On Tuesday 16th May 2023 the Sustainable St Albans Our Planet Our Future (OPOF) project team returned another popular annual event to the calendar with a specially arranged screening of the award-winning environmental documentary The Ants & The Grasshopper.
Residents from the local area watched this deeply impactful and thought-provoking film projected onto a big screen in a friendly, communal atmosphere at the Plough and Harrow pub in Southdown, Harpenden. Following the screening we came together to reflect and consider the question posed by the film makers…
How do you change someone’s mind about the most important thing in the world?
We were introduced to Anita, an agricultural labourer and housewife from a small village in rural Malawi who reminded us that while we were sitting comfortably, communities around the world are already experiencing the ill-effects of man-made climate change with changing weather patterns and acute resource availability issues including those essential for sustaining life such as water and in turn, food scarcity. It soon became clear that on top of all these challenges, Anita was also impacted further by social factors such as lack of gender equality despite Anita being the main worker of the household, in addition to her domestic duties.
Determined to raise awareness and bring about positive changes, Anita took us on a journey to the USA exploring the level of knowledge people in California have of the situation Anita faces in her home village and the countless other women in the same position. On the way to her eventual destination to meet policy makers at the White House, Anita observed a stark contrast in the population from large, land-owning farmers with little knowledge or understanding of her situation, living side by side with various disadvantaged communities and backgrounds sharing more in common with her own, who are also striving to increase awareness and educate people.
Following her meeting with policy makers, Anita returned to Malawi and within a couple of years had succeeded in shifting some of the attitudes and customs in her home village on the journey to greater equality. Anita’s husband now helps to provide for the family, enabling Anita to spend time teaching and nurturing the next generation with the same care and skill that she nurtures her crop plants.
This fascinating documentary and discussion in the room afterwards highlighted how the factors which affect quality of life and environmental sustainability are so often inter-related. In particular, how the efforts to improve economic and social sustainability can also improve environmental sustainability when considered together and the perils of when they are not.