Interview: Finian Makepeace is making a difference with the ‘Kiss the Ground’ nonprofit organization

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Finian Makepeace
Finian Makepeace. Photo Credit: Nicole Granados

Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Finian Makepeace chatted with Markos Papadatos about making a difference with his “Kiss the Ground” nonprofit organization.

‘Kiss the Ground’ movement

On his inspiration to start the Kiss the Ground nonprofit, he said, “Two things inspired me to do this. First, I had a dream. In that dream, I was a very old man living in a refugee camp in Brazil because global climate change had wreaked havoc on the world with billions of dead and more climate refugees. My granddaughter woke me up in the middle of the night and we snuck out of the camp and walked for miles through desert-like conditions till we reached a city that lay in ruin. She looked up at me with tears streaming down her face and she said, ‘Why did you let this all happen?’ I woke up from that dream knowing that I must do more to find an alternative pathway than the one we are on. I couldn’t be that old man without an answer.”

Makepeace continued, “About eight to nine months after that dream, I learned about the idea that could not just sustain the degraded and vulnerable world humans had created, but reverse the damage. From too much carbon in the atmosphere to water shortages, biodiversity collapse, and human health, it was all about the soil! Humans could work with nature to build soil back faster than they ever thought was possible and that possibility of regeneration was the most significant solution I had ever heard of.”

“As someone who felt very familiar with most things around environmental solutions, I said, If I didn’t know, probably 95% of the world doesn’t know (that turned out to be the case). Kiss the Ground co-founder Ryland Engelhart and I shook hands that night and said, if this is true we have to dedicate our lives to getting this idea out to the world. And so began Kiss the Ground and we’ve carried that mission of awakening people to the possibilities of regeneration through media, education, and advocacy ever since,” he elaborated.

Kiss the Ground’ film

The “Kiss the Ground” film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell, has been well-received worldwide. “The biggest hope for us was that it would fulfill our mission of, ‘Awakening people to the possibilities of regeneration.’ So many across the world are becoming more aware of how bad it’s getting but so few know about regenerative agriculture and its massive potential to not only reverse climate change but restore our land so it functions again.” 

“Personally, I really really wanted people to grasp regeneration,” he admitted. “We are living in a strange paradigm when we are imagining a future, working really hard, and investing billions to ‘sustain’ an already heavily degraded planet. Simply, we won’t last, and many other species won’t last, if we don’t regenerate the planet. The good news is, we can because the only substance that we really need to regenerate soil and ecosystems is the carbon that is currently in our atmosphere causing a problem. The problem is the solution; farmers and ranchers can work with nature to put the carbon in the soil and believe it or not, it is more profitable for the farmers too.”

Daily motivations

On his daily motivations, he said, “What inspires me is that people can get this idea from so many different angles and then find their way to seeing all of it. If you want to revive rural economies and help farmer prosperity = regenerative agriculture. If you want to stop the collapse of biodiversity = regenerative agriculture. If you want to sequester billions of tons of carbon = regenerative agriculture. If you want to seed more rain clouds, replenish fresh water supplies, and reduce chemical contamination in all water = regenerative agriculture. If you want to turn deserts back into grasslands = regenerative agriculture. If you want more healthy, less chemically filled, and more nutrient-dense food for you and your children = regenerative agriculture.”

“If you want to eat meat but hate what factory farming is doing = regenerative agriculture. If you want to reduce flooding and drought = regenerative agriculture. The point is, you can this is a multi-win solution that has brought together so many people from so many different walks of life to work together on a cost-effective and scalable solution,” he added.

The digital age

On being a part of the digital age, now with streaming and technology being so prevalent, he said, “It’s scary to be raising kids (ages 5 and 1.5) in this for a number of reasons. However, the access to education for anyone to learn and become a contributor just because they care has never been more accessible and that means we are empowered and don’t have to wait till we have our four-year degree to ‘make a difference and impact the world.’ Also, it has allowed for our content around this massive solution to be seen, used, and shared by millions around the world (we started in a garage 11 years ago and dreamed that we could help connect more people to this and without being in the digital age, that would have been a whole lot harder).”

Career-defining moments

Regarding his career-defining moments, he said, “I think the biggest one was deciding we were going to, ‘start this big foolish project’ and being very serious in the commitment even before knowing what we would become or how we would achieve any of our goals. The next would be the help in creating Kiss the Ground the movie, bringing some of the movie’s key stars to the directors, and helping to shape the narrative around regeneration.”

“This idea is led by so many around the world, Kiss the Ground the organization has, in so many ways, acted as a place where the leading ideas can be put together so that they can make their way to the general public to create the momentum the whole movement needs. Being a “champion” who is dedicated to representing the movement is key,” he said.

“Stepping up to create Soil Advocate Training was big because it really forced me to sharpen all my knowledge and skills to empower millions of more leaders in this space. This master class is used by thousands to quickly allow them to become confident advocates for this movement similar to Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project,” he added.

‘Common Ground’

He discussed serving as a producer on the new film “Common Ground,” which will be released in theaters later this year. This documentary was also directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell. “I was much less involved in this film than I was with Kiss the Ground but it was a great pleasure working to help produce the DC segments with the Common Ground film crew,” he said.

Makepeace continued, “All three of the DC segments were connected to our Farm Bill campaign, Regenerate America, in one we worked with the former House Ag chairman David Scott of GA as well as the Rodale Institute to create the first-ever hearing on Regenerative Agriculture. Rick Clark, who is a big star of the Common Ground movie was the one who testified on behalf of the Regenerate America campaign about how regenerative agriculture is a common ground solution that helps build resilience and increase farmer profitability. For another, it was a rally we helped put on with key organizations like NSAC, National Young Farmers, and many more called ‘Farmers for Climate Action.’ The other was a briefing Regenerate America put on featuring Woody Harrelson with Representatives Craig, Baird, and Phillips.”

“Please watch it,” he stressed about the new film. “This is the time for everyone to understand that we have an option right now to create a new trajectory for humanity. It will not be enough to stop all CO2 emissions, we need to draw down that CO2. it will not be enough to sustain the desertification that plagues the world, we need to reverse it. Regeneration of soil is at the core and we can all be involved to support it. From shifting purchasing habits to becoming a soil advocate to changing your business or starting a new one to sharing these ideas with the world with one click, there are hundreds of ways to ‘kneel and kiss the ground’.” 

Success

On his definition of the word success, Makepeace concluded, “Not staying stagnant, shooting for the stars and landing on the moon, trying my hardest, and becoming more of a resource because of it. Being a contribution.”

For more information on Kiss the Ground, check out its official website.