Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver includes climate change, environmental & social issues that all need addressing, which are wrapped up in stunning prose and an interesting story. The monarchs, which become a main (beautiful) character in the story, and whose “flight behavior” is threatened by global climate change. This to me, mirrors the changes in the central character Dellarobia. Some of the most appealing parts of the novel were when she was trying to understand what was happening with the monachs, and discovering new ideas that she never heard of, due her circumstances and lack of education. She is genuine in her curiosity, which makes the teaching play well on the page. Even her reaction to Ovid describing the reporting on climate change, “the damn globe is catching fire, and the islands are drowning. The evidence is staring them in the face.” She reacted with rage (due to her news broadcasts), and bewilderment, which is a common reaction to the plethora of information regarding the issue. She even thinks “How could this be true, she thought, if no one was talking about it? People with influence. Important people made such a big deal over infinitely smaller losses.” That is spot on, as we have discussed many times in class, what it will take for “big business” to pay attention to the effects of climate change.
I found an interesting interview with Kingsolver on NPR, and she says, “You can introduce ideas to people in a non-threatening way. You can introduce science to people who didn’t know they were interested in science.” This is quite similar to the Erik Conway interview where he speaks about fiction giving more latitude in writing. Kingsolver goes on to say “…how it’s possible to begin a conversation…between scientists and non-scientists…progressive and conservative.” The accompanying article this week, “The Power of Climate Change Fiction,” also touches on this subject. “While science fiction films and novels often, and quite naturally, raise awareness of — or stimulate discussion about — scientific and technological issues including climate change, they seldom function as primers for the solutions we need for these very knotty problems.” Perhaps, even as stated films like the “Day After Tomorrow,” are so far-fetched, but they are also creating awareness and conversation about climate change and the more discussion, the better.
Kingsolver ends on a high note, giving her characters convincing wings to consider making changes in their own nature, even saying “what was the use of saving a world that had no soul left in it. Continents without butterflies, seas without coral reef…What if all human effort amounted basically to saving a place for ourselves to park?” Constantly we, (humans as a whole) are dismissing hard evidence that could shake us out of shared stupor. As Dellarobia states, ”…Man against Nature. Of all the possible conflicts, that was the one that was hopeless. Even a slim education had taught her this much: Man loses.” We are indeed currently losing, but I see small glimmers of hope in the much needed discussion and education on the issues than ever before.