The Need to Grow
Directed by Rob Herring and Ryan Wirick (2019)
This documentary focuses on the Earth’s dwindling supply of topsoil for growing food crops. According to filmmakers, decades of unsustainable agriculture practices have left humankind with only 60 years of farmable soil.
Although most environmentalists agree that modern-day agriculture is the most environmentally destructive process on the planet, the process of soil destruction began around 10,000 years ago when human beings first tilling (plowing) soil they use to grow food. Recent studies show that one tablespoon of healthy topsoil contains one billion microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, etc) are essential to plant health. In nature, all plants and organisms live in complex networks that are destroyed when soil is cultivated.
Because most industrial farming occurs in “dead” soil (where these organisms have been killed), farmers must apply massive amounts of chemical fertilizer and pesticide and produce food containing significantly nutrients than crops grown in healthy topsoil. Decades of research reveal that organic farming produces not only produces more nutritious food, but equal or greater yields (measured in calories per acre). Organic farming also consumes 40% less energy, while producing 35% lower carbon emissions.
Most of the film focuses on pioneers in the field of regenerative agriculture, a process dedicated to restoring soil health through “no-till” farming. The high point of the film features a computer programmer who designed a waste disposal system that uses solar energy to convert waste woody biomass into biochar, electricity, and heat to warm greenhouses and algae-producing aquaculture tanks.*
I was also intrigued to learn about the 7-year-old who obtained 45,000 signatures on a petition asking the Girl Scouts of America to discontinue their sales of GMO-containing cookies – and the abominable way she was treated when she visited their New York office to deliver her petition.
*When organic farmers apply the biochar/algae combination to soil, it speeds up topsoil production. Soil experts estimate it accomplishes in 4-5 years what normally takes 400-500 years.
The film can be viewed free on Kanopy with a public library membership. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.