’s largest wave farm is being built off the coast of Scotland, at a cost of £4 million ($6.34 million CDN). (253) Once completed, it should be big enough to power 30,000 homes each year. (254) The advantage to wave power is that it’s located near most of the people on earth (who live near the coast) and it’s constant – the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, but waves hit the shore 24/7/365, thanks to the moon. $300 billion buys 47,318 massive wave farms – enough to power nearly 1.42 billion homes. $3 trillion buys over 473 thousand wave farms – enough to power over 14 billion homes.
Tank Goodness For Hemp Ethanol
Solar, wind, geothermal and wave are fine for feeding energy grids, but what should we be running our cars on? And what else besides wave energy can provide energy 24/7/365 regardless of the weather? The cheapest source of energy to replace oil and gas with – one that only requires a $270 to $700 dollar conversion kit to switch any gas powered car over (255) – is the switch to cellulosic ethanol. For just $200 million, a facility can be made that produces 30 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol. (256) The US currently consumes about 134 billion gallons of gas per year. (257) For $300 billion, one could afford to make 1500 cellulosic ethanol plants, producing a grand total of 45 billion gallons of ethanol. For $3 trillion, one could afford to make 15,000 plants producing 450 billion gallons.
As luck would have it, the best source of cellulose from an energy crop is … industrial hemp.
1) doesn’t need as much fertilizer or water as corn, switchgrass or other energy crops
2) doesn’t require the expensive drying required of corn and sugar cane
3) can be grown where other energy crops can’t
4) is more resistant to “adverse fall weather” than other crops and
5) has long been known to be the lowest-moisture highest-cellulose crop – hemp stalks being “over 75% cellulose” according to a 1929 paper from Schafer and Simmonds, with more conservative estimates indicating 53-74% of the bark being cellulose.
According to the Stanford Research Institute and the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, it is woody, low-moisture herbaceous plants that make the best biomass for liquid fuels. Hemp is both a low moisture herbaceous and a woody plant. (258)
Furthermore, hemp ethanol would eliminate
1) oil wars (hemp can grow in sand, thus in nearly every country on earth), (259)
2) oil spills (a hemp ethanol spill would just evaporate), (260) and
3) climate destabilization (hemp acts as a carbon sink – reversing the greenhouse effect) (261) – this would solve three of the biggest problems we face as a species.
Imagine The Savings
Think of what we could do with the money we save! Just add up the cost of the two biggest current oil wars (Afghanistan and Iraq): $1.5 trillion, (262) the cost of cleaning up a couple of big oil spills: $80 billion, (263) and the costs of dealing with climate destabilization – an average of $20 billion or so per year for each year between 2020 and 2050 – or roughly $600 billion total for Canada. (264) The US being 10 times bigger, one could expect the costs to be ten times greater, or $6 trillion dollars over a 30-year period.
So we take that $8-or-so trillion of future money wasted on the fossil fuel industries and add it to the $3-or-so trillion from the over-all nuclear power-related costs including the cost of cleaning up a possible future two dozen “level 7” nuclear power plant disasters in earthquake-prone Japan, and instead of doing all that we instead spend the $11 trillion on solar, wind, geothermal, wave and hemp ethanol, we’d be doing alright as a species.
I daresay we would solve our energy problem 3 times over. Those are far from hard numbers, but I think I made my point.
But that’s just the energy problem. We still have all this radiation pollution lying around everywhere. What are we to do about that? Hemp and mushrooms, that’s what!
Cleaning Up The Soil Part 1 – Hemp
According to experts in the field, hemp is “one of the best” crops for “phytoremediation” – using plants to clean up toxic pollution in soil. (265) Hemp was one of the crops used to help clean up Chernobyl. (266) Research should be focused on finding a way to grow a hemp crop to create ethanol and clean the soil at the same time. One day, the radioactive metals could be separated from the fuel, and farmers will clean the soil while making a profit with free-from-radiation fuel crops. This is already being discussed as a possibility, but so far the author has not seen the technology manifest into reality. (267) Sunflowers, field mustard, amaranthus and cockscomb are other plants good for phytoremediation. (268)
Cleaning Up The Soil Part 2 – Fungi
Another option for soil remediation is fungi – or “mycoremediation”. The world’s leading expert on the subject – Paul Stamets – came up with this eight-point plan to respond to the Fukushima disaster:
1) Evacuate the region around the reactors.
