“The Ants and the Grasshopper” Shows How Denial Can Be a Win for Activists

Around the world, the fight for climate action will also be a battle for food sovereignty, racial justice, and gender equality. A new documentary by James Beard Award-winning activist and New York Times bestselling writer Raj Patel, “The Ants and the Grasshopper,” tells this story through the journey of Anita Chitaya, a small farmer and local leader in the village of Bwabwa, Malawi.

Like many other villages in developing countries, Bwabwa is heavily impacted by the climate emergency. The nearby river is running dry, and rains only come three times a year. Each day it takes longer for women to collect water from the boreholes. But Chitaya’s work has successfully helped to restore depleted soils and decrease child nutrition in her community—all while fighting against the patriarchy for gender equality.

The film follows Chitaya’s greatest challenge: persuading Americans that climate change is real. She travels from Malawi to California to the White House, meeting climate skeptics and struggling farmers. Her journey spans the rural-urban divide and schisms of race, class, and gender that shape America.

In an exclusive screening event at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) Nourish Scotland pavilion, Patel speaks about how the climate crisis denial Chitaya faces can actually be seen as a win.

“Agreement doesn’t get you very far,” Patel says, referencing COP itself, where the same unmet commitments are signed year after year. “And pity is even worse. But denial you can work with.”

If there’s denial on an issue, it points to a sense that something is wrong. This sore point can serve as an entry into conversations to drive better outcomes, according to Patel.

He stresses the importance of big-picture thinking for the audience: “You can’t just grow organic and pray.”

Patel also says that climate activism must rise beyond standing outside and shouting: “The kind of communication that needs to happen now is one that is felt in the wallets of the rich, because there’s no other language that they speak.”

“Be activists for climate change. That’s spectacularly vague because in every context it’s going to be different…the kinds of lawbreakings that are going to be required are context-specific, but lawbreaking there will be.”

The Ants and the Grasshopper: Official Trailer

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