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Review: ‘Scuse me while I ‘Kiss the Ground’: How soil might be Earth’s climate change savior

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 1, 2020

Woody Harrelson, center, is the narrator of the documentary “Kiss the Ground.”  (Big Picture Ranch)
Woody Harrelson, center, is the narrator of the documentary “Kiss the Ground.” (Big Picture Ranch)
By Kevin Crust Los Angeles Times

With climate change back on the front burner so to speak, dirt is probably not the hero you were expecting. The documentary “Kiss the Ground” makes the case that by regenerating the Earth’s soils, we can balance the climate, replenish the water supply, keep species off the extinction list and better feed the world. Not bad for less than 90 minutes.

The film begins by painting a dire picture of the present situation, with narrator Woody Harrelson expressing his doubts about the future. The film, however, is actually optimistic that by using existing solutions, humans can not just halt climate change but reverse some of its effects.

There are small things we can do as individuals: eating a more plant-based diet, composting and applying the bigger principles to our own small gardens. But the big sell is regenerative agriculture, which offers an economically viable virtuous cycle of healthy soil, plants, water and skies, in stark contrast to the vicious cycle of industrial agriculture, which relies on additives, pesticides and government subsidies and depletes the land at unsustainable levels.

Regenerative agriculture can be applied anywhere in the world and reverse the effects of desertification through no-till systems, crop diversity, planned livestock grazing and biosequestration – the process of capturing and storing carbon in plants, microbes and other organisms. Zimbabwean ecologist and farmer Allan Savory reports that using livestock to reverse desertification is scalable to two-thirds of Earth’s land at an extremely low cost.

According to scientists, soil experts and activists, drawing down atmospheric carbon to replenish the earth is possible right now. But in the same way renewable energy faces opposition from fossil fuel lobbyists and politicians, regenerative agriculture is blocked by Big Ag. Soil scientist Ray Archuleta and rancher Gabe Brown both travel the country evangelizing for these practices but run into farmers who are resistant to change and getting them on board becomes a social problem and an education issue.

Celebrities such as Gisele Bundchen, husband Tom Brady, Jason Mraz, Ian Somerhalder, Patricia Arquette, David Arquette and Rosario Dawson add their voices and varying degrees of wattage to the film. All get their hands dirty and bring real passion, but it’s the experts that have the most impact.

If this all sounds like eating kale to you and you don’t like kale, take a breath. First, you probably just haven’t had kale prepared properly. Second, “Kiss the Ground” is the good kind of kale. It’s dense but nutritious. The science is explained in simple terms with plenty of visually striking graphics and animation.

In a few decades, you may literally be thanking the ground you walk on for saving the planet. And then you can think back and realize that directors Josh Tickell (“Fuel”) and Rebecca Tickell gave you a glimpse of hope during a dark time.

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