Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Kiss the Ground
“Kiss the Ground” is a groundbreaking and eye-opening documentary about soil and how we can use it to improve farming and reverse climate change. Filmmakers Joshua and Rebecca Tickell and narrator Woody Harrelson share their vision for what is known as regeneration, the renewal or restoration of a body or biological system.
“We must harness the regenerative power of earth itself,” states Harrelson.
SPOILER ALERT! I am about to discuss everything in this documentary so if you want to see it first go to Netflix, chill and come back here to revisit.
The Dust Bowl
The plow was a popular machine that drilled and turned the soil on farms to plant seeds. In the 1930s, America saw erosion in ‘the Dust Bowl.’ Farmers tilled fields and left the soil exposed. The Southern Plains from Texas to Nebraska were hit by a severe drought with intense dust storms and high winds killing people and livestock. It was a significant part of the Great Depression, 1929-1933. It moved farming families out of the area. By 1934, roughly 200 million acres were destroyed in the Great Plains.
President Roosevelt establishes Soil Conservation Service
Seeing the devastation in person, President Franklyn D. Roosevelt developed Soil Conservation Service to save America’s soil. Today it’s known as the National Resources Conservation Service or N.R.C.S. The mission is to reduce tilling and plowing, but they continue today.
People don’t like change
Farmers have been farming the same way for decades and don’t like change. They don’t understand the principles of working the soil and making the soil work for them.
Everything runs on carbon.
Human beings are built on carbon. Microbes in soil feed off carbon. Carbon is the driving force. Carbon dioxide is a gas. Human beings breathe carbon dioxide out. Plants breathe carbon dioxide in. Additionally, human beings create carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels. That burned carbon dioxide heads into the skies and stays up there.
Carbon isn’t all bad. It’s actually good. Plants, using sunlight as energy, pull carbon dioxide out of the air. The plants turn it into carbon fuel and that helps them grow. Plants take in carbon dioxide and use it for carbon and producing oxygen.
Forty percent of carbon entering the ground goes directly to microorganisms; worms, amoeba and other microbes. This forms nutrients. Micro-organisms make a glue-like substance out of carbon fuel. They control the flow of air and water in pockets.
The Soil is Alive!
Soil absorbs carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it. It’s a universe of life. There are more bacteria cells than human cells in the body. More than half of the human body is made up of micro-organisms. Amazing!
Chemicals and Pesticides
Crops sprayed by chemicals and pesticides leave far less microbes, micro-organisms, thus, nutrients in our food. The nutrients that strengthen our bodies and make us healthy are depleted.
The more farmers till the soil, the weaker the soil gets. Then those farmers rely on pesticides and chemicals to save their weakening fields. This is the awful relentless cycle of industrial agriculture.
Glyphosate Most Likely Causes Cancer
Corn is mostly sprayed with glyphosate, a chemical that most likely causes cancer. Absorb that for a moment. Has it sunk in yet? Glyphosate has been discovered in our drinking water. Bottoms up. Chemical and pesticide companies like Monsanto are now being sued for millions in lawsuits by cancer patients. So, next time you’re looking to purchase Roundup to spray your garden, think again. Glyphosate not only kills microbes in the soil, but in humans too.
Since the 1970s, we have lost one-third of Planet Earth’s top soil. We have one world and we’re losing it. We have one home and we’re letting it go to wasteland.
Allan Savory, the Founder of Holistic Management, talks about desertification, destroying the soil, turning it into erosion, desert. Soil, plants and earth are connected. Without living, thriving plants, there will be more erosion. More plants equals more rain. With more carbon dioxide in the air, warming things up, rain clouds are pushed away. When plants thrive, rain clouds are more likely to stick around.
Poor Land = Poor People
By changing the micro-systems we can affect macro-systems and regenerate the world. In the meantime, people are being pushed off their eroding land, becoming refugees. Poor land leads to poor people. Suddenly, there’s a social breakdown. And the weather becomes more unpredictable with wild floods in some areas.