2) Establish a high-level, diversified remediation team including foresters, mycologists, nuclear and radiation experts, government officials, and citizens.
3) Establish a fenced off Nuclear Forest Recovery Zone.
4) Chip the wood debris from the destroyed buildings and trees and spread throughout areas suffering from high levels of radioactive contamination.
5) Mulch the landscape with the chipped wood debris to a minimum depth of 12 – 24 inches.
6) Plant native deciduous and conifer trees, along with hyper-accumulating mycorrhizal mushrooms, particularly Gomphidius glutinosus, Craterellus tubaeformis, and Laccaria amethystina (all native to pines). G. glutinosus has been reported to absorb – via the mycelium – and concentrate radioactive Cesium 137 more than 10,000-fold over ambient background levels. Many other mycorrhizal mushroom species also hyper-accumulate.
7) Wait until mushrooms form and then harvest them under Radioactive HAZMAT protocols.
8) Continuously remove the mushrooms, which have now concentrated the radioactivity, particularly Cesium 137, to an incinerator. Burning the mushroom will result in radioactive ash. This ash can be further refined and the resulting concentrates vitrified (placed into glass) or stored using other state-of-the-art storage technologies.” (269)
Will this work? Who knows? It seems to be a lot more reasonable than what the Japanese are currently doing with the radioactive pollution.
The Topic Of Cancer
Once we’ve begun to replace nuclear power and clean the soil, we will still have to survive all the radiation that is currently floating around in our environment. As it turns out, many of the medicinal elements in cannabis are some of the most effective anti-cancer agents known. According to research done by Rob Callaway in a yet to be published work, cannabis has been found to be effective in wide range of cancers;
Multiple animal and preclinical studies, as well as a few case and/or pilot studies strongly suggest that cannabinoids are cancer fighting agents for a wide range of cancers, including breast carcinoma (Cafferal et al., 2010; Cafferal, Sarrió, Palacios, Guzmán, & Sánchez, 2006; De Petrocellis et al., 1998; Ligresti et al., 2006; McAllister, Christian, Horowitz, Garcia, & Desprez, 2007), prostate cancer (Mimeault, Pommery, Wattez, Bailly, & Hénichart, 2003; Ruiz, Miguel, & Diaz-Laviada, 1999; Sarfaraz, Afaq, Adhami, & Muhktar, 2005), pancreatic adenocarcinoma (Carracedo et al., 2006; Michalski et al., 2008), colorectal carcinoma (Patsos et al., 2005), skin carcinoma (Casanova et al., 2003), neuroblastoma (Guzmán, 2003), lung carcinoma (Guzmán, 2003; Preet, Ganju, & Groopman, 2008), uterus carcinoma (Guzmán, 2003), oral cancer (Whyte et al., 2010), cervical carcinoma (Ramer & Hinz, 2008), lymphoma (Gustafsson, Christensson, Sander, & Flygare, 2006; Gustafsson et al., 2008), gliomas (Blázquez et al., 2003; Blázquez et al., 2004; Galve-Roperh et al., 2000; Guzmán et al., 2006; Massi et al., 2004; Sánchez, Galve-Roperh, Canova, Brachet, & Guzmán, 1998), leukemia cells (Jia et al., 2006; Powles et al., 2005), and biliary tract cancers (Leelawat, Leelawat, Narong, & Matangkasombut, 2010). In fact, the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the cannabinoids have anticancer properties, with hundreds of peer-reviewed studies to date demonstrating these effects (see http://www.cannabisscience.com/ for a list of over 800 peer-reviewed cannabis and cancer references). (270)
Callaway also points out that, due to pressure from elite groups, human studies of cannabis as a treatment for cancer have been kept to a minimum. Reports of effective treatment of cancer with cannabis have been mostly confined to anecdotes from medical marijuana activists and their customers. (271) But more and more doctors are speaking out against the common practice of ignoring anecdotal evidence in favor of waiting on studies that are never given the go-ahead.
