The Hemp Conspiracy

 

Published 12/9/18

 

Chapter One

Professor Andrew Anderson had a doctorate in Environmental Studies and a second one in Botany. He strolled into the big lecture hall at UNLV carrying a large black plastic bag and approached the podium.

He was a very popular teacher of first-year environmental studies at the large university located in Las Vegas. The rambunctious students suddenly went quiet.

The students flocked to his lectures because he had a flair for the dramatic and was always accessible. He also had a sense of humor, and he didn’t try to push radical political ideas like some of the other professors.

Many of his students were tired of the hate-mongering rhetoric of some academics. Professor Anderson dealt with solutions to problems.

Professor Anderson was young, only in his mid-forties, a bachelor, and ruggedly handsome. He had spent much of his life living in country as he tried to research the environment, especially the fragile oceans. They covered seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface and supported ninety-nine percent of all the life on the planet.

“Today we are going to talk about garbage,” he announced to everyone in his class in a loud voice.

He dramatically threw the garbage bag in the air. It landed with a thump on a table which had been set up in front of the small podium. He turned to the large chalkboard behind him and wrote in huge letters the word GARBAGE.

“Turn off your cell phones,” he ordered.

“Why?” a student asked.

“So, you can learn something and not just look things up during this discussion.”

He then went to the table and tore open the black bag. The garbage was strewn across the long table top, some dropping to the floor.

“Can anyone tell me how much of this garbage is recyclable?” He challenged his students knowing that they couldn’t look it up on their devices.

One brave young man didn’t sense the trap the professor had set up and replied. “I think the number is around twenty percent,” he offered.

“Wrong,” the professor yelled out and slammed the table with the palm of his hand. “Actually, all of it is recyclable. And by the way, recyclable is just a word that was made up to identify some specific items. You see, everything will eventually breakdown and return to the earth. The big problem is that all garbage doesn’t degrade at the same rate.”

“You’re referring to plastics, aren’t you?” another young man shouted out confidently.

“Ah, now we’ve hit on something important.” Professor Anderson replied enthusiastically and pointed at the student. “Tell me, when were plastics invented?”

“No clue,” the student acknowledged.

“For the record,” the educator said. “Leo Baekelan is credited with inventing plastics. He was a Belgian-born American chemist. That took place in 1907. Do you know what his first invention was?”

“I don’t know,” the same student stammered.

“It was a synthetic thermostat. From that date until the nineteen sixties, plastic became the go to material for everything from telephones to chairs. But in 1960, a major form of plastic was invented. Anybody know what it was?” The professor scanned the crowd expectantly for an answer.

“I believe it was the invention of the plastic bottle,” a pretty female student in the front row called out. Her name was Lilly. She often came to the professor’s office for private tutoring much to his delight.

“That’s correct,” the charged-up professor agreed. “And what came next?”

“Disposable plastic bags,” Lilly said confidently as she re-crossed her long legs.

“Also correct, and why did they replace paper bags?”

“I believe they were cheaper and easier to handle,” the young woman responded.

“Well, I see at least one of you has done your assignment.” That got a chuckle from the students who knew his reputation.

“But, didn’t California recently ban plastic bags?” another student asked.

“You are right,” Professor Anderson replied and pointed at the student. “But, I’m afraid that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It is the beginning of the end of plastics.”

“I don’t understand,” the student stammered.

The professor replied as he sat on the edge of the garbage table. “Many more states and many more products will soon be outlawed. Does anyone know why?”

“I know,” a student said. “It’s because they don’t breakdown like organic products.”

“You’re close,” the professor answered and once again pointed at the student, “but you’re wrong.”

“What else could it be?”

“That’s actually a symptom. The reason plastics are now on the endangered list is because of an event that happened in 1985 when scientists discovered something.”

“What event?” a student called out.

“Scientists discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the middle of a desolate part of the South Pacific Ocean. It is currently larger than the state of Texas and growing at an alarming rate. The discovery was the actual catalyst for change.”

“Why is that the reason?” Lilly asked from the front row as she tilted her head in confusion.

“Ah, thanks for asking the question,” the educator responded cheerfully.

“When scientists began to study the phenomena caused by the ocean currents called gyres, they discovered several facts. First of all, fish and even birds will eat any garbage. They found plastics in the bellies of birds and fish. Some birds had as many as twenty water-bottle caps in their stomachs.

