Optimistic film proposes solutions to climate change
by Christine Browning
Freedom Socialist newspaper, Vol. 42, No. 1, February-March 2021
The Kiss the Ground documentary, now screening on Netflix, is a breath of fresh air amongst the constant bad news about climate change. Not only is it highly informative and educational, it also reveals a plausible solution to the global warming crisis. While the film does not recognize capitalism as the culprit that has brought our planet to its perilous state, it does offer a hopeful and practical means of gradually drawing down carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere within twenty years through soil regeneration.
Narrated by and featuring Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground describes how we can regenerate “the world’s soils to completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies.” The film’s narration and animation present sound evidence for this with reports by scientists, organic farmers, educators and longtime environmental advocates.
Killing the ground.
The documentary points to centuries of adverse farming methods that have depleted soil viability, leaving vast areas non-productive and literally turning into deserts. These methods include: tilling of the soil with the subsequent loss of top soils, over-grazing, monocrop agriculture, depletion of plant diversity, and the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The chemicals were poisons developed by Nazis during WWII and subsequently brought to the U.S. by corporations for very profitable agricultural use.
These processes literally kill all forms of life in the soil. Long-term tilling of farm lands created the 1930s great Dust Bowl in the American and Canadian prairies, when over 200 million square miles were damaged with immense loss of top soil. This type of damage has now spread to over two-thirds of the globe.
These methods release carbon dioxide from the soil and root systems into the atmosphere, resulting in increased tropospheric temperatures, extreme weather events, desertification, and the melting of glaciers and polar ice. Moreover, they destroy the essential soil microbial life that is part of the cycles and sustainability of nature.
Kiss the Ground touches on several other causes of global warming and inordinate amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere — the long-term burning of coal, gas and oil as energy sources, deforestation, and degradation caused by imperialist wars. However, it does not expose the profit motive that drives the continuation of all this destruction, which further enriches the 1% while causing great hardships for the workers and peasants of the world.
Instead, the film advocates for a market-based approach, saying that farmers will make more money using regenerative methods. So it underestimates the power of the inevitable resistance to change from Big Agribusiness and chemical producers.
The movie beautifully illustrates the interconnection of our atmosphere and planetary life. The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is part of what sustains humans and the planet. Our atmospheric oxygen comes primarily from tiny marine plants called plankton. As well as, of course, trees and plants, which absorb CO2, use it for photosynthetic growth, and emit oxygen. The CO2 is channeled into the plants’ root systems, where 40% of it sequesters and provides energy for the soil microbial life and nutrients for the plants, and also retain water.
Therein lies the key to Kiss the Ground’s premise of carbon sequestration and the means of reversing global warming by regenerating degraded soils around the world. This is done using no-till organic farming, growing cover crops, reforestation of trees and perennials, composting, and free-grazing of animals. The film provides evidence of the workability of this system. One example given is the regeneration of the Loess Plateau in China, a once barren area of 22,000 square miles that was re-established as productive farmland in approximately 13 years.
There is much more to learn from this film than can be described here. Check out kisstheground.com — it’s more than a documentary.
With ecosocialism we can address the climate crisis with the urgency that it deserves. A socialist government would rapidly develop strategies and deploy resources to reverse ecological destruction. Kiss the Ground describes some useful tools for getting the job started.
Christine Browning is an ecosocialist and Native American rights supporter.