Reflections on ‘Kiss the Ground’
All life stems from air, earth, and water. We are all literal and metaphorical extensions of the Earth, as manifested as living soil. No matter what ends up on our plate, the components of that meal derive from elemental forces that amalgamate to form the biodiversity of life.
It is important to remember this perennial truth lest we think that nature can be chemically synthesized, processed for extended shelf life, and packaged to travel thousands of miles on Earth or even into the far reaches of outer space.
Consider that fats and proteins from animal foods build the body while the carbohydrates and phytochemicals from plant foods cleanse it. It’s tempting to think that one macronutrient nourishment is superior to the others, but as omnivores, we must consume both plant and animal foods to live optimally.
What is less appreciated is the origin of the amino acids, fatty acids, and sugar molecules that make up those macronutrients. Carnivores consume herbivores, and herbivores graze on plants—that much is obvious. When traced back along the food web, all forms of animal life depend on photosynthesizing plants.
Terrestrial plant life depends on mineral-rich soil, aided by microbial and dense mycorrhizal (fungal) networks of communication. Thus, there is a backward tracing of evolution from animals to plants to fungus to microbes—all nestled in a complex elemental interaction of air, sun, and water to compose the marvelous living ecosystem known as soil.
In reflection of the gestalt of life sciences, I’m reminded of a quote from Nobel-prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi:
In my quest for the secret of life I started my research in histology. Unsatisfied by the information that cellular morphology could give me about life, I turned to physiology. Finding physiology too complex, I took up pharmacology. Still finding the situation too complicated, I turned to bacteriology. But bacteria were even too complex, so I descended to the molecular level, studying chemistry and physical chemistry. After twenty years’ work, I was led to conclude that to understand life we have to descend to the electronic level and to the world of wave mechanics. But electrons are just electrons and have no life at all. Evidently on the way I lost life; it had run out between my fingers.1
Much gets lost in the reductionism of food science that treats the gifts from soil as raw materials in an industrial “food” system. When the paradigm for nourishment is chemical compounds instead of elemental forces, the vitality of the soil is forfeit, and with it, our birthright to optimal health.
This blog post was written in appreciation of the writers of the book/film “Kiss the Ground” and nonprofit organizations such as Farmer’s Footprint that are leading the regenerative agriculture movement.