The Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society (MacCares) screened the documentary “Kiss the Ground” Saturday night, Nov. 21 over Zoom. “Kiss the Ground” explores regenerative soil practices as a solution to climate change, featuring climate activists from across the U.S. and narration by actor Woody Harrelson.
“It was a good pushing off point for people to learn about sustainability,” MacCares coordinator Kendall Ford ’21 said about the film.
“Kiss the Ground” discusses the regeneration of Earth’s soils as a viable way to sequester carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rebuild topsoil’s organic matter and restore soil biodiversity. Soil has been degraded in the past from industrial monoculturing practices and overuse of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This has put chemicals into the waterways and strained ecosystems, providing less habitat for diverse species on farmland and elsewhere.
The documentary displayed footage from several different farms, with farmers talking about the ideals of regenerative agriculture and the practices they used.
“The principles of soil health lead to monumental mechanical disturbance, diversity, living root at all times and animal integration,” an organic farmer said in the documentary. “Our neighbor’s land has been chemically fallowed and nothing has been growing on it for over a year, except for the few roundup resistant weeds that are on here. Over on our paddock, we have a diversity of different plant species, insects, and wildlife, plus we have livestock grazing on it.”
Activists in the film discussed how people should adopt carbon-neutral agriculture practices and plant-based diets, taking steps like composting old food and fertilizing your own soil.
“Compost is just one of the suite of soil-based carbon capture solutions,” an environmental activist said.
“The more we choose regenerative foods, the more the farmers will grow them,” Harrelson said.
The film covered carbon cycling and nutrient cycling through soil, which can be aided through using manure as a fertilizer. Animal urine and dry manure add nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as fertilizer to the soil, as well as other micronutrients and biota.
“Poop has to stay in the loop,” said actress and environmental activist Patricia Arquette, who appeared in the documentary.
“What people don’t know is most potting soil has some sort of biosolids in it,” a volunteer added.
The film said The Nature Conservancy has partnered with the National Corn Grower’s Association to establish the Soil Health Partnership which works to promote soil health practices for economic and environmental benefit.
“Our goal is to grow this [from 5%] to 50% of US farms managed for soil health,” an SHP representative said in the documentary.
MacCares was reformed at the beginning of the semester from the merger of student orgs MacCares and MULCH (Macalester Urban Land and Community Health).
Over Zoom, MacCares is using Canva to create a sustainability zine and is coordinating with the Office of Sustainability to distribute sustainable menstrual cups. The club also handed out microgreens and instructions for planting in october.
“Broccoli was a big hit,” Ford said.
The documentary Zoom screening itself brought mixed reviews from the sustainability club. When asked about “Kiss the Ground’s” reception in MacCares, Sabine Peterka ’21 said the club was “not thrilled” after the viewing because of the film’s melodramatic portrayal of Hollywood actors volunteering.
“[“Kiss the Ground”] had a lot of problematic white savior vibes…not thrilled was an understatement,” Peterka said.
“It was very white and eurocentric,” Ford said. ”These practices have been around a long time.”
On the film’s renewable message, however, Ford said, “[“Kiss the Ground”] showed how simple it would be to create a government that props up these justified agricultural practices.”