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Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart: Kiss the Ground

Has your life been changed by the Kiss the Ground documentary? We asked Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart for how it impacted them, and more!

By Emily Spennato

If you’re anything like me, sometimes you feel the need to ditch reality T.V. for something a little more educational, like a documentary. Here at Eluxe, we’ve talked about the best environmental documentaries before, and one of our favorites premiered just over a year ago. 

Kiss the Ground is a captivating film in which activists, politicians and scientists teamed up to tackle climate change by rebuilding healthy soil – literally from the ground up! The film can be found on Netflix and Vimeo. It’s narrated by Woody Harrelson and stars conscious A-listers including Gisele & Tom Brady, Ian Somerhalder, Patricia & David Arquette, and Jason Mraz, amongst others.

The film has opened the eyes of millions about the importance of soil, and the potential food crisis we face for having destroyed this precious resource. 

Ian Somerhalder, former model, actor, and star of Vampire Diaries and Lost, started his climate activism way before Kiss the Ground. Specifically, his Ian Somerhalder Foundation was launched back in 2010 and promotes the conservation of natural resources.

Ryland Engelhart, the film’s producer, is also the executive director and co-founder of Kiss the Ground. I refer not only the movie of that title, but also to Engelhart’s organization dedicated to advocacy of regenerative agriculture. The platform reaches millions through media, communication, and education initiatives. Engelhart also hosts the Kiss the Ground Podcast

“What makes the film so epic,” said Engelhart, “is to see the massive jump in global awareness around the potential of Regenerative Agriculture in just one year. Large scale farms and ranches are changing their approach to agriculture as a result of seeing a movie. This was the dream of creating content that could transform hearts and minds. We are excited for where this momentum will go, especially as citizens, businesses and policy makers start to align around regeneration as the goal.”

“I’m blown away by the transformative effect of the film. In one year, we’re seeing millions of acres of farmland becoming regenerative!  We’re on our way to healing mother earth through the regenerative movement” declared Ian Somerhalder.

We were excited about the film, and wanted to know more about how it impacted not only its makers, but the rest of the world. 

Here below, we interviewed Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart for their views.

Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart On Kiss The Ground – And More

Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart On Kiss The Ground documentary

(To Ian:) Since we last interviewed you, you’ve become a dad. How has that impacted your views of the planet’s future, and your actions towards saving it?

Ian: Anyone who is a parent can tell you the stakes are raised in the most bizarre, exponential way. You are no longer leaving this planet to friends and relatives, you are now leaving this planet to a human being who is the single closest version of you. Your connection to that child is stronger than any bond in the universe. A parent would give their own life for their child. So the idea of leaving them on the planet in total peril is a most uncomfortable and unacceptable feeling. Lying quietly at night in bed thinking of ways out of this can spin you into having some great ideas or keep you up all night. But it gives you great and robust energy to find ways to fix this. 

I refuse to leave my child in a world with food shortages, water shortages, rising sea levels, civil unrest due to drought and massive environmental degradation, loss of wildlife, loss of habitat; a planet truly in crisis. A planet that will one day soon reach a place of irreversible damage. We are not walking or trotting into that world, we are barreling towards it. Regeneration at scale is our way out.

(To Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart): Since Kiss The Ground came out, much progress has been made for regenerative agriculture. But what else would you like to see being done?

Ryland: Great question. Since the film came out, a number of things have happened. Measurable and quantifiable things we are grateful to say. Not only did we reach 1 billion people with our message but there are now tens of millions of acres under regenerative management. This film changed the game. Where these necessary laundry list items to reverse climate change were once a conversation, they are now conversations that are turned into action.

(To Ryland): What are you proudest of about having made the film?

Ryland: All of it. I’ve never been more proud to be a part of something in my entire life or career. One thing I am truly proud of is not just the amount of eyeballs that have seen it but the amount of hearts and souls yearning for a solution that could be inspired and have a sense of hope. We’re just getting started.

(To Ryland:) Do you have any plans to make a Kiss the Ground part 2? 

Ryland: Josh and Rebecca, the film’s directors, are making a sequel to Kiss The Ground called Common Ground.  I am not heavily involved other than recommending some people and stories that could add even further richness to the film. The second film will pick up where the first left off – continuing to share the new perspectives and expressions of Regeneration.

(To Ryland): Since Kiss The Ground came out, much progress has been made for regenerative agriculture. But what else would you like to see being done?

Ryland: Great question. Since the film came out, a number of things have happened. Measurable and quantifiable things we are grateful to say. Not only did we reach 1 billion people with our message but there are now tens of millions of acres under regenerative management. This film changed the game. Where these necessary laundry list items to reverse climate change were once a conversation, they are now conversations that are turned into action.

(To Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart): How have you personally tried to make your eating habits more ecological?
I have moved to a regenerative organic farm. At Sowaheart.com, my sister and her husband grow regenerative organic produce and run a CSA program. My wife and I have set up our most successful garden yet, and eat from it on a daily basis. I have also looked at the staple items in my diet, and have found a reputable source that I now consistently buy from.  I also routinely share with my community the stories of good farmers and brands who are taking care of their soil, to help spread the word.

(To Ian:) At one point, your focus was on saving animals. Are you still involved in animal charities?

Ian: Absolutely, I’m still involved in animal charities. It means the world to me. But what I realize is there’s so much incredible work being done in the animal welfare space. There was very little being done at scale in the regenerative, climate saving space.

The regenerative space is absolutely critical for our survival on this planet. Once it all gets rolling a healthier happier planet will yield healthier happier people and I am convinced so many of our issues in regards to animal welfare and social justice around The world will start to find balance and solutions. I truly believe this. It’s physics. Healthy happy planet. Healthy, happy people. Healthy, happy people make kind, compassionate, grateful and reverent decisions. From that, only good will come. 

(To Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart): How have you personally tried to make your eating habits more ecological?

Ian: I think you can say Ryland and I work very hard and make sure our food choices have a positive impact on the ecology around us. Supporting farms, farmers and practices are crucial. The food I eat only comes from smaller organic farms without the use of pesticides and where regenerative practices are happening. It’s nice to have that luxury in a state like California. So much amazing food is produced year round. But it shouldn’t have to be a luxury, it should be nationwide, it should be worldwide. What Ryland has done in the space is unbelievable.

Ryland: I have moved to a regenerative organic farm. At Sowaheart.com, my sister and her husband grow regenerative organic produce and run a CSA program. My wife and I have set up our most successful garden yet, and eat from it on a daily basis. I have also looked at the staple items in my diet, and have found a reputable source that I now consistently buy from.  I also routinely share with my community the stories of good farmers and brands who are taking care of their soil, to help spread the word.

(To Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart): What’s the best part about growing your own food?

Ian: I know for a fact we both grow a lot of food. Again, the bounties of California weather are very special. On our property we grow citrus, dark, leafy greens like kale, chard, arugula as well as beets, carrots and a multitude of lettuce species. Tomatoes and berries are some of my favorites that we grow. It’s really magical to pick them with my little one.

There’s something so important about children understanding where their food comes from and that deep sense of gratitude and connection to the soil these plants are growing. That the health of that soil is directly tied into the health of that plant and therefore the health of their body. If every kid on the planet understood – even urban kids living in New York City or Dubai, Moscow or Beijing – the choices people would make would be vastly different. The world would shift on its axis. 

Thank you, Ian Somerhalder & Ryland Engelhart, for your commitment to our planet and its people!

Main image credit: newyorkfilmtvfestival.com

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