Doomsday dank

The world’s supply of fresh water is drying up even while oil production nears its final peak. What role might cannabis growers play in a dangerous new world of declining resources?
Peak oil

Mainstream media often derides doomsday scenarios as the exclusive privilege of shrill environmentalists who perhaps smoked too much pot. But with internationally acclaimed financial analysts speaking out, how much longer can industry-friendly derision ring true?

This year, leading financial analysts for the oil and gas industry, John S Herold Inc, reported on one of the most hotly contested environmental issues of the decade: peak oil.

Herold Inc has a reputation for accurate predictions that go against the industry grain. In 2001, for example, Herold Inc alerted the public to the sharp divide between Enron’s dwindling profits and its inflated stock value, eventually leading to Enron’s bankruptcy and new rules for corporations throughout the US. Now Herold Inc says that peak oil is very real and that the world will be facing shortages in the near future, indeed within the next two years.

To some, it might seem a good thing the world is running out of oil. After all, a majority of reputable scientists have concluded that automobile pollution is a big factor in global warming. But there is a downside to running out of oil as well: a significant portion of the energy driving the world’s economies is derived from it.

North American economies are particularly reliant, because North American cities are built upon the presumption that large numbers of people can commute long distances by car to work. Because of this, some analysts believe that European and Asian cities, which were built either before the invention of the automobile or without the benefit of affordable gasoline and vehicle prices for the average consumer, might survive the oil crash better than cities in North America. City planners predict that North American cities will thus be forced to transform: their suburbs will become ghettos and their cores will become super-concentrated.

No water

The severity of an impending oil crash will be intensified by an unavoidable world-wide water shortage, caused partly by global warming. As with oil, the question is not “if” or even “when.” It’s already here and happening.

Around the world, aquifers are drying up faster than they are being replenished. Aquifers are vast underground lakes that are used as a source of drinking water and farm irrigation in most parts of the world. As the good water runs out, rainwater washes industrial pollution back into the declining underground water sources, making them less safe. Streams and rivers also face a constant increase in chlorine and pharmaceutical contamination as waste water from cities is flushed back into the environment.

Meanwhile, glaciers that have fed mountain streams and lakes for thousands of years are drying up. A heat wave in Europe last year saw the loss of 10% of its glaciers. Experts largely agree that Switzerland’s glaciers will vanish before 2050. In BC, the once-mighty glaciers of the Rockies have lost 50% of their mass in the last century, and at this rate even the largest will disappear before the end of the century. The culprit: back to global warming.

Consider the facts. Sink-holes in Florida have become such a problem that Governor Jeb Bush reportedly suggested refilling increasingly empty underground aquifers with waste water from the state’s toilets, and Tampa Bay spent $85 million on a failed ocean desalination plant. California is also considering ocean desalination, although the failed Tampa Bay plant has caused some concern around the issue. Regardless, something must be done as the dwindling resource has heated a squabble between cities and states that will only increase in severity.

The race is on for the wealthy to secure access to the life-giving liquid by emptying the cups of the poor. The European Union, for example, offered a deal this year that would allow third-world countries like Brazil and India access to European agricultural markets in exchange for agreements that would open the poorer countries’ water markets. The agreement would lead to the increased privatization of third world water so, ironically, as corporations stepped in to fill the market there would be less water to irrigate crops and thus fewer crops to sell on the European market. Third world countries, backed by competitor-wary water corporations already operating in their regions, have so far reacted disfavourably to the proposal.

Meanwhile, the US is attempting similar trade shenanigans with Canada and Latin America, pushing for them to agree to continue exporting water even when they are short on the precious liquid themselves. Coupled with privatization, such agreements would mean that if things get dry enough, only the wealthy will be able to afford water or the food grown from it.

Cannabis salvation

What does pot have to do with all of this?

Even if humankind should wake up before worse-case scenarios take hold, we have already begun spiraling towards disaster. With weather patterns out of control and measurable increases in drought occurring today in countries around the world, technologies, techniques and skills developed by indoor pot growers may be humankind’s only hope to feed the children of the future.

When the aquifers under our food belts dry up, micro-farming will replace large-tract farms by necessity, water will be expensive and in short supply and sunshine will be increasingly unpredictable. Many of us could be forced to grow food in our backyards or buy it from some local, small-scale farm.

Already, North America has faced successive years of flooding and droughts, early winters and late springs with unpredictable frosts and snowfalls. Should it get much worse, the future of small-scale farming might be indoors or in greenhouses supplemented with artificial lighting. While ensuring plants get enough light to grow, indoor and greenhouse cultivation could also minimize water use through recycling.

Since pot growers are the largest single source of knowledge and technology on indoor cultivation, and are distributed relatively evenly throughout the general population, they are uniquely situated to become the survival-skills teachers and food producers of the next decade. Their grow rooms are already set up and ready to go; their lights and equipment are already in place for the inevitable day when they will be called upon to serve and save their country.

Admittedly, growers would find it necessary to find new ways to power their systems, as water shortages will also lead to shortages of power from hydroelectric generators and gas-powered generators will be too expensive to be practical.

There are at least two solutions. One would be to use solar panels to charge batteries that would power lights on days without sun. Another would be to grow the hardy hemp plant outdoors, and use it to make a clean, burnable diesel fuel that could power electrical generators.

Paradoxically, it is prohibition that has largely forced pot growers to work indoors, but one day those same growers may be hailed as state heroes for the skills they learned under the yoke of tyranny.

In Reverend Damuzi’s next installment: hemp for fuel in Afghanistan?