Barbara Kingsolver and Butterflies

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver tackles global warming. 

What would happen if monarch butterflies suddenly appeared at the wrong overwintering site? That’s the scenario Barbara Kingsolver paints in her captivating new novel, Flight Behavior, in which she explores why climate change is such a divisive issue.

What big question were you trying to answer?
I’ve been asking myself for some time now: How can we all be looking at climate change and believe different things about it? That’s the question I wanted to explore. It’s an effort to understand how we’ve gotten stuck in these two teams, which has to do with family and the social grouping in which you’re born and raised. There’s a lot of science behind the notion that we are more intuitive than we are rational. That’s what this book is about really.

Why the monarch butterfly as a bellwether?
I woke up one morning with a vision of 15 million monarchs roosting in a forested hollow in the county where I live. And I knew that would be a fantastic way to tell the story, to create a freak biological event that would look like disaster to the biologically trained onlookers and would look like a beautiful miracle to everyone else.

You studied biology. How important was scientific accuracy?
I want people to take this as a story about real things. Obviously the characters are invented, the plot is invented, but the conversation is about something absolutely real and extremely important. That is climate change. I’m not going to fib. I’m not going to create fake facts.

Why is now the right time for a climate change novel?
This is the problem. It seems to me now that this problem will eclipse all others in my lifetime. It’s astounding to me that we are participating in this massive cultural denial. This is so much more important than anything else we can imagine. It was high time to write a novel about it.