''With more and more cli-fi novels and movies on tap, I cannot stop thinking about how it is now possible to mine affecting, resonant drama out of the certainty of climate change catastrophe. It's no longer science fiction. What I'm saying here is that living through the twilight of humankind is gonna be worth it for future cli-fi novels and movies.''
-- Stephen Kelly, UK culture writer in London
Peter Gardner in Australia is an astute observer of the world around him, and in particular he often focuses on climate change in his blog posts and other writings online. In this summer of 2018, where world headlines are about wildfires in Greece and California and Colorado and Sweden, and where heatwaves are turning up the heat, so to speak, on rightwing climate denialists, Peter has written a blog post that calls for amplification.
In this fiery, sweltering summer of 2018, "nature imitates art" in Barbara Kingsolver's prescient 2012 novel ''FLIGHT BEHAVIOR''
a blog post by staff writer Dan Bloom and agencies
"Global warming dwarfs all other political issues," Peter tells this blog from his home in the Land Down Under.
In keeping with this slogan, he recently reviewed an important novel by American writer Barbara Kingsolver, titled "Flight Behaviour," a popular novel that has been translated to over 25 languages worldwide. His book review of the novel, first published in 2012, reads in a new way during this fiery and heatwave-rocked summer of 2018, as Peter shows in some of the excerpts from the book that he posts on his blog.
"Set in the southern Appalachian mountains in the eastern USA, the central character Dellarobia is an uneducated, restless, churchgoing, small farmer’s wife," Peter writes. " She discovers an abnormal winter roosting of Monarch butterflies on the family’s forested land which quickly becomes a community and media sensation."
All the while, the weather is acting strangely with continuous unseasonal rains and warmth. Eventually a character in the novel named Dr. Ovid Byron, a Monarch butterfly scientist, comes to the farm and sets up a laboratory to study them.
"But climate change is not mentioned until about halfway through the novel when Ovid states: 'We are seeing a bizarre alteration of a previously stable pattern,' he said finally. 'A continental system breaking down. Most likely, this is due to climate change.'' Peter notes this quote appears on page 228.
Much of what follows has Dellarobia on a steep learning curve on science and climate change, Peter explains.
"Worried about the survival of the Monarch butterflies she is told by Ovid: “That is a concern of conscience, not of biology. Science doesn’t tell us what we should do. It only tells us what is.”’ And that quote appears on page 320.
The novelist goes on in her story: "There are always more questions. Science as a process is never complete. It is not a foot race, with a finish line. Ovid warned her about this, as a standard point of contention. People will always be waiting at a particular finish line: journalists with their cameras, impatient crowds eager to call the race, astounded to see the scientists approach, pass the mark, and keep running. It’s a common misunderstanding.” And this quote is from page 351.
Since Peter lives in Australia, he notes that an event known as "Black Saturday" gets a mention in Kingsolver's novel when Ovid is describing some of the devastating effects of climate change saying: “Walls of flame, Dellarobia. Travelling the land like freight trains, fed by dead trees and desiccated soil. In Victoria hundreds of people burned to death in one month, so many their prime minister called it hell on earth. This has not happened before. There is no evacuation plan.” This quote, which also sounds a lot like it could be about the wildfires in California and Colorado and Sweden this ominous summer of 2018, appears on page 278.
Peter notes that throughout the novel Kingsolver highlights two of the major problems associated with climate change -- persuading, educating a skeptical, uninformed or misinformed citizenry and misreporting by the media. A TV journalist named Tina, another important character in the novel asks: “Dr. Byron, let’s talk about global warming. Scientists of course are in disagreement whether this is happening, and whether humans have a role.”
Kingsolver writes as part of her narration: "Ovid’s eyebrows lifted in a familiar way, almost amused."
And the character of Dr Byron answers the reporter: “I’m afraid you have missed the boat, Tina. Even the most recalcitrant climate scientists agree now, the place is heating up. Pretty much every one of the lot. Unless some other outcome is written on the subject line of his paycheck.” This quote appears on page 366.
So there you have it: a novel written in 2010 and 2011 and published in 2012 reflects things that are happening around the world this summer where ''nature imitates art.''