The Current

'This is not going to end well': Author Barbara Kingsolver on climate change

"Because climate change is really, really terrible, let's face it. This is not going to end well."
Barbara Kingsolver's novel Flight Behaviour is widely viewed as a climate change parable because it captures the emotional essence of living through an era of climate change. (Annie Griffiths)

Read Story Transcript

Barbara Kingsolver became a household name in 2000 when Oprah selected her novel, The Poisonwood Bible, for her book club. In that book, like all her books, the natural world is more than just a setting... it's almost another character in the story.  Her detailed descriptions of plants and animals evoke a sense of wonder and awe for all life.

Kingsolver's latest novel, Flight Behaviour, is considered a climate change parable.

"I really wanted to write a novel about how we talk about climate change, how we think about it and why we don't talk about it and why it is so hard to talk about," Kingsolver tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Because climate change is really, really terrible, let's face it. This is not going to end well."

She says that when it comes to climate change it's very difficult to change anyone's mind or get people to accept new information that we don't want to hear.
Barbara Kingsolver was raised in rural Kentucky and earned university degrees in ecology and evolutionary biology. She's written everything from scientific journal articles to poetry, including 14 books - both fiction and non-fiction. (Annie Griffiths)

"This terrible thing is coming right at us and we're not doing very much to either adapt or to stave it off and you think 'why in the world are we behaving like this?' And the answer is because we're human," says Kingsolver.

Human beings are consuming more than the planet can produce and it's simply unsustainable, she tells Tremonti.

"We're acting like children. We think we can keep taking more than there is to give; we just can't," she says. We need to learn to be happy with less and "learn a new way to think."

'It's just the nature of people to want to hear stories'

Fiction and literature can play a role in helping us consider the world in a new way. The award-winning author says fiction gives her a way of packaging science in a non-threatening way for a larger audience.

"If I can put that same information in a story that's shown to you, rather than told to you through the lives of interesting characters that you start to believe in and start to accept as your friends then people might come to that information who weren't really looking for it, but who really enjoy knowing it," Kingsolver explains.

"Fiction creates empathy and empathy opens us to the possibility of new ways of looking at the world and let me tell you that's what we need now."

What is also essential is hope.

"When you give up hope you remove yourself from the equation," says Kingsolver.

"I don't feel like I have that choice. I have to keep working toward the vision of a better future that I have in mind."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.

This segment is part of our season-long series Adaptation looking at the surprising, innovative, and sometimes ill-advised ways we accommodate a rapidly shifting world.