What 'Kiss the Ground'
tells us about farming's role
in saving the planet
Narrated by Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground has important messages for us, as well as great lessons for us to carry about how to battle climate change, all through caring about the soil.
Our soil is dying
Kiss the Ground lays out that industrial agriculture was not originally designed with the soil in mind. Its roots are in war. Chemical weapons designed for WWI, and then for WWII, were repurposed as pesticides after the war. The pesticide use became very widespread, and farmers were able to get a good yield for a while, even if they didn’t take care of the soil.
Now, after decades, the soil can’t handle it. The soil is like our bodies. If the body takes in stress temporarily, it has the ability to heal itself. But what if the body takes in stress all the time? Would you be able to function like that? It’s the same thing with the soil. The soil has been taking a beating for a long time, and it’s overwhelmed.
Soil health is crucial to the earth
“Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant, healthy plant, healthy animal, healthy human, healthy water, healthy climate.”
Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist, NRCS
Soil has the unique ability to absorb carbon dioxide, which it turns into nutrients. So the dirt is where it all starts. That’s where nutrients come from. Nutrients from the dirt are passed to the plant, then passed to us who eat the plant. If the plant is filed with nutrients from the dirt, then we are also healthy. It is all connected.
Soil also absorbs water into itself. And this is a big part of the small water cycle that makes up 40% of the world’s water. Water comes down through rain, the soil absorbs the water, and then it evaporates, and starts the cycle again.
Damaged soil can cause catastrophes
Damaged soil loses two key capacities: absorbing carbon dioxide, and absorbing water. And not only that, it actually releases them back into the atmosphere.
First, when the soil cannot retain water, it disrupts the small water cycle. Hot air from the dry ground will push rain clouds away, and it will cause floods elsewhere, because the soil is not there to absorb all of that. In addition, the fact that the land now pushes rain away, and releases water from itself, will cause draughts.
Second, when the soil cannot absorb carbon dioxide, it cannot create nutrients for the ground, and that means the ground is now unable to grow anything.
This is what caused the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, the largest man-made environmental disaster in human history.
And ultimately, carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by damaged soil will contribute heavily to the ongoing problem of climate change.
Farmers have an important role in soil health
But farmers can change this. They have the power to be the true guardians of the land, and of this earth. Standard farming practices were invented in the days when we did not care about the earth. By shifting their farming practices to more sustainable ones that disturb the land less, they are essentially not only protecting the land for humanity’s sake, they are also protecting their long term livelihood.
Things like no-till drills, with which you can plant seeds without tilling. A land that isn’t tilled, draws in more carbon instead of releasing it. It also draws in more water. So a land that isn’t tilled, is in fact more healthy, and more fertile. Also, strategies to make the land more biodiverse, by planting multicultural crops and introducing livestock into the field, are accelerating the regeneration of the soil. Farmers are waking up, and doing their part to save us from a grim future.
Land is everything. Unhealthy land leads to increasing frequency of environmental disasters such as floods and droughts. It leads to rising poverty, and as a result, social unrest.
Kiss the Ground gives us a grave warning, that if we keep going the way we always have, we as a human species may not have much time left on this earth. But that can change, and farmers are at the forefront of this fight.