Films about the climate crisis often leave audiences feeling helpless in the face of the overwhelming challenges it presents. By contrast, Kiss the Ground, released by Netflix in September 2020 shares an inspiring and hopeful message, as it showcases the immense potential of sequestering carbon in the soil. Featuring interviews with a wide range of authors, researchers and scientists, the film explores the key principles of soil health and regenerative agriculture.
Much of the conversation about climate change — and the means by which it can be averted — focuses on global emissions and the imperative to reduce these to net-zero in the coming decade to avoid dangerous increases in global temperatures. Yet we also face a problem at least as important as reducing emissions: how to remove carbon already in the atmosphere — while scientists have warned that many of the technological solutions so far proposed will not work on the vast scale required.
Using plants, trees and techniques of grazing and farming to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, biosequestration renews ecosystems, increases crop yields, and has the potential to reverse climate change when applied on a global scale. In fact, the potential for biosequestration to mitigate climate disaster is truly huge. A white paper produced by the Rodale Institute in September declares that, “Data from farming and grazing studies show the power of exemplary regenerative systems that, if achieved globally, would draw down more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions.” …
The practices of regenerative agriculture have the potential to rehabilitate denuded soil by increasing carbon-rich organic matter in the soil and allowing the proliferation of microbes. These include:
– Diversifying crop rotations
– Planting cover crops, green manures, and perennials
– Retaining crop residues
– Using natural sources of fertilizer, such as compost
– Employing highly managed grazing and/or integrating crops and livestock
– Reducing tillage frequency and depth
– Eliminating synthetic chemicals
This enables plant roots to grow deeper, the uptake of nutrients is improved as is the water retention of the soil, and crops have greater pest resistance.
When Gabe Brown, a rancher from North Dakota first introduced regenerative practices on his ranch, he saw a tripling of organic matter and rainwater intake, enabling him to handle five times as many head of cattle as he used to. He noticed a dramatic change in the landscape, and his previously indebted operation began turning a profit. A powerful scene in the film shows Brown standing at the boundary between his lush farm fields, and those of his neighbor, a conventional farmer, whose land — in stark contrast — appears barren.