60 Harvests Left
Could there really only be only 60 harvests left? Paul Hawkin wrote a book called Drawdown about how we can reverse the climate crisis. Hawkins suggests we use biosequestration or the removal of carbon from the atmosphere by photosynthetic plants and bacteria. Basically, we take the carbon dioxide from the air and hold it in the soil, retaining it.
“Our farms are going to dust. Our farmers are going to bust,” says Gabe Brown.
Gabe Brown calls himself a regenerative rancher. He believes livestock should roam freely. After struggling to farm the usual ways, Brown took a chance by implementing natural ways of farming. Plows should not till the land. His machines cut very little grass. When rain hits tilled soil it runs away from the soil. This prevents the ground to absorb water and carbon dioxide.
Stock image. Not in film.
Free the Livestock
Almost all of the crops are for feeding animals. Monoculture farming holds feedlots where cows are shoved into tight spaces on top of each other, causing greenhouse gases.
When cows roam freely they don’t push GHG (Greenhouse gas) into the air. The gases seep back into the soil below, restoring it. Feedlots send GHG way up into the atmosphere and the carbon dioxide doesn’t come back down to return to the earth. The cows aren’t the problem. It’s how and where the cows are placed that determines the outcome.
Take the Money and Run?
Farmers are hesitant to change their farming ways when they’re guaranteed money before entering their fields. The United States gives $25 billion in subsidies.
Most farmers barely make a living. They struggle to make a few dollars per acre and that’s with the assistance of subsidies and GMOs. Brown's ranch makes significantly more money farming the natural way.
Brown also stresses that diversification is key to reversing climate change. Brown grows wheat, barley, oats, alfalfa, vegetables, etc. His ranch also has bees producing honey. His animals include lamb, pigs and cows. Brown says diversity builds resiliency into the ecosystem.
Most farmers work farms owned by someone else. When land owners and farmers can see for themselves the difference between old school farming and natural regenerative farming, they won’t go back to those old ways. Farmers will see the profits too. Farmers could make $100 billion annually! Farmers could reduce and eventually avoid subsidies all together.
“If you build a healthy farm ecosystem, you’re going to be resilient. You’re going to take the risk out of it.”
If politicians don’t see this or push this forward it’ll be up to the people. Educate the farmers. Let the farmers educate the people. Let the people tell everyone they know.
Ian Somerhalder, actor and environmental activist, says that tall grass is perfect for capturing carbon dioxide back into the soil. The ability to add more carbon dioxide back into the land can happen globally. Somerhalder says cow poop is full of microbes that would be ideal to fertilize the land.
Food For Thought in San Francisco
What if all those trash piles covering the land in landfills could be put to work, making the earth healthier? The idea is to collect leftover food and turn it into compost. Compost assists soil in holding water. It’s a natural sponge.
In San Francisco, California, residents have three different disposal cans; trash, recycling and compost. The program of taking trash and turning it into compost is so successful that any residents not placing food waste into the compost cans could be fined. Empty trash cans are very much encouraged. If the trash can is full, the authorities will charge you.
Seven hundred tons of food scraps are being turned into compost daily. Food waste is full of nutrients and carbon. It’s sorted at a facility and goes through a process that further refines it into compost. Then the compost heads to a farm to regenerate the earth.
San Francisco developed into the most renewable city in just a few short years. It’s economy has blossomed too. If it can work there the same model can be replicated in Los Angeles, Moscow and every city around the world.
In many ways, compost is about community. All the people in the area come together for a common purpose, healing the earth. There’s also the community of microbes breaking down the physical trash. One man or woman’s trash should be everyone’s treasure.
Collecting Food Scraps in Detroit, Michigan
“It’s really not waste. You can repurpose it,” says Pashon Murray, Founder of Detroit Dirt.
Murray collects food scraps from restaurants to make good rich dirt. She wants to keep food waste out of the landfills. Pashon is passionate about the environment. You should be too.
Poop belongs in the loop
Actor and Founder of GiveLove.org, Patricia Arquette went to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, to help the people rebuild after the devastating 2010 earthquake. It was discovered that water under the soil was getting contaminated. Sanitation was bad throughout the area. Bad sanitation could lead to diseases.
