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Film Review: Unbroken Ground

Our food choices are deeply connected to climate change. This documentary explains the critical role food will play in the next frontier of our efforts to solve the environmental crisis

I am a great admirer of the outdoor product specialist Patagonia, not only for their incredible product but also the role they have taken as evangelists for the environment and climate change. Their founder Yves Chouinard is still passionate about the environment in his 80s as he was as a younger man setting up Patagonia.

As part of Patagonia’s mission to educate they commissioned a documentary, Unbroken Ground, to be made that focuses how farming practices can be changed that don’t do permanent damage to the environment, destroy biodiversity and drive climate change. In 2012, they started Patagonia Provisions, a food company focused on products sourced in innovative ways that benefit and regenerate the planet

The film explores four areas of agriculture that aim to change our relationship to the land and oceans. Most of our food is produced using methods that reduce biodiversity, decimate soil and contribute to climate change. We believe our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis – grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife. The film tells the story of four groups that are pioneers in the fields of regenerative agriculture, regenerative grazing, diversified crop development and restorative fishing.

Regenerative agriculture looks to restore and maintain the topsoil on farmland, eliminating the need for chemical fertilisers. At the same time, this topsoil sequesters carbon, reducing greenhouse gases.

Although I am vegan I am still in the minority so it is important to have sustainable animal husbandry. Similar to the principals of regenerative agriculture the aim of regenerative grazing, is to maintain the soil and the land in a sustainable way. One of the problems with cattle farming is feeding the animals. Often grazing has to be supplemented with other food such as alfalfa which in turn uses a lot of water and takes up valuable land that could be used for other agriculture. In Unbroken Ground, we meet a group of Wyoming farmers who have turned to raise bison instead of cattle on the plains to restore the prairie land in a sustainable way.

Another way of keeping soil healthy is to grow diversified crops. Farmers and agricultural scientists have known for years that crop rotations can break insect and disease cycles, reduce weeds, curb erosion, supplement soil nutrients, improve soil structure and conserve soil moisture.

The final segment of the film is about restorative fishing. It focuses on the use of fishing techniques that do not injure the fish and allows them to return the unwanted fish back to the sea without harm.

I found this to be a very powerful film with a lot of hope (having said that time is running out to take action). It is two or three years old but is still highly relevant. The nice thing is that the film is short, about 25 minutes, and it is free to watch on YouTube.

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