One doctor recently stated;
… it is not reasonable to suggest that the observations of doctors and patients are less reliable than clinical trial evidence. (272)
… the medical profession has a tendency to discard out of hand, and disparagingly, ‘anecdotal’ information. Digitalis, morphine, atropine, and the like are chemical derivatives that stem from anecdotal folklore remedies. After all, one anecdote may be a fable, but 1,000 anecdotes can be a bibliography. … A vital function of the medical profession is to sift the anecdotes and submit them, if possible, to scientific evaluation. But it all starts as anecdote. (273)
And yet another stated:
“As Louis Lasangna, M.D., has pointed out, controlled experiments were not needed to recognize the therapeutic potential of chloral hydrate, barbiturates, aspirin, curare, insulin or penicillin. He asks why regulators are now willing to accept the experiences of physicians and patients as evidence of adverse effects but not as evidence of therapeutic effects. (274)
Even the US Federal Government has taken note of the anecdotal evidence. Their National Cancer Institute reported that cannabis is an effective treatment for some types of cancers. (275) This appears to be a change from previous years, when the NCI was reluctant to admit what they apparently knew about cannabis’s anti-tumor effects. (276)
Old School Greed
Even the US Patent office has granted a patent to GW Pharmaceuticals – business partners with Bayer – for phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer. (277) It’s a special kind of greed that would patent a natural, grow-it-in-your-backyard yet-still-illegal cure for cancer. This type of greed harkens back to the time of James the First of England, when patents were granted for all sorts of common things – like salt, for example. Due to the predictable uproar, King James had to revoke all the “discovery-type” patents and limit patents for “projects of new invention” only. (278) If only that limit had remained.
Both of the most well-known and well-studied cannabinoids, THC (279) and CBD (280), are involved in the shrinking of tumors, as well as some of the “terpenes” or “volatile oils” found in cannabis such as myrcene and pinene. (281)
Other Helpful Effects
Cannabis also provides an anti-nauseant or “anti-emetic” effect (282) that helps those undergoing chemotherapy to maintain a more normal existence, as well as an appetite-stimulation effect – “the munchies” – essential for surviving both conventional and alternative cancer treatments. (283) An excellent film on the subject of how useful cannabis can be to treat cancer, What if Cannabis Cured Cancer, is now online. (284)
And the number one food to aid in the combating of cancer? Hemp seed. It is the essential fatty acids found in hemp seed that give it the special healing powers that sets it apart from all other foods;
Hemp seed oil’s exceptional concentrations of EFAs (essential fatty acids) are what make it so special. In concept, this oil could provide all of our EFA necessities for life. Essential fatty acids are the omega fats that cannot be produced by the body and must be ingested. They are known for their role in preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, arthritis and much more. The seven-time Nobel Prize nominee, Dr. Johana Budwig, a pioneer of EFA research, reported success in treating heart infraction, arthritis, cancer, and other common diseases with massive doses of EFAs. (288)
As it turns out, mushrooms – even magic mushrooms – are also being looked at for various forms of anti-cancer treatment. Psilocybin, from Psilocybe mushrooms, is being investigated as a treatment for the depression that accompanies cancer treatment. (289) The famous red with white spots hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita Muscaria has a reputation as a folk medicine to treat cancer with. (290) Even the poisonous Amanita phalloides – or “death cap” mushroom – is being investigated as a potential cure for cancer. (291)
By criminalizing naturally-occurring poisons, we risk losing our chance to transform them into medicines. As Casanova wisely pointed out; “In wise hands poison is medicine. In foolish hands medicine is poison.”
How to Save The Future
There’s been a quantum leap technologically in our age, but unless there’s another quantum leap in human relations, unless we learn to live in a new way towards one another, there will be a catastrophe.
