The stuff of the future brought to us on the wings of the past—Milkweed seed floss?
It has been apparent to me for some time that in order to survive as a species we must reshape our economy into a plant-based economy. This will gradually be accomplished by teaching urban citizens the healthy value and fun of growing some of the food they eat.
Groups of citizen organizations such as Loving Garland Green, and individuals from the community sharing their knowledge and local urban agriculture experiences with their neighbors are advancing this transition.
I am not the first author to call attention to the finite aspects of our oil-based economy as evidenced by reams of literature on the topic. James Howard Kunstler is perhaps one of the most outspoken social critics of our oil-based economy. Unfortunately, much information on this topic follows in the vein of angry doomsday themes. It’s time to focus on the solutions that urban agriculture and local agriculture offer communities.
The Monarch Connection to Re-establishing a Plant-Based Economy
Over the past couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of research on Monarch butterflies and their habitats. Milkweed is central to Monarch survival, as the Monarch butterfly will only deposit eggs on milkweed leaves. Thus, some of my research has led me into the “weeds” –milkweeds that is.
Just yesterday I discovered a wonderful text: “Milkweeds – A Conservation Practitioner’s Guide.” This156-page document is available for free download from The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. This society, established in 1971, is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. To download a pdf of the report, click here.
In reading the text, I came across a section titled “Ethnobotanical, Industrial and Commercial Uses.” This information reminded me once again of the potential that a return to a plant-based economy offers the USA and indeed the world. Historically milkweeds have been used as a source of fiber, medicine, food, insulating material, and for the manufacture of flotation devices.
Milkweed is a host plant for Monarchs and more!
During World War II, more than 2 million pounds of milkweed seed floss were used to fill life preservers. In 1943, the federal government established a milkweed processing plant in Petoskey, Michigan. To acquire the needed raw material, massive pod collections were organized. These efforts involved farm organizations; youth clubs and even school children. Twenty-five million pounds of milkweed pods from 26 states were shipped to Michigan. As recently as 2011 scientists have been evaluating milkweeds as a potential substitute for crude petroleum. Milkweed latex is also being investigated as a possible source for rubber. Ogallala Comfort Company uses milkweed floss as a hypoallergenic filling for pillows and comforters.
To explore further the commercial value of the milkweed plant, take a look at this Nebraska company's products. Monarch Flyaway
Prior to the US Entry into World War II, we were a plant-based economy.
Petroleum-based plastics were in their infancy in the late 1930’s, early 1940’s. People sometimes forget that the USA and indeed the world were solidly a plant-based economy prior to 1941 and the entry of the USA into World War II.
Henry Ford loved farmers and wanted to help them during the Great Depression. He believed that bio-plastic cars would help the struggling agricultural industry. Thus, in 1941, Ford created a prototype car made from plant fibers such as wheat, soybeans, corn and hemp. This little car was so tough that its promotion invited people to try to dent it with sledgehammers.
Note: Although those promoting hemp (not a bad idea) have sites all over the Internet claiming this car is made entirely of hemp—this is not true. However that does not detract from the value and potential that bio-plastics offered then and now (in spite of Dupont)—and also the fact this innovative design did include hemp fibers.