Unearthing the Story of Earth: "Dirt! The Movie" Screens At SMC

As children, we all likely played in, on, or with dirt. However, as time passed and our lives evolved, that close connection with dirt slowly eroded. Now as our colossal concrete cities sprawl ever outward and millions of miles of pavement snake seamlessly through suburbia, our cities are also losing a connection to that vital resource.


On Feb. 23, the Los Angeles Bioneers, a non-profit organization dedicated to re- imaging the future social and ecological health of our planet, held a screening of "Dirt! The Movie" at Santa Monica College. From scientist to farmer, ecologist to convict, the documentary has people on the forefront of the issue, as well as those most impacted by it, tell a story as old as dirt.

Produced and directed by Gene Rosow and Bill Benenson, and narrated by actress and activist Jamie Lee Curtis, "Dirt! The Movie" takes an in-depth look at the social problems associated with the earth's dwindling supply of fertile top soil. The documentary also explains how soil health is a contributing factor to the planet's social and ecological concerns.

"Dirt! The Movie" explains how industrialized farming practices, soil erosion, increased urbanization and our growing dependence on nitrogen-based fertilizers contribute to the earth's declining stocks of beneficial dirt. The movie reasons that the loss of this critical resource will ultimately lead to flooding, drought, climate change and possibly war.

"One third of the earth's topsoil [is what] we've lost in the last hundred years," said Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Institute and contributor to "Dirt! The Movie."

The documentary films remote locations around the globe and manages to make a seemingly dry topic entertaining, insightful, and even humorous, several times eliciting a chorus of laughter from the packed audience.

In an interview with the Corsair, Benenson explained how he became interested in the subject of dirt. He and Rosow were inspired in part by the book, "Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth," by Bill Logan. "We found the book and it seemed to be a new and deeper angle into environmental sustainability than the other vague avenues we knew of," said Benenson. "We became dirt's mouthpiece without consciously knowing it at first."

Through "Dirt! The Movie," Benenson hopes to inspire better agricultural, farming and planting practices.

While tackling this issue may seem like they are digging themselves into a hole, Benenson believes that one person can make a difference. "Start at home, in a flower pot or a compost bin, or your backyard," he says. "All dirt is local dirt. You can find a way.

Catch "Dirt! The Movie" when it premiers on PBS, April 20 as part of the Earth Week lineup. To find a local screening or purchase the DVD, visit www.dirtthemovie.org.