“Second, many sea animals can get caught in the pieces of garbage, especially sea turtles. Fish netting is the third most common item in the patch.

“Thirdly, they discovered that plastic sometimes dissolves rather quickly, but when it does, it breaks down in tiny little microplastic balls. These pieces are so small that fish and other animals swallow them like plankton. As a result, we’re already finding the microplastics in some of our food. It’s getting dangerous.

“At the current rate of growth, there will be more garbage in the oceans than fish by 2050.”

“Why aren’t we doing something about all the garbage?” One student yelled out with concern.

“Well, we are just starting to defend ourselves from plastic,” the professor replied. “But there are now five garbage patches, one in each major ocean. And understand this, plastic bottles and bags have only been around for less than sixty years.”

The professor went to the podium and pressed a button. A picture of the garbage patch appeared on the screen of the huge TV monitor on the wall behind him. The next slide showed the position of all five major garbage patches in the oceans. The students were stunned.

“But surely the government is doing something about the garbage, aren’t they?” A concerned student shouted out.

“Which government do you mean?” the educator fired back. “This all takes place in international waters. No one governs the oceans.”

“Certainly, someone watches over the oceans, don’t they?” a male student in the back shot back.

“Well, NATO has a division called UNCLOS,” the professor offered. “But, only 167 countries belong to NATO, and their main objective is to reach agreements on what are territorial waters and what are international waters for member countries. They also do not have any enforcement capabilities.

“There is also IMO or the International Marine Organization. But, they govern the shipping vessels and not the ocean.”

“So, you’re saying nothing is being done about all the garbage?” a student asked incredulously.

“I didn’t say that,” the professor corrected him as he shook his head. “A Danish student named Boyan Slat invented a way to collect huge amounts of garbage at one time using long hollow tubes that herd the debris into large batches that can be scooped up. His invention is currently being used in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He believes he can clean it up in five years, but we’ll see.

“Also, a fisherman invented the SeaBin. It’s a bucket that sucks water off the surface and garbage with it. It works well off of docks. But it takes maintenance to keep it running and we’ll need millions of them to keep the harbors clean.

“In addition, Baltimore now has an energy free barge with a conveyer belt that scoops up garbage and deposits it into a dumpster right in the harbor.

“There are organizations that patrol the beaches and pick up anything riding in with the tide. Many beaches are asking users to pick up three pieces of garbage when they come to swim. Finland recycles almost one hundred percent of all its garbage already. Companies like Target, McDonalds, Kroger, and Dunkin Donuts are phasing out plastic products. The list is growing too.

“This type of progress is a start, but we have a long way to go,” the professor commented.

“Is one of the top polluters the United States?” a student asked, sure he knew the answer.

“Not even close,” Professor Anderson replied as he counted them off using his fingers. “The top pollution contributors are: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. They all have inadequate waste management systems and are heavy manufacturers of plastic products. China produces over forty-six percent of the world’s garbage.”

“I recently read that China buys our garbage and ships it back to China. Is that true?” a student asked.

Before Professor Anderson could answer, the door in the back to the lecture hall opened and two burly men strolled inside. They sat down in the back and stared at the educator with the dead-eyes of trouble makers. They both were dressed in casual clothes and had shaved heads. The professor didn’t balk or even become nervous as many people sat in on his lectures. But the two men looked more like dock workers than someone interested in pollution.

What are these two guys doing in my class? Professor Anderson wondered. And what do they want?

“Professor?” the student asked, waiting for a reply.

“Oh, sorry,” the now perplexed teacher apologized. “That’s correct and certainly adds to the pollution, but China now has put restrictions on ‘foreign garbage’ and will only accept certain types. This means a lot more is being sent to dump sites in the US or to the alternative South East Asia countries thus adding to the problem.”

The professor kept a wary eye on the two intruders.

“Okay, let’s talk about solutions,” he announced and clapped his hands for attention. “There are three ways to end this problem. Does anybody know one?”

There were no responses, just as the educator expected. After a minute of uncomfortable silence, Professor Anderson turned and wrote them on the chalk board.

“The three solutions work hand in hand, they are: First, clean up the mess in the oceans—we are already starting to do that.