Patricia taught the Haitians how to turn their toilets into compost-friendly toilets. “People can learn to do this everywhere,” says Arquette. Her team went out to additional places like Uganda to educate people.
“We eat food. We poop it out. We can then treat it. And create soil that has good content for the plants. And then the circle just goes around and around,” says Arquette.
A sign on one of the compost-like restrooms reads: Poop belongs in the loop.
Ryland Engelhart, executive director of “Kiss the Ground,” explains that there’s a way to eat healthy and heal the world simultaneously. A plant-rich diet is also known as a regenerative diet.
“If you eat meat, you can eat from healthier farms. Meat from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows,” says David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s.
Count Your Chickens
Those eggs you buy in the store that say ‘cage-free’ are still raised in confinement and fed mostly grain which means they have less nutrients. Chickens raised without confinements thrive because they eat whatever they find in the wild. That extra diversity adds to plentiful nutrients.
In “Kiss the Ground,” rancher Gabe Brown shows in a pan how much stronger and darker eggs are from roaming chickens than cage-free chickens raised in confinement. How do you like your eggs?
50% Regenerative Farms by 2025
Today only 5% of American farms are doing regenerative agriculture, healing soil. In 2015, Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist, went to meet with Gabe Brown at his ranch. Their meeting blossomed into an all-out mission to save the soil. The Nature Conservancy partnered with the National Corn Growers’ Association to create Soil Health Partnership. The mission has a goal of 50% regenerative farms by 2025.
That’s a lot to achieve in a short amount of time. Then again, our planet is running out of time. So, anyway we can push people in the right direction as soon as possible the better off we all are.
“If we restore all the land on the planet, we can return to paradise,” states John D. Liu, Ecologist at Commonland and Foundation.
Liu went to the most eroded place on earth, China. Liu and his team implemented regenerative agriculture on an area of deserted land the size of Belgium from 1994 to 2009, 14 years. The area went from being completely eroded to seeing green for miles in every direction. An amazing 14,000 square miles were regenerated.
“It’s not about religion. It’s not about politics. It’s about love,” says Maria Rodale, former CEO/ Chairman of Rodale, Inc. publishing.
As a reminder, narrator Woody Harrelson said, “We must harness the regenerative power of earth itself.” Harrelson adds, “I’ll make you a deal. I won’t give up and neither should you.”
Today is Wednesday, October 21, 2020. In less than two weeks, U.S. citizens will be voting on the next American president. It's no secret that President Trump has no interest in the topic of climate change. Everything to him seems to be a hoax. In addition, he's not a fan of scientists even though the entire world is dealing with a deadly virus. Trump has lead the Republican Party down a path of destruction. He released the pandemic team in place long before Covid-19 arrived. He did not hire them back when we needed every hand on deck. The largest contributors of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, China, India and the United States were all absent from the Paris Agreement on climate change. Trump took the U.S. out of this crucial Paris agreement.
The climate is going to worsen. As long as we keep burning fossil fuels and pumping carbon dioxide into the air, global warming will intensify. The earth's climate will increasingly heat up, causing hurricanes, fires and floods the likes we've only seen in apocalyptic movies.
Even if ex-Vice President Joseph Biden becomes the next President of the United States, he will need to be reminded that the biggest threat to America and the world is not terrorism. It's global warming! Biden has his own plan to battle climate change, but it's not as immediate as the Green New Deal lead by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Hopefully, during the next four years, Democrats and Republicans can come together on this most important issue.
This blog is in many ways a summary of the content in "Kiss the Ground." But if you haven't seen the film, go see it on Netflix!!!
The issue of change has always been about politics and money. If we, the human race, hope to have any kind of future it will be up to the youth to educate everyone else since people don't like change and generally are hard of hearing. The following Ted Talk is not in this movie. You may be familiar with her name and face, Greta Thunberg. Her Ted Talk is about getting people to stop talking about climate change and start acting on it.
"Once we start to act, hope is everywhere," says Greta Thunberg.