by Jesse Lopez
2020 has been quite the year. Every one of us has had a setback or two. Weddings, vacations, proms, concerts, festivals, and movie premieres were all ruined due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We watched one of the most divisive and destructive presidential elections in our country's history. We saw racial injustices take place right before our eyes with stories like Breonna Taylor's and Ahmaud Arbery's. We viewed Gorge Floyd suffocate under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin over a presumed counterfeit $20 bill. Most working-class Americans watched their saving dry up, and many are now jobless, on the verge of being displaced. There is no better way to say it, 2020 has just all around sucked.
With all this turmoil in the political, economic, and global realms, we have looked past the environmental crisis our planet is facing. Now we have all this pandemic's waste to add to the mix. The face masks and new demand for single-use plastics can only be a temporary fix. Think about how much of it you use each time you leave your house. The amount of waste created from anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizer bottles, and extra paper towels used to wipe down the countertops at retail and grocery stores. We are about to see more fires at landfills and refuse centers as those hand sanitizer bottles leak the fumes into the decomposing trash, increasing its flammability.
We need a better plan, people; our ecology is dependent on it. Not only do we have all this new waste, but we are about to see so much more. Waste coming from new vaccine formulations as the pharmaceutical industry prepares to vaccinate the entire world for the first time in history. For example, if you choose a vaccine that requires a shot, that syringe will go into a bio-hazardous waste bin. These bins need tons of chemicals during disposal and have a large emissions output. So, is it time to look to the future for answers, or should we look at our past?
I have long been a cannabis activist, defending the use and industrialization of hemp. I base my knowledge on historical facts and years of research comprised by myself and my colleagues. I recently sold out of the cannabis industry because I could see and predict the industry's unfortunate state. No one was willing to unite projects or funds. I saw no one basing their claims on scientific research or evidence, and I got out when the time was right. I now think it's time to look more to historical societies to help with our ecological crisis. Science can recreate many non-chemical non-plastic products archeologists have discovered still intact hundreds of years later.
We have all the answers sitting right in front of us in archives like the Smithsonian and other history museums worldwide. Many of these historic societies showcase several different cultures using hemp and other plants as primary resources in their day to day lives. From fibers, clays, and metals, humans developed and advanced natural components into fabrics, ceramics, and tools, never knowing when something perfect was created while always looking to better the previous design or model.
We have turned to plastics, fiberglass, and synthetic composites that prove to be not conducive to our ecosystem. For example, I recently purchased a pickaxe for some yardwork I was doing, and I was shocked to see that every pickaxe had a plastic handle. As I've mentioned in past articles, I live in Arizona, where the sun shines 99.9% of the time, and that sunshine is hot. You have to understand how much sun damage occurs on all desert dwellers' outdoor lawn furniture or anything left outside. If you don't own a shed to protect your yard tools, the sun rays will beat on the wood, drying it out faster, causing it to splinter and possibly crack or break. So, I fully understand why these companies decided to turn from their old wooden tools to different solutions.
But how are their decisions panning out for the world today? Not so good. Instead of rotting wood, we have plastics in landfills that will be around long after the original consumer dies. By mixing today's current technology with existing discovered traditional primitive artifacts and natural resources, we can modernize these designs for practical uses in our present world.
They could still use wooden handles in a few new ways. Even adding a few extra processes to the old wooden handle could decrease the demand for plastic handles. Simply dipping any wooden handle or piece of wood in a plant-based cellulose Acetate (like Warby Parker uses in their eyeglasses designs) could preserve the wood, creating a barrier between the wood as a way to seal it from our planet's natural elements. Or by using compressed sawdust with strong natural glues (like DELO-MONOPOX HT2860 adhesive) that hold up against the hard work and damage that occurs while in use. These adhesives are resistant to water and more protective against sun damage. These uncomplicated suggestions make a lot more sense than creating a new plastics factory.
Ideas like these are where it all starts. We need to have more active conversations about companies making the right moves to protect our environment. As we have started seeing more and more waste piling up due to this pandemic, we all need to start making better choices as consumers too. Let's stop funding the groups that are hurting us and our planet the most. We could all do as we please in a perfect world, but this isn't an ideal world. This world is the real world where your decisions today affect all of us tomorrow.