Reprint from Kind Magazine
SOMEDAY A LITTLE BEAN MAY SAVE BIG SPERM WHALES
No, it isnít another Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale! But it could be.
Many whales, especially the sperm whales, are being hunted and killed for the oil in their bodies. The oil is used in perfumes, cosmetics, and to lubricate or "oil" machine parts. Just imagine. Giant whales are being slaughtered to be used in making tiny bottles of perfume.
Several years ago some people discovered that oil similar to, and maybe even better than, sperm whale oil, could be made from the beans of an American desert plant. The plant is called Jojoba.
A person who has been experimenting with Jojoba plants has written to KIND to tell you all about it. Here is her story.
A Little About Jojoba and Saving the Whales
By Kathie Aamodt
KSA Jojoba Experimentation & Research
Jojoba is a plant that is a desert shrub. It is found throughout the Sonoran Desert area of Mexico, California, and Arizona. The Jojoba plant produces beans which contain up to 50% their weight in oil. The oil found in the Jojoba beans is similar to that of the oil found in the sperm whale. if the world could produce enough Jojoba there would never again be a need to kill the sperm whale for oil.
Although this sounds like a very simple and quick solution to stopping all the needless slaughtering of sperm whales, it is not. In 1972 the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act made it illegal to bring whale meat and whale by-products, including sperm whale oil, into the United States. However, other countries are still slaughtering the sperm whale to obtain the oil. Until there is a replacement at a low price there does not seem to be an end to the slaughtering in sight.
Jojoba plants are either male or female. Since only the female Jojoba plants will produce beans and the males are only used for pollination, over planting is necessary so there are enough females. Unfortunately, it takes Jojoba at least 3 years to flower. Until that time you
cannot figure out the sex of the Jojoba plant. After the plant has flowered and sex is figured out, the extra males are removed and at least another 2 years are required before the females will produce beans. Five years is a long time to wait for the plants to produce beans, especially when demand for the oil is so heavy and supply so low.
Currently most Jojoba beans are from wild plants. There are few producing plantations at this time. There is a happier side to Jojoba though, it is believed to live and produce for at least 100 years. It also appears that after the plant starts to produce that it will produce larger quantities of beans each year as it grows larger.
Jojoba oil is not only similar to sperm whale oil, but superior. It is a non-greasy odorless oil which is actually a liquid wax. Unlike other oils, Jojoba oil easily sinks into the skin. It has an excellent future in the field of medicine. Medications will be able to be added to the oil to treat certain skin problems. Jojoba oil also does not allow certain types of bacteria to grow which could prove it to be extremely valuable in the treatment of such conditions as acne. The automobile industry may be able to use Jojoba oil in many ways.
The oil can stand up to high temperatures. There are a few companies using Jojoba oil now in such products as motor oil. They claim it increases miles per gallon of gasoline. It has already found its way into the beauty supply industry and can be found in shampoo, lotions, soaps, makeup, hair oils, conditioners, and acne treatments. As a general lubricant it seems to be outstanding. Even a rusty old zipper that does not want to work often can be made to work like new with a little Jojoba oil put on it. Each year more and more industries find that Jojoba oil can be used in their products to either replace something they were using or improve an old product.
The problem with Jojoba is that there are currently more uses for it than the supply. Since it takes at least 5 years before the plant will produce beans it looks like it will be a long time before there will be enough oil to meet the needs of industry. Although Jojoba is not an overnight cure to the slaughtering of the sperm whale, at least it is a start and the future for both Jojoba and the sperm whale look bright.
KIND Editor's Note