Building, News, North America

Call to arms from an unlikely hemp advocate: ‘Upset the status quo!’

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By Pamela Bosch

We’re at a time in history when the cannabis plant is being released from the lies and manipulations of people whose self-dealings have threatened our collective survival.  

Cognizant of the contradiction that a plant with so many beneficial properties has been illegal for decades, we are eager to assist the unleashing of its potential. 

The most recognizable attributes of cannabis come from the flower and seed – consciousness raising, pharmacological benefits, nutrition – these inspire us with opportunities to nurture our body, mind, and spirit. (Why has this been denied?)  But the plant gives more: Fast growing, it produces abundant, high quality fiber and cellulose for cloth, paper and building materials that could allow us to leave fossil fuels and trees in the ground.

Unlikely builder

I am an unlikely building pioneer; I don’t have a construction company or an architectural firm or a manufacturing company.  I don’t even have a revenue stream from what I do.  Nevertheless, here I am, a woman of retirement age going all out to change the way we build. I do this because I am stuck in a world in which humans have not worked together to build what is best for ourselves and our progeny, but a world that has justified the illegality of a plant that offers us so many gifts. I do this because once in it, I discovered that there was a space for me.  In disrupting the status quo, there is value in being a renegade, a generalist, an artist, a grandmother, a human being. 

Stumble upon

I stumbled upon hemp and lime (“hempcrete”) as a building material when I was looking for non-toxic insulation to upgrade my energy inefficient home. The more I researched, the more I saw the conundrum: Here is a solution to so many problems, yet scores of building experts are inclined to dimiss it. 

The properties of a good building are not so esoteric that they can’t be grasped by a layperson.  A building should be comfortable to live in, safe, easy to heat and cool; it should be aesthetically pleasing and last a long time requiring minimum maintenance.  It should not dump carbon into the atmosphere or toxins into our bodies.  Using the waste of an annually renewable, adaptable plant with so many other uses just makes sense.

With the help and commitment of some like-minded pioneers in Europe and North America, I have managed to build a beautiful house in Northwest Washington State.  Steve Allin, Alex Sparrow, Wolf Jordan are among the builders whose shoulders I’ve stood upon, giving me the knowledge and courage to go ahead.  The house can no longer be called a pipedream or an abstraction or a cannabis induced hallucination. It is an efficient, non-toxic, beautiful structure that exudes its own merit. 

Be outside the system

As a result of this experience, I have not only built a house, but I have become immersed in the challenges of advocating in uncharted territory. I’ve come to see that it is an advantage to not be part of a system that has become impossibly bound to rules evolved under unnatural constraints.  More than the laws of physics or the consequences of downstream toxins, changes to the way we build are subject to the economics and politics of business as usual. 

Who will finance, permit, insure, design buildings from this “alternative” material? Who will take risks for the health and sustainability of our species without the guarantee of immediate gain?  The rules of the game that made it possible for the likes of Richard Nixon and Harry Jay Anslinger to demonize an inestimably valuable companion to meeting human needs have an ironic credibility in the operation of our structures of power.  

I like to frame it this way:  the cannabis plant is emblematic of how we humans have lost our way.  While offering a path to health and abundance, it has instead been prohibited.  What if, instead, our business with each other emphasized the advantages of shared abundance, mutual benefit, self-empowerment, of bringing forward what is collectively beneficial to the total well-being of our planet and our progeny?

Pamela Bosch is an educator, artist and hemp activist. She is the founder of Highland Hemp House, a living hemp construction project and education center.


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