Netflix’s ‘Kiss the Ground’ Says the Solution To Climate Change Is Under Our Feet

Directed by Rebecca and Josh Tickell, Netflix’s “Kiss the Ground” is a dirty movie. It wants to arouse viewers to get into the mud, and suggests subtle but effective moisturizers. Fertility abounds when the documentary brings hemp into the proceedings and its most self-assured poster-boy. Woody Harrelson narrates the documentary brilliantly. He brings drama and humor to the readings. He dips and slides and pauses to smell the fertilizer. 

To further get juices flowing, the film snacks with Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady, as they demonstrate how they keep in shape. She’s a runway-thin supermodel, and he’s a living athletic legend, and a clean-living one at that. The rest of us can eat dirt, Mark Hyman, M.D., suggests. The Director of the Cleveland Center for Functional Medicine says it’s “the key to health,” in the documentary. What he means by that is “we need to eat what’s in the dirt that’s transferred to the plants, that then we eat and create health.”

Climate change is depleting these options on a global scale, and “Kiss the Ground” aims to fix that. The film was made by the husband-and-wife environmental activists wrote and directed “Good Fortune,” “Pump,” “The Big Fix,” and did a cross-country road trip in a car powered by algae gas for their film “Fuel.” Former actress Rebecca Tickell starred in the Christmas movie “Prancer” when she was nine years old. Josh Tickell wrote the book “Kiss the Ground, How the Food You Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body and Ultimately Save Our World.” 

The book spawned both the film, put out by their production company Big Picture Ranch, and a nonprofit organization on a mission not only to explain how important healthy soil is, but helps train and mentor farmers and ranchers who are trying to restore lost ecosystems. “Kiss the Ground” explains how the only way to do this is to regenerate the world’s soils. “We can get the Earth back to the Garden of Eden that it once was by regeneration in agriculture,” Ian Somerhalder, who co-executive produced the film with Julian Lennon and shot initial footage in Africa, says in the film. 

The documentary gives a short history on a subject as old as dirt: dirt. Dirt is what happens to soil after it dies, after it loses all its nutrients. This happened on a massive scale when the Dust Bowl covered the prairies of America and Canada in the 1930s. It was caused by massive deep tilling of virgin topsoil. The ecological disruption brought three major drought waves and rampant wind erosion. The documentary says it was one of the greatest man-made environmental disasters in history until the Nazis came along with their chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The documentary shows a particularly frightening vintage footage of a post-World War II declaration of a war on bugs. It looks like the country is being overrun by a dystopian army, and it was. Monsanto took the chemicals out of the concentration camps and watered generations of crops with them. 

“Kiss the Ground” expertly breaks down topics without talking down to the audience. It is user-friendly even when explaining things like oil-carbon sequestration or how the microbes, fungi and other microorganisms break down methane, the greenhouse gas found in cow shit. With the help of graphics, aerial and astronomical views of earth and expert environmentalists making “Real Time with Bill Maher” appearances, they explain how carbon can be pulled out of the air and put it back into the soil to reverse climate change. 

“Healthy soils lead to a healthy plant,” conservationist Ray Archuleta says in the film. “Healthy plant, healthy animal, healthy human, healthy water, healthy climate.”  The documentary explains how using hemp as a rotational crop restores nitrogen and other important nutrients. It also explains soil is the largest carbon sponge, on the planet, and details the “4 per 1,000” initiative, which the French government introduced at the 2015 COP21 Paris Climate Summit. The plan is to bolster carbon storage in the world’s agricultural soils, but the U.S., India, and China, the three countries which contribute most to greenhouse gas emissions, didn’t sign on.

That is, of course, the main problem with the film. The people who watch it, already agree. Maybe they don’t always get their fruit and vegetables from farmers’ markets or register on the pro-organic, anti-GMO political spectrum. But they want change. They want to know there are options, like composting and regulated animal grazing, and people who want to enact them. “Kiss the Ground” offers sustainable solutions to climate change and a lifeline to a network trying to bring it into being. The documentary isn’t afraid to get into the dirt, but cleans up nicely. 

Kiss the Ground” begins streaming Sept. 22 on Netflix.