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For her latest novel Barbara Kingsolver highlights the transnational, biospheric and personal consequences of climate change through exploring the life of a young, disaffected farmer’s wife in Tennessee. Dellarobia Turner’s life is turned upside down when she witnesses what she believes to be a miracle – an entire valley that seems to be alight in an orange flame. In fact it’s the entire migratory population of North American monarch butterflies.
Dellarobia’s attempt to understand how this has happened brings her into conflict with her family and her community. The patriarchal relationship with her in-laws that she challenges at home is coupled with her struggles against the multiple levels of exploitation of consumerism. Too poor to buy Christmas presents for her children, Dellarobia ‘looked over the bins of tinselly junk and felt despair … There had to be armies of factory workers making this slapdash stuff, underpaid people cranking out things for underpaid people to buy and use up, living their lives mostly to cancel each other out. A worldwide entrapment of bottom feeders.’ Disaffection with an oppressive and monotonous home life is a synecdoche for a more general struggle with the world Dellarobia sees around her.
Kingsolver’s thoughtful crafting of the story questions the motives driving climate change denial in a precarious world. The failure of the US media to provide accurate information in favour of advertising profits and viewer rating is tackled alongside the inaccessibility of academic science for those in the US who are likely to be most affected by climate change – the rural poor and migrants fleeing various catastrophic disasters.
The scandal of market-based responses and the dilemmas of the daily grind of poverty are also weaved into the novel as Dellarobia determinedly fights against logging the mountain – the butterflies’ home – for quick cash: ‘If we log the mountain, then the trees are gone. But the debt isn’t. Does it make sense to turn everything upside down to make one payment?’
The narrative is compelling, yet not always subtle, and the imagery and religious symbolism feel somewhat overdone by the end. But the integrity of Kingsolver’s environmental and political messages makes Flight Behaviour a rich and captivating read.
Grace Blakeley investigates the curious case of Carillion: how the company’s slow decline and abrupt liquidation reveals the nature of modern capitalism.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns