Hands holding a mound of soil with a plant sprouting and the words Kiss the Ground over top of the soil Photos courtesy of Kiss the Ground
SOIL POWER: The solution to climate change is in our hands.

How farmers can save the planet

A new Netflix movie advances the idea that by increasing the carbon content of soil, farmers can save the planet from climate change.

I recommend watching “Kiss the Ground.” It’s a new documentary film about farming, ranching and climate change. It debuts on Netflix tomorrow — Sept. 22.

Some parts of the movie may make you mad. Other parts may make you proud.

The premise of “Kiss the Ground” is that agriculture can fix global warming. Agriculture can stop the rise in global temperatures and start cooling the globe, contents actor Woody Harrelson, the film’s narrator.

A man standing in front of a microphone in a recording booth smiling at the cameraNEW VOICE: Actor Woody Harrelson narrates the film.

In short, farmers can save the planet.

How? By storing just 0.4% more (see 4p1000.org) carbon in the world’s soil per year. That means practicing no-till, seeding cover crops, planting trees, preserving grasslands and doing other regenerative ag production practices.

Mad part

The part of the film that may make you mad is about how “industrial” agriculture — the kind of farming that most widely practiced today — came from the Nazis’ development of poisons they used on battlefields and in gas chambers. After the war, scientists turned these chemicals into fertilizers and pesticides.

The film never acknowledges that fertilizer, herbicides and insecticides may have made it possible to produce enough food to feed innocent civilians in Europe after the war.

It doesn’t mention that the Green Revolution fed the population boom that occurred during the peace that followed the war.

It doesn’t concede that farmers weren’t out to destroy the land with chemicals and tillage, but were just using the technology and science available to them at the time.

It doesn’t explain that farmers’ reluctance today to try new-production practices to reduce greenhouse gas levels may not be because of stubbornness or ignorance, but because of the narrow profit margins they survive on from year to year.

Proud part

The part of the movie that may make you proud is about how many farmers and ranchers are already trying to improve the soil.

Two men sitting in a booth at a cafe while they have a conversationCAFÉ TALK: Gabe Brown (left) and Ray Archuleta recreate their meeting in a café to talk about soil health.

You’ll also be proud that some people you know are featured in the film. Both Gabe Brown, a Bismarck, N.D., rancher and a regenerative agriculture pioneer, and Ray Archuleta, a Natural Resources Conservation Service specialist and soil health crusader who has spoken at farmer meetings in every state in the nation, have big roles.

“I hope the movie increases awareness as to how and why all society should come together to work on the 80% of the things we can agree on, such as loss of biodiversity, water quality and quantity issues, poor farm profitability, the decline of rural America, climate change and human health,” Brown said in a statement released by the film production company. “All of these issues and more can be addressed, at least partially, by regenerative ag.”

Too bad

It's too bad that “Kiss the Ground” is coming out in the middle of a scary pandemic, violent racial protests and a hotly contested presidential election. A film about the soil may not attract enough of an audience to live up to its producers’ hopes to “catalyze a movement to accomplish the impossible — to solve humanity's greatest challenge, to balance the climate and secure our species' future.”

The film is about 85 minutes long. It will be worth your time.

See the trailer at kissthegroundmovie.com.

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