“Second, prevent the garbage from ever entering the oceans. There are people working on that. You should know that ten major rivers around the world deposit the most garbage into the oceans.

“Third, we must find viable alternatives to the devasting petro-chemical plastic conundrum.

“I hope there are people working on that problem?” Lilly asked.

“To be sure, there are,” he responded.

When he turned back towards his students, he was surprised to find the two men were gone.

“Your assignment for the next class is to research the alternatives. I’ll give you a hint—hemp.”

He then dismissed the class and hurried off to his office.

***

As Professor Anderson walked down the long hallway to his office, he spied a well-dressed older man standing outside his doorway. He ignored the various people lingering in the hallway. Some were waiting for other professors or waiting for something else. He picked up his pace and when he reached his office door, the man smiled and said, “we need to talk and get away from here immediately.”

“Who are you and what do you want?” Andrew Anderson asked with growing anxiety.

“I know you are in serious trouble and I’m here to help you,” the man replied.

“What kind of trouble?” the educator asked in disbelief.

“Let’s go right now and I’ll explain.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me who you are. We can talk in my office.”

The man reached into his suit jacket and handed a card to the professor. The card simply read, “Colton Banyon.”

Chapter Two

“We have to leave right now,” Colton Banyon repeated in a stronger voice.

“We can talk in my office. That’s the best I can do,” the professor insisted. He turned to unlock his office door and found it had been jimmied.

Banyon pushed open the office door and Professor Anderson was shocked to find that his office had been ransacked. His desk and cabinets were shattered. There were pieces all over his office floor. Paper from his files was strewn everywhere. His personal items had also been destroyed.

“What the…” he stuttered.

“The two men who barged into your lecture today did it,” Banyon explained. “And they are on their way here right now. You beat them because you took the teachers tunnel from the lecture hall and they couldn’t follow. They had to take the long way around above ground”

“But, why?”

“To kidnap you. They didn’t find what they were looking for in your office.”

“Kidnap me. But why?” the professor uttered. “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” He was now beginning to feel the sharp edge of panic. He stood in the doorway in abject shock and didn’t move a muscle.

“Don’t freeze up on me professor,” Banyon said as he grabbed the man and moved him away from the door.

“I don’t understand, what’s going on?”

“I can explain everything, but you have to come with me right now.”

Just as he finished speaking the two thugs turned the corner of the hallway and started jogging towards the two men who stood in the middle of the hallway. Their dead eyes were now filled with anger and determination.

“Oh, no, what will we do? We can’t stop them, they’ll surely catch us,” the professor said with fright as he and Banyon headed the other way.

“We don’t have to stop them,” Banyon replied with confidence. “I’ve got back up.”

Two people detached themselves from the wall they were leaning on and blocked the hallway. One was a petite Asian woman in black stretch tights and matching black top. The other was a tall slender man in a tailored suit topped off by a Stetson cowboy hat.

“Get out of way,” one of the thugs screamed with a thick Slavic accent as he skidded to a halt.

“Sorry partner, I can’t let you through,” Chase Sanborn said in his deepest West Texas accent.

“I will break face,” the man replied in a malicious voice and got ready to punch Sanborn.

“You will have to break mine too,” Loni Chen said in a cold voice.

“Get out of way, you idiots” the second man screamed to intimidate them.

“You all are not going to kidnap the professor today,” Chase Sanborn responded. “We are here to stop you.”

The two thugs were completely surprised by Chase’s comment but continued their sloppy attempt to intimidate them. Anger surfaced on their unshaven faces.

“We see. First, we break face” one Slavic man responded and drew back his fist.

Loni kicked him in the shin, throwing him off balance. Chase hit him with an uppercut which staggered the bigger man. He followed with a right cross and cracked a few facial bones. The thug collapsed in a heap.

His companion was fast to react. He grabbed Loni by her long black hair, but she was too quick. She kicked high under his armpit connecting with the soft flesh there. His arm went numb and he let go of her hair. She placed a second kick between his legs. He cried out in pain as Chase hit him hard in the stomach. Loni then leapt into the air, twirled and struck him in the head with a roundhouse kick. The man went flying and when he landed, he didn’t get back up.

“That’ll teach them to stop trying to insult us,” Loni said as she brushed her hands on her clothes.

They turned and ran up the hallway and out the same door that Banyon had taken the professor.