How Green is Big Tech?

Over the course of my adult life I was, to varying degrees, involved in environmental issues. I was once active in the Green Party very early on and was always big on the 3 Rs. At the same time I was always an advocate of hemp. Hemp seemed a natural fit for anyone concerned with environmental health. Aside from being a good food and medicine crop it has many other uses from construction materials to fuel to automobile bodies to alternatives to plastic and more.

On top of all these uses hemp is a fantastic carbon sequestration crop and the carbon sequestration doesn't always end after harvest. Hemp can haul up to 22 tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere per hectare. Corn, by way of comparison only consumes about 11 tonnes per hectare. After harvest the plant can continue to absorb carbon (in the form of CO2) when the fibre is used to make hempcrete. Unlike traditional concrete which is a net carbon emitter, hempcrete is carbon negative. Hemp is clearly a champion of the need to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

Hemp has its supporters and its detractors and I became used to the idea that many among us are still opposed to hemp as legitimate commodity. Here in Canada, where it has been legal (with a ridiculous amount of regulaltion however) to grow for decades there are still those who think hemp is somehow a black market commodity and avoid it. Conservative institutions such as banks often reject hemp businesses for their services. This is especially true of credit card processing companies. This business has lost several over the years simply because hemp is an ingredient in the product.

Banks and credit card companies are, by their nature, conservative and resistance to hemp is almost to be expected. Modern "big tech" companies on the other hand are overtly liberal and progressive. They, one might think, would hold a different view of hemp. Sadly, such is not the case. Facebook and Alphabet, the two dominant "connecting" titans both actively block hemp companies and ultimately are thwarting environmental progress. Their stated concern for the environment, and especially climate change, ring hollow to this writer when shown in the light of their antipathy to hemp.

A recent conversation with a Google employee about my advertising being stopped revealed the shocking truth that hemp and bud (part of the name of my product) are prohibited words and cause for having advertising suspended. Even the crime of having the words on the website is sufficient to end all advertising. Pity the poor garden centres who might choose to let their customers know that one or another plants are budding out! Bud, however, is distinct in its connotations as it has long been used to describe the intoxicating variety of cannabis. Hemp, however, is a different story. Hemp has no such connotation excepting in the minds of the most ill-informed individuals. Is the world's premier purveyor of information among these ill-informed individuals?

Facebook too is guilty of hampering the effort to halt global warming through its anti-hemp position. It's ironic then that anyone posting any content that even mentions the word climate will be flagged with a little box letting people know what "real" climate science thinks. An article about hemp might be flagged as simultaneously promoting drug use and misinforming people about climate science! I wonder if I should have confidence in climate science information from someone who thinks hemp promotes illegal drug use. Clearly they are confused people.

What could be at the heart of their disdain for the mighty hemp plant? Are these progressives really deeply conservative at their core? It is difficult to believe the people running these behemoths are the type that are resistent to change and are therefore holding on to old, outdated notions that hemp and marijuana are one and the same. I expect it is something else that motivates this muzzling of the miracle crop.

One thought is that these companies focus on technological innovation are effectively blinding their thinking about solutions to climate change and other environmental problems. If one is in the habit of coming up with novel, patentable gadgets to solve problems it might be easy to overlook natural, already available solutions. That explanation isn't really fully satisfying though. It only explains why these silicon overlords would ignore hemp as a champion of environmental solutions. It fails to explain why they would actively suppress it on their platforms.

I think that the only reason these two companies would want to censor hemp is because it poses a threat. Both of these businesses have diverse investments outside of information technology. One example is medicine and healthcare. Hemp has long been known for its healthful benefits both from a nutritional and medicinal point of view. Do these companies take the view that novel, patented alternatives to hemp are too lucratic to allow an inexpensive natural competitor to survive? This is just one example, but hemp has so many diverse uses the threat could be coming in any number of industries or all of them at once. I would love to hear an alternate explanation to this, so leave your thoughts in the comments below.