– Albert Einstein
In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men’s souls …
– Charles Chaplain, The Great Dictator, 1940 (293)
It’s that very special kind of greed – a greed that is a modern-day variation of the “let’s patent salt” greed, let’s call it “monopoly capitalism” for lack of a better term – that puts everyone’s life at risk. Everyone on earth. Everyone including the monopoly capitalists, and their children and grandchildren. It manifests into slavery and war profiteering and nearly every large-scale evil in the world.
It has grown bigger and more dangerous throughout history. It resulted in a series of acts by the English Parliament that attempted to make the American colonies artificially dependent on England for goods; an attempt that backfired into the American Revolution. (294) It resulted in an attempt by England to monopolize the sale of salt in India, which again backfired into independence for India. (295)
It resulted in the Flexner Report shutting down the herbal medicine schools, (296) in hemp being outlawed in North America, (297) in the trolley (298) and electric car (299) being killed, in herbs rarely being covered under public healthcare programs or health insurance, (300) in some people trying to set up a marijuana monopoly today (301) and in the red tape surrounding the growing of industrial hemp while massive subsidies go to oil, gas and nuclear energy. (302)
It’s not the voice of the people saying “how can I make a decent living? How can I feed my family and put my kids through school?”; rather, it’s the voice of absolute greed saying “how can I make all the money. How can I make a killing?”
Oh how I wish the greed of today – the current flavor of greed that has the rulers of the world tightly in it’s grip – would backfire into a global revolution that turns the political system of every country into a mixture of Switzerland’s and Nunavut’s, where the entire planet could practice direct democracy and consensus decision-making through proportionally-elected representatives while at the same time limiting the power of (and rendering more accountable) the captains of industry that keep fucking up the environment and starting wars over and over and over again.
100 years ago it was just the risk of starvation and dying in wars (wars that were themselves efforts to take over land and resources while selling weapons, fuel and other war-materials at marked-up prices) that put all our lives at risk. But today’s greed has also manifested in types of pollution – radiation, oil spills, greenhouse gasses, etc. – that put our very lives at risk regardless of where we live or what we do for a living.
Unless we find the courage to replace monopoly capitalism with some form of enhanced cooperation and harmony, unless we replace the race to the finish line with an effort to get everyone over the finish line, we will end up dying out as a species. Dying of our own hubris, short sightedness and greed.
The changes we need to make are relatively simple. First off, we must end the division between “medical” and “recreational” cannabis users. Given the facts that
1) cannabis can banish depression, remove stress and shrink tumors and
2) there’s a lot of stressful and/or depressing situations everyone must navigate and plenty of radiation floating around in this world, I think we can safely say that cannabis is a preventive herbal medicine for everyone – those who are sick, and those who wish to remain healthy. Every user is a medical user – some just use it for preventive medicine. Everyone is legit – doctor’s note or not.
Moreover, we must switch over from the synthetic ways to the natural ones, from non-renewable to renewable energy. We must research natural methods of cleaning up our messes and applying those methods to where we made our nuclear mistakes. We must invest in things that can’t (or shouldn’t) be patented – such as cannabis medicines, renewable energies, public transportation, bioremediation of the soil – but that might still be the best solution for cancer and radiation sickness. We must grow hemp and mushrooms everywhere, without all the red tape of the current hemp bureaucracy and hemp seed monopoly, to clean the soil and to bring the price down on hemp ethanol and hemp food.
This may be achieved by educating the population of the world as to the advantages of making such changes. It will also take switching over from an economic system that rewards individuals who amass great wealth despite irresponsible and horrific behavior, to one which rewards individuals who amass great reputations from contributing good things to society regardless of personal wealth.
We need to, in MLK Jr.’s words, learn to “walk the Earth as brothers and sisters”, to truly share economic and political power rather than to pretend to share these powers while continuing to live as rulers and livestock. It seems like the only way the human race will survive.
(Read the full article and view the list of sources at Cannabis Culture)
Read “Part 1: What Happened?”.
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