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INDEPENDENT LENS: Dirt! The Movie

Airs Tuesday, December 28, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Physicist/environmentalist Vandana Shiva believes in soil not oil. Traveling around the world, “Dirt! The Movie” delves into the fascinating history of this lowly substance and shows how its mistreatment can result in natural disasters.

Floods, drought, climate change, and even war are all directly related to the fate of humble dirt. Made from the same elements as stars, plants, and human beings, dirt is very much alive. One teaspoon of dirt contains a billion organisms working in balance to sustain a series of complex, thriving communities that are invisibly a part of our daily lives.

Author and urban arborist Bill Logan with New York dirt.
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Above: Author and urban arborist Bill Logan with New York dirt.

"Dirt! The Movie" tells the story of Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated source of fertility — from its miraculous beginning to its tragic degradation. This insightful and timely film tells the story of the glorious and unappreciated material beneath our feet.

Narrated by Jaimie Lee Curtis and inspired by William Bryant Logan’s acclaimed book "Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth," this film introduces viewers to dirt’s fascinating history. Four billion years of evolution have created the dirt that recycles our water, gives us food, and provides us with shelter. But humanity has endangered this vital living resource with destructive methods of agriculture, mining practices, and urban development, with catastrophic results: mass starvation, drought, and global warming.

A street potter showing what he can do with dirt.
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Above: A street potter showing what he can do with dirt.

The filmmakers travel around the world to capture the stories of global visionaries who are discovering new ways to repair humanity’s relationship with soil, checking in with Dr. Vandana Shiva to discuss her fight to prevent world hunger by preserving biodiversity in India, and documenting the tree planting work of renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado and his wife Lélia in Brazil.

From farmers rediscovering sustainable agriculture and scientists discovering connections with soil to inmates learning job skills in a prison horticulture program and children eating from edible schoolyards, "Dirt! The Movie" brings to life the environmental, economic, social, and political importance of soil and suggests ways we can create new possibilities for all life on Earth.

Composting 101: Learn how to get started turning your organic waste into useful, living soil.

Video

Preview: Independent Lens: Dirt! The Movie

Above: It's under our feet and under our fingernails, but what is it? And how did it get there? Inspired by William Bryant Logans acclaimed book "Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth," find out how industrial farming, mining and urban development have led us toward cataclysmic droughts, starvation, floods and climate change. Dirt is a part of everything we eat, drink and breathe. Which is why we should stop treating it like, well dirt.