By Sandra G. Malhotra
I could not agree more with the sentiment above – and hugging trees, too.
I am therefore very excited about a new book about regenerative farming by Josh Tickell
entitled Kiss the Ground: How the Food We Eat Can Reverse Climate Change, Heal Your Body
& Ultimately Save Our World. What’s great is that Josh and Rebecca Harrell Tickell are
also producing a documentary of the same name, so be on the lookout for that.
I had the opportunity to ask Josh a several questions about regenerative farming and included an excerpt here.
Sandra: Your book and upcoming documentary, both entitled Kiss the Ground, are a homage to the thin layer of soil upon which we rely for life. Can you describe what healthy, living soil is?
Josh: Most of us don’t realize that the top 1-3 inches of soil, otherwise known as “topsoil,” is what we rely on for our food and globally, that soil is being lost at an exponential rate. Essentially, we are at the conflux of two exponential, civilization-level trends. The first is the rise in human population. The second is the downward spiral of soil’s ability to produce food. As the gap between the two widens, so too does global tension. Much of what we see happening in our world right now on a geo-political, social, economic and ecosystemic level is rooted in what is happening globally to our soil.
Healthy soil is the basis for the following fundamental prerequisites for human life: 1) water retention and the “small” water cycle of mists, dews and fogs, 2) carbon dioxide capture and retention of stable long-chain carbons (soil is the largest carbon sink), 3) the lifeforms that sustain plants (i.e. “crops” or “food”), including the transfer of all critical minerals, vitamins and building blocks for human nutrition. This is why a one of the mottos of Kiss the Ground is “soil has superpowers.”
There are different names for healthy soil, including “humus”, but let’s get visceral about it. Dig your hands into some really great soil and notice the color and the smell. The best soil is super dark, moist, and has an earthy rich smell. This is the stuff that literally has trillions of life forms in it. It is made primarily of bonded carbon which is reflected by its dark color. The carbon bonds makeup a type of “sponge” which holds microscopic water droplets that keep the soil moist. It’s inside that aquatic environment that the numerous organisms that inhabit the soil live.
Contrast this with the type of soils that are common in our agricultural areas that now cover the roughly 2/3rd’s of our planet that is turning to desert (a.k.a. “desertifying”). These soils are commonly brittle, dry, orangey-yellow, “platey,” and smell of acid. This is the stuff that regenerative farmers look at with sadness in their eyes because it is not really soil, it’s just dirt, or even worse, dust. And dust is what our civilization will become unless we mount an international effort to save our soils. If we save the soil, we can literally save the world.
Sandra: Beyond impacting the soil…how does our current agriculture model affect our health? In particular, how does the current model contribute to chronic disease, like cancer?
Josh: As more science comes to the forefront, we are quickly realizing that that the belief that cancer is primarily a heredity or genetic condition and secondarily a condition caused by external factors (nutrition, chemical exposure, etc.) is false. Many scientists are now finding this type of chronic disease is attributable instead in the range of 90% to external factors and 10% to genetic predisposition.
Now, the bulk of our environmental toxicological exposure comes through what we eat. And today what we eat is full of toxic chemicals. Farmers spray about 3 pounds of toxic pesticides per American per year onto our food, mostly right before it is harvested. It’s no surprise then, that there are over 200 peer reviewed studies that link synthetic pesticide exposure to chronic conditions including cancer and especially to childhood diseases like pediatric cancer, ADD, ADHD, and even low IQ.
Added to that we are eating tremendous quantities of omega-6 rich oils like soybean oil, canola oil and corn oil, which evolutionarily speaking, humans were not designed to eat. The omega-6 oils compete with the healthy omega- 3’s in our bodies, thus contributing directly to things like obesity, diabetes and cancer. Of course, the reason we eat these oils is they are a by-product of the large monocrops grown in the middle of America. These omega-6 monocrop oils have been hoisted onto the public as “healthy oils.” The double whammy of poisons in our food and unhealthy omega-6 oils creates an inflammation firestorm for the human body. Long term, the consumption of this combo leads to chronic disease.
Sandra: What can people reading this do?
Josh: Buy and read Kiss the Ground, the book. Donate to and become a member of the Kiss the Ground non-profit (KissTheGround.com). Cut out the foods you eat that support the big monocrops (corn, soy, hay and wheat). These are the foods found in the bags, boxes and cartons in the middle of the grocery store. Do your best to support farmers and products that are USDA Certified Organic. And even better, if you can find a local farmer or rancher that is practicing regenerative agriculture, do everything you can to support that person and their operation. Compost your food scraps and push for an urban composting program in your area. Help outlaw concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) and factory farming. Lobby to help re-write the Farm Bill in 2018 (it’s being redrafted) to eliminate the subsidies for monocrops.