Tuesday, March 29, 2011



I just finished watching the documentary Dirt! The Movie about the destruction of the earth's living skin... the dirt. It's a wonderful film that takes you all around the world talking about how dirt is a living breathing entity and how it is essential to our lives. Scientists, professors, farmers and others share with you all the different ways that dirt is used and abused. From the traditional earthen homes that are still built today and the important part dirt plays in many cultures to how 1/3 of the earth's soil has been lost in the last one hundred years. I love what one of the farmers said... Sometimes he feels like a father to the soil as he takes care of it. Other times he feels like the soil is his mother as she provides food for him and at times he feels he is in a relationship as they 'care' for each other :)

It's definitely an eye opening view to how agriculture has ravaged the soil over the years with the practice of monoculture planting which leads to massive pest infestations and heavy pesticide use that kills the vital microorganisms in the soil. All this leads to sick soil and the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers which in turn have adverse effects on the surrounding life.

But of course these aren't the only things that are harming the soil that we have left. It also touches on strip mining, desertification and more, but the movie isn't all doom and gloom! There is so much good going on around us as others try to replenish the earth's dirt :)

In Los Angeles an organization called Tree People has a goal to plant one million trees in the city. Schools are tearing up the concrete and blacktop that surrounds their buildings creating green space and student gardens. I thought it was quite interesting as at one point they mentioned that some people were concerned that without all of the concrete play areas at the school, where would the children play?? Have we really become this disconnected with what is below our feet?

Even though we get out in the garden every year using organic methods, compost and recycle what we can I still watched with my children as I thought it was a great way to really get them thinking more about how important it is that we treat mother earth well :)

Even if you think the problem is just to big and there is nothing you can do to fix it, you can! I love this short little animated folktale by Dr. Wangari Maathai below. It tells of a forest fire and a little tiny hummingbird that felt he just had to do something to stop the fire. As the other animals of the forest helplessly looked on they tell the hummingbird that he is just to small to do anything as he takes one drop of water at a time and drops it on the fire. So he turns to them and says "I am doing... the best... that I can". So simple and so smart. Let's all be hummingbirds together and do the best that we can :)



loulee said...

Our earth is precious, that farmer is right, we should be looking after it, just as it has looked after us. If everyone does just a little bit. I'll look out for that documentary, it sounds interesting.

Paula said...

Hi Rosina

I hope the movie mentions one of the biggest threats to the soil. In fact this group is responsible for most of the 'problems' in agriculture.

Urban consumers!

They dig up farmland (after scraping off the topsoil) and build houses, shopping malls, office towers, widen highways, parking lots, etc. They over use pesticides (which is why they are now banned). They pave everything so that rain can't soak into the ground gently. It gets all funneled together which causes flooding and washes away more soil. Why do farmers sell their farmland to developers? Because consumers don't pay enough for Canadian food and buy cheap foreign food, so it's the only farmers can make money with their land.

We (society) need a more balance approach to farming. Organic doesn't seem to work on a real size farm. Around here the strictly organic guys have to crop twice the acres of the rest of us, just to produce enough. We use a combination of methods. Some fields need to be fertilized (not enough piggy poo to go around), but our fields are tested first to see which nutrients are missing.

Do you know which farm has the worst soil? It's the one we have just stared using, it hasn't been cropped for over 50 years. All it has grown is grass and hawthorn trees. The 'experts' would tell you the land is wonderful, but it is so depleted! The grass and weeds have been taking and taking nutrients from the ground and putting very little back. In fact, the ground is so compacted that there are no earthworms -unlike in our other fields that are full of worms.

Most farmers take good care of their land. We have to -it feeds our family in every way.


Rosina {Rosy ~ Posy} said...

Very valid points Paula and yes the movie does cover a whole lot more including some of these topics :) I just skimmed the surface in my blog entry *grin*. Thanks so much for sharing!

Paula said...

We haven't had a chance to see this movie yet. Glad to hear it's well rounded. Some of these movies like to blame farmers without looking at the reason why farmers do what they do. Most of what we do is a result of trying to meet consumer demands. For example, the main pig raised today is the Yorkshire (pink). This isn't some big conspiracy to make the other breeds extinct or anything. It's just the breed that grows fast enough and is lean enough for consumer demand. Also, the hair follicles the coloured pigs (black, red) sometimes leave colour in the skin and some markets (Japan) will refuse entire shipments if they find this. So packers only want pink pigs to please their customers.

Everything is so interconnected it gets frustrating when people point fingers and say things are black and white -which I know you weren't doing I was more meaning some of these 'documentaries' lately. These movies also forget to say they are American (usually) and our rules are very different and more strict.

house full of jays said...

Sounds like a great documentary! We're sharing Food Inc. with our friends these days - so eye-opening.
Where would the children play?? Sheesh!