Kiss the Ground: A Must-Watch (Review)
The trailer for the Kiss the Ground documentary emphasizes the narration by Woody Harrelson – I don’t know much about him, but he is not an actor I particularly like, and he definitely doesn’t strike me as a champion of the environment. That’s why my initial assumption was that the whole documentary was a bit of a marketing gimmick.
So why did I watch it?
The preview (see below) makes it clear that this film is about investing in soil as a key solution to fight climate change and mitigate its impact. Now that is something I believe in and was curious to know more about.
What’s the issue?
Desertification is a problem in two-thirds of the world. By 2050, one billion people will be refugees of soil desertification.
Healthy soil is teeming with life: bugs, insects, bacteria, mycelium (mushroom networks) and other microorganisms – and this leads to things growing; it’s part of a healthy ecosystem. That is not just important for crops. Even an area covered in grass or “weeds” is full of life, and the roots of whatever is growing holds the soil in place rain or shine.
When we don’t nourish and care for our soil, it dies, and becomes dirt. That’s a problem because:
- Dead soil releases CO2 instead of capturing it
- Dead soil is not fertile and requires a lot more fertilizer and external chemical inputs to produce anything (including but not limited to glyphosate, also known as Roundup)
- Dirt has nothing (e.g. roots) holding it down, so it’s vulnerable to erosion and tends to lead to desertification
- Dirt leads to evaporation (water leaving the soil to go into the air, which emits heat and pushes rain clouds away) instead of the more desired transpiration (which is part of the water cycle and increases both humidity and rain)
While acknowledging that this is a huge oversimplification, the reality is that poor land leads to poor people, and that leads to social breakdown due to everything from more frequent and longer periods of drought, floods, mass migration, and more.
What’s the solution?
When managed properly, soil can capture CO2 (this is called “biosequestration” and is key to reducing the impact of climate change) – because reducing emissions is important but not enough. We need to capture carbon out of the atmosphere, too, and soil does that naturally if treated right.
The world needs a shift towards sustainable agricultural practices, ranging from soil regeneration to agroforestry, holistic land management, and permaculture – all different sides of a multifaceted dice that can contribute to making the world a better, safer, more productive place.
This isn’t an abstract, 10-year plan. Farmers can embrace such methods and see a huge change in their yields and the biodiversity of their farms – not to mention a climate resilient business that is adaptable and offers a diversity of crops beneficial to both the farmer and his or her community.
The documentary presents a few such cases, and seems hopeful that the tides are turning, with more and more farmers tired of being broke and at the mercy of the elements.
What you can do
The take-home message is that taking care of our soil is part of the solution. Food systems need to change, but before you think this is a high-level issue you can do nothing about, here are three things you can do to be a part of the solution:
- Vote with your dollars: Whenever you can, buy local and organic. Farmer’s markets are ideal for that. This applies to fruits and vegetables, and also meat – go for grass-fed whenever you can, even if it means you can no longer afford to eat meat every day.
- Watch the documentary: It has some of the best explanations I have ever seen about why soil is important and concrete solutions to reduce and mitigate the impact of climate change. And, it’s inspiring. (It’s available on Netflix.)
- Find out more: Look up and follow the Rodale Institute and the Savory Institute. Read white papers if you’re into the science, support them with a donation if you can, and follow them on social media if you just want shorter nuggets of reliable information about sustainable agriculture. The Kiss the Ground website also offers a slew of resources and even courses you can sign up for to learn more.
And if there’s another documentary or book you think is a must-see or must-read, I am always open to recommendations.