Dirt-y movie

2023-12-04 · 6 min read

I went to a dirt-y movie last night…and I highly recommend it!

Now that I’ve tweaked your prurient interest, maybe I should more accurately say:

I went to a soil-y movie last night.…and I highly recommend it! human race

It’s called “Common Ground,” coming soon to a theater near you. The movie digs deep into the precious earth that sustains us. It calls for “regenerative agriculture”—practices that restore the soil, rather than much of modern agriculture that destroys it.

The so-called “Green Revolution” (tilling the ground with modern machinery, plus use of fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid seeds) initially boosted food production dramatically, but is increasingly a devolution as it turns rich soil into depleted dust, which is then washed away by rain, or blown away by wind.

The monocultures of soybeans and corn that have replaced nearly all the vast prairie of the central US defy a core law of evolution evident throughout Earth’s existence: diversity is essential to survival. My Irish ancestors learned this lesson tragically when their monoculture of potatoes was wiped out by a single mold that laid waste the harvest, led to social upheaval, and resulted in the death of some 1.5 million souls. The same could happen to the unnatural planting of beans-and-corn that dominates the American breadbasket.

In addition to vulnerable monocultures, U.S. agribusiness today flies in the face of Nature’s timeless wisdom in other reckless ways. Commercial fertilizers contaminate watersheds and drinking water; pesticides indiscriminately kill beneficial pollinators as well as so-called “pests;” antibiotics used in livestock production create resistant strains of disease; ever-stronger toxic herbicides are needed to kill increasingly resistant “weeds.”

“Common Ground” lifts up hopeful and practical alternatives, some as simple as preserving and enriching the soil by no-till planting and use of cover crops such as clover—practices that prevent erosion, retain moisture, control weeds, and increase fertility through adding organic matter.

I was much encouraged by the 400 or so who crowded the theater for the first screening of “Common Ground” in Kansas City. The Q&A session afterwards with the film’s advocates showed a growing awareness that a primary yield for farms of the future will be sustainability. For those of us who are not farmers, we can do our part by supporting farmer’s markets, buying organic produce, reducing consumption of highly processed food, following a mostly plant-based diet, and being more attentive to how our food choices impact the environment and our health.

I hope this film will receive the audience it deserves, and will help ground us in the awareness that as the Earth goes, so go we.

(If you’ve like a foretaste of “Common Ground” before its general release, you can see its precursor on You Tube, “Kiss the Ground.” Narrated by Woody Harrelson, it too urges regenerative agriculture, and offers actionable alternatives through which we can express gratitude by learning to walk softly on the face of Mother Earth.)

Jim Hannah

Dad's short bio goes here.