What’s the biggest crisis facing mankind today? Is it climate change? Is it terrorism? Is it overpopulation?
A brilliant new documentary asks the question and comes up with an altogether new answer – it’s our need to grow. The Need to Grow, directed by Rob Herring and Ryan Wirik, has already won public acclaim and recognition in the international awards circuit.
The premise on which the documentary is based is scary as well as unignorable – in 60 years, the earth will have lost all its farmable land. It may sound crazy. But the team of Ocean Robbins (Exec. Producer), and narrator, Rosario Dawson, an award-winning actress and activist, make a pretty convincing case, using all available data on the subject.
The interesting aspect of The Need to Grow is that its makers do not load the film with jargon or difficult to understand science. They tell the story through the lived experiences of three characters – an 8-year-old girl called Alicia Serratos, who campaigns for a non-GMO Girls Guide cookie; an organic urban farmer, Eric Cutter, who tends to a small plot within city limits; and Michael Smith, a computer engineer and video pioneer who gives up an offer from George Lucas to focus on a planet saving experimental power project in remote Montana.
Industrial Farming is Killing the Earth
“The world’s soil is in serious danger. We’re losing it ten times faster than it can be replenished. And according to the United Nations, we only have about 60 years of farmable soil left on Earth,” writes Ocean Robbins. It’s estimated that the earth has lost one third of its total arable land in the past forty years alone.
The team behind The Need to Grow doesn’t just pose the question and leave the audience to worry for the next several weeks. What’s refreshing about the film is that it offers solutions, not quite common among environmental activists, many of whom believe that just screaming about things is good enough for the planet.
The paradox facing the world today is that the need to grow more has brought us to the era of modern industrial farming that uses technology and chemicals to increase yield per acreage. Today, all arguments in favour of organic farming, for example, is met with this one counter point – if we don’t produce at this scale, the world will starve. Well, if we produce at this rate by the way we produce, combining machines and chemicals, there will be very little good earth left to grow anything, leave alone the food that we need. As the doc, indicates, “You cannot feed the world from a dead soil”.
Will the World Starve?
The solution may not lie in one magic bullet, but in many small innovations. “We can wake up now or be ready for disaster soon,” Robbins says. Apparently, we are losing 30 football fields worth of fertile land every minute.
First, instead of pointing blame at someone else, everybody needs to pitch in. Saving the earth’s soil must begin at home. At least that’s the message from 8-year-old Alicia Serratos, who with her mother, adds the very personal touch by narrating how they changed their dietary habits to be earth friendly. Alicia, who grows up through the years of filming, started out with a single-focused campaign: She wanted the American Girl Guides organization to switch their iconic cookies to a non-GMO option. Gorging on a leaf of spinach, Alicia says, “When you eat healthy, you can think better.”
A second character that shines through the 90-minutes is Eric Cutter, a rebel farmer, who on a less than 2-acre urban farm leased from the city, tries to grow food the sustainable way. Called micro-farming, this approach is getting popular in urban areas, because it takes so much less land to produce equal or near equal amounts of food that then can be supplied fresh to the homes and markets. Going local avoids the long nutrient-sapping long journey that vegetables and fruits go through in their transition from giant farms to giant supermarkets.
Cutter is even willing to bet that micro-farming outperforms conventional farming even in yield parameters. It also takes 90% less water, 50% less fertilizers. “We can produce 10,000 heads of lettuce in one tenth of an acre,” Cutter speaks from his experience.
Healthy Soil Fights Green House Gases
And then there is Michael Smith, who follows his dream of creating a sustainable model of farming, energy production, and soil conservation, all in a continually replenishing cycle.
Too good to be true? The film’s crew goes to his Green Power House (GPH) in Montana to find out the truth and comes away stunned. In fact, the film leads us to believe that soil conservation not only help to sustain agriculture, but also to save the planet from climate change. A healthy microbial rich soil can absorb almost all green house gases we emit. The Need to Grow is offering an urgent solution – Increase the health of our soil, and it will address almost all the environmental issues facing mankind. The filmmakers present an unbeatable case through The Need to Grow.
And what has happened to the three main protagonists in the documentary? Alicia, now a teenager, gets her wish at last – Girls Guide America introduces a non-GMO cookie.Eric Cutter loses his urban farm as the city takes it back for a skate rink. Michael Smith’s GPH mysteriously burns down. But he is currently rebuilding his dream.
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