In the Philippine creation story, the first man Malakas (Strong One) and the first woman Maganda (Beautiful One) emerged from the two halves of a bamboo tree. It is one of many Asian origin myths that features bamboo—a plant that human beings have cultivated for more than a thousand uses, from buildings to food to paper.
Addressing global warming is another way it can be brought into service. Bamboo rapidly sequesters carbon in biomass and soil, taking it out of the air faster than almost any other plant, and can thrive on inhospitable degraded lands—the ideal place to put bamboo to work.
Just a grass, bamboo has the compressive strength of concrete and the tensile strength of steel. It reaches its full height in one growing season, at which time it can be harvested for pulp or allowed to grow to maturity over four to eight years. After being cut, bamboo re-sprouts and grows again.
Because bamboo is an invasive species in many places, which can spread with detrimental effects to native ecosystems, care should be taken to select appropriate locations and manage its growth.
Philippine creation story: Rodriguez, Evelyn I. “Malakas at Maganda.” In Encyclopedia of Asian American Folklore and Folklife, Volume One, edited by Jonathan H.X. Lee and Kathleen M. Nadeau, 386-387. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2010.
carbon [sequestered] over a lifetime: Toensmeier, Eric. The Carbon Farming Solution. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016.
top-ten…fastest-growing plants: Conservation Institute. “10 Fastest Growing Trees and Plants in the World.” April 25, 2014. http://www.conservationinstitute.org/10-fastest-growing-trees-plants-in-the-world/.
full height in one growing season: INBAR. Bamboo for Africa: A Strategic Resource to Drive the Continent’s Green Economy. Beijing: International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, 2015.
cultivated on…57 million acres: Toensmeier, Solution.
strength of concrete and…steel: INBAR, Bamboo.
“friend of the people”: Cumo, Christopher. “Bamboo.” In Encyclopedia of Cultivated Plants: From Acacia to Zinnia [3 Volumes]: From Acacia to Zinnia, 67-70. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2013.
phytoliths…carbon…remain[s] sequestered: Parr, Jeffrey, Leigh Sullivan, Bihua Chen, Gongfu Ye, and Weipeng Zheng. “Carbon Bio‐Sequestration Within the Phytoliths of Economic Bamboo Species.” Global Change Biology 16, no. 10 (2010): 2661-2667.
pulp [vs.] conventional pine plantation: T. K., Dhamodaran, R. Gnanaharan, and K. Sankara Pillai. “Bamboo for Pulp and Paper.” Kerala Forest Research Institute, 2003.