The papacy has been in the news a lot lately, what with the Papal election and questions about Pope Francis' role in Argentina's Dirty War. Now there are questions as to how focused the Pope will be on environmental issues. For example, here's an article on the issue from today's LA Times, "Irish priest says environment should be Pope Francis' No. 1 issue:"
As the shopkeepers in this capital city readied for St. Patrick’s Day under typically intermittent rainy skies, Father Sean McDonagh’s attention was on the new pope’s agenda. The Columban priest, whose order has a long tradition of missionary work, has been an outspoken critic of Vatican policies. With Pope Francis’ honeymoon period underway he, like many, is waiting to see what issues will be at the center of the new papal agenda. McDonagh, 69, believes Francis needs to go green, making environmentalism the No. 1 priority for the Catholic Church... While the Vatican has taken firm positions on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion, less attention is given to the church’s record on environmental work. Under Pope Benedict XVI, solar panels were installed on the Holy See's ancient buildings and the Vatican made plans to off-set carbon emissions with a yet-to-be planted forest in Hungary.
Will the papacy address global warming? Who knows. But global warming seems to be moving on regardless, as shown by a recent study highlighted in the UPI article "Study: Superstorm Sandy not a freak event:"
October's "Superstorm" Sandy was not a freak occurrence but a predictable consequence of loss of arctic sea ice because of global warming, U.S. researchers say. Scientists at Cornell University and Rutgers University said the severe loss of summertime arctic sea ice has increased the frequency of atmospheric blocking events like the one that steered Hurricane Sandy west into the densely populated New York City area. The decrease in sea ice appears to enhance Northern Hemisphere jet stream meandering and intensify arctic air mass invasions toward middle latitudes, leading to the increase in blocking, they said. Such a strong atmospheric, high-pressure blocking pattern over Greenland and the northwest Atlantic Ocean prevented Sandy from steering northeastward and out to sea like most October hurricanes and tropical storms from the Caribbean, the researchers said.So what do we have for novels about global warming? Today we feature a bit of a cage match. ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE?
IN THIS CORNER we have Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior:
In what may be the first novel to realistically imagine the near-term impact of “global weirding,” Barbara Kingsolver sets her latest story in rural Appalachia . In fictional Feathertown, Tennessee, Dellarobia Turnbow--on the run from her stifling life--charges up the mountain above her husband’s family farm and stumbles onto a “valley of fire” filled with millions of monarch butterflies. This vision is deemed miraculous by the town’s parishioners, then the international media. But when Ovid, a scientist who studies monarch behavior, sets up a lab on the Turnbow farm, he learns that the butterflies’ presence signals systemic disorder--and Dellarobia's in-laws’ logging plans won’t help. Readers who bristle at politics made personal may be turned off by the strength of Kingsolver’s convictions, but she never reduces her characters to mouthpieces, giving equal weight to climate science and human need.
AND IN THE OTHER CORNER we have one of my favorite authors, Michael Crichton. Unfortunately, Crichton's "climate change skeptic" novel State of Fear: was panned by climatologists as being largely devoid of facts. No matter! He's a great writer, which is why we featured his novel Airframe in a previous post here at Newsworthy Novels. Here's the rundown on State of Fear:
In Paris, a physicist dies after performing a laboratory experiment for a beautiful visitor. In the jungles of Malaysia, a mysterious buyer purchases deadly cavitation technology, built to his specifications. In Vancouver, a small research submarine is leased for use in the waters off New Guinea. And in Tokyo, an intelligence agent tries to understand what it all means. Thus begins Michael Crichton's exciting and provocative techno-thriller State of Fear. Only Crichton's unique ability to blend scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction could bring such disparate elements to a heart-stopping conclusion. This is Crichton's most wide-ranging thriller. State of Fear takes the reader from the glaciers of Iceland to the volcanoes of Antarctica, from the Arizona desert to the deadly jungles of the Solomon Islands, from the streets of Paris to the beaches of Los Angeles.
UPDATE: longer reviews of Flight Behavior can be found at the following ecology/conservation blogs: Early Career Ecologists, Sustainable Kentucky, and Ann Littlewood Zoo Mysteries.