This is another of the several re-blogs I am posting in an effort to allow me time to collect those that seem to be the very best that I will include in an upcoming book. My hope it to whet your appetite!
Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent novels Flight Behavior is both disturbing and well worth reading. The reading goes slowly because the book, while extremely well-written, is so dense and so disturbing. One can take only so much at a sitting. This one is about climate change and the effect it is having on monarch butterflies. Actually, the odd behavior of the monarchs is the result of climate change and the stupidity of humans who have clear-cut a huge area in Mexico where the Monarchs usually Winter over. Because of the clear-cutting, torrential rains in that part of Mexico have destroyed the entire mountain area where the butterflies usually end their migration. As a result, they have found themselves in the Tennessee mountains and the question is “why?” The climate in southern Tennessee is not conducive to the survival of the butterflies over the Winter. Something has gone seriously wrong with the inherent navigational system they have relied upon for thousands of years, and the novel centers around a small group of people who are determined to discover the reasons and try to understand what is happening to their world — and to ours.
The novel’s focus is upon its hero, Dellarobia Turnbow, a young woman with very little education but a bright and inquiring mind, her slow-witted husband, and two very small children. They are dirt poor, but Dellarobia has discovered something extraordinary when she walks up on the mountain one day in a fit of despair over what she regards as a wasted life. She suddenly comes upon millions and millions of beautiful monarchs who have appeared from nowhere and seem determined to stay for a while. The novel recounts the results of her discovery: her mother-in-law’s determination to profit from the discovery by giving tours; her father-in-law’s determination to log the area for the money that he desperately needs after a series of financial disasters; Dellarobia’s fame as the news media seek her out and delight in romanticizing her story, without mentioning the terrible fact that there is something very wrong to bring those creatures to this place in such great numbers. But the discovery also brings a lepidopterist from New Mexico, an expert on Monarch behavior, with a small crew of three graduate students who are very much concerned to find out why this has happened.
I won’t spoil your surprise should you decide to read the novel, which I highly recommend to those with steady nerves. But at one point in the novel, after Dellarobia has gone to work for the scientific team helping with odds and ends around the laboratory they have set up in her barn, a discussion is taking place between the lead scientist, Ovid Byron, his somewhat cynical graduate assistant Pete, and Dellarobia. At one point Byron explodes in anger at Pete’s glib dismissals of the unconcerned,
“For God’s sake, man, the damn globe is catching fire, and islands are drowning. The evidence is staring them in the face.”
Later, Dellarobia reflects on the apathy of humans who choose to ignore the obvious.
“She spoke carefully to the room. ‘I think people are scared to face up to a bad outcome. That’s just human. Like not going to the doctor when you’ve found a lump. If fight or flight is the choice, it’s way easier to fly'”
The novel puts me in mind of a ride on the Titanic with all of us aboard. The captain and those in charge of the vessel have all the confidence in the world in the invincibility of this ship. After all, it’s the greatest thing men have come up with and the epitome of technological expertise. The passengers are all busy entertaining themselves in hundreds of different ways, in the lounge dancing and dining; in their staterooms making love or playing with their electronic toys (or both); a small group clusters in the stern, heads bowed in prayer, eyes shut tight, fingers in their ears; and a few scientists are standing in the bow of the ship pointing to the huge iceberg that is dead ahead and shouting against the wind. We all choose to ignore it, to “fly” as Dellarobia says, rather than fight. We are in group denial: it’s too painful to take into our consciousness. As she says, “It’s impossible.” So we continue to dine, dance, play with our toys, and keep our fingers firmly in our ears. The captain is certain that the ship can withstand any collision with an iceberg and denies that there is any real danger.
But there is danger; it is dead ahead, and we cannot survive if we continue to ignore it — especially since there are no lifeboats on this ship. The only possible option is for enough passengers to take the scientists seriously, band together and take control of the ship and steer it to safety. The question is whether enough people will realize that the scientists are right before it is too late.
A timely piece…and no time to waste in sharing it hugh. The analogy is clear enough, and has many current real-life comparatives that prove we are sailing ‘blind’ into a tumultuous near disaster.
Those who need to hear seem to have their ears closed!
Quite so … 😥
Well, you certainly whetted my appetite! I downloaded a Kindle sample just a minute ago for my bedtime reading tonight. Excellent post, Hugh! Looking forward to your book …
The book will be dedicated to my fellow bloggers and especially you, Keith and Lisa (from Ecuador). I will let you know when it is finished!
Awwwww … I am honoured!!! Thank you!!!!
Thank you my friend. Our job is easy. Just keep on writing.
Combing the backlog of unread mail, I found this post patiently waiting to be seen/read/acknowledged…. I wasn’t aware that Kingsolver had written this, and from your review I have tears in my eyes.
I am glad that she found a way to address this problem,one that many ignore, and one that you grabbed by the horns – or perhaps wings – and shared with us.
Just today someone posted about not seeing any Monarchs ‘yet’ but he hoped they’d arrive where he lives in New Hampshire.. And just today while pondering what to include in a commissioned piece of art that deals with climate change, I thought, ‘The Monarchs! They have to own a spot on this design!’
And here they are again, in what is surely a heart-wrenching read. I will be seeing friends in about a month, and they are in the states right now. I’ll ask them to get a copy and read it first….
Thanks, Hugh, and thanks for the kind words as always.
It’s a splendid novel and well worth the read. But brace yourself. Kingsolver holds nothing back!
Thanks for reposting this. “Oh, it is just butterflies,” I can hear some say not knowing their impact. “Oh, it is just bees,” I can hear others say, underestimating their impact. “Oh, climate change impact is so far off,” I can hear even more say not knowing the increased number of forest fires and droughts are happening now, as a result.
Right now, what President Trump and EPA Director Scott Pruitt are doing to the environment is beyond poor stewardship – it is malfeasance. One thing is for certain, you cannot make America great by raping our land, water and air. Keith
Indeed it is!
Ha! I see that the book was published in 2012!
I’m glad that you shared it with us again, and I look forward to reading it.