My choice of champion of the environment for today is the American novelist, poet and essayist Barbara Kingsolver (b.1955). She has many best-selling and prize-winning novels to her credit. Several of these, in particular The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, and Flight Behavior, highlight environmental themes. They reflect her intense interest in ecological issues and the relationship between human society and the natural world.
As a biological scientist, – she studied ecology and evolutionary biology to Master’s degree level and also writes for science journals – Kingsolver sees her novels as an engaging way of informing and inspiring a wider public to share a love for the natural world and a concern for its protection. Her rich descriptions of plant and animal life, and of wilderness landscapes, in her writing, evoke a sense of wonder and awe for all life that some have compared to the distinctive style of the well-known 19th century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Kingsolver has said that she sees literature, and art generally, as inevitably linked to politics.
“I don’t understand how any good art could fail to be political. Literature is a powerful craft, so we have an obligation to take it seriously” Source: The Guardian
Her novels are for Kingsolver a way of bringing before the wider public political and moral questions about the environment, climate change and social justice. She has been described as an activist writer. In 2000, Kingsolver established the Bellwether Prize, from her own resources, as a bi-annual literary prize “to encourage writers, publishers, and readers to consider how fiction engages visions of social change and human justice”. It is now the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. The most you can do is live inside that hope, running down its hallways, touching the walls on both sides.” Barbara Kingsolver Animal Dreams (1990)