Author talks butterflies, migration

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By Michael Dunlap

Senior Staff Photographer

Brookhaven College’s Windmill Garden is going through a metamorphosis, just like the subject of Barbara Kingsolver’s best-selling novel: “Flight Behavior: A Novel.”

A book discussion with Kingsolver in attendance was held Feb. 11 in Room S003. It laid the foundation for more indepth dialogue on the subjects of personal revelation and climate change. Thom Chesney, Brookhaven president, led the event.

The discussion opened with a presentation and video concerning another on-campus project, the 4,000-square-foot Windmill Garden. The purpose of the garden will be to provide not only beauty to the campus, but also a habitat for valuable pollinators such as bees, wasps and butterflies – especially monarch butterflies, whose migratory path crosses through Texas, according to nathab.com.

The event was part of Brookhaven’s Quality Enhancement Program aimed at promoting the improvement of reading skills and engagement related to reading. Kingsolver’s book is a fiction novel and delivers an urgent social message in the vein of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” which addressed unsanitary conditions in the meatpacking industry.

In her book, Kingsolver juxtaposes the changes in migration patterns of monarch butterflies affected by climate change with a story of familial relationships and the consequences of personal choices. The main character of the book, Dellarobia Turnbow, is a 28-year old on the verge of a potential affair that would ruin her good name and marriage. Turnbow’s moment of personal revelation comes with the appearance of branches glowing with an orange glaze.

That orange glaze is 15 million monarch butterflies that came to roost on her family’s property in Tennessee. This is not normal behavior for the monarchs, which usually migrate to Central Mexico during winter but have now changed their migration patterns as a result of pollution and climate change, according to nathab.com.

Turnbow joins entomologist Ovid Byron, who has come to study this phenomenon. Turnbow’s life metaphorically morphs and takes flight like the subject of her new interest, the monarch, as well as the real problems in the larger world.

Phase one of the garden has been completed with beds, walkways, irrigation and an outdoor classroom, Carrie Schweitzer, Brookhaven director of sustainability, said.

Phase two will be the most significant and includes the purchase and planting of pollinator friendly native plants as well as construction of garden storage and acquisition of tools for garden volunteers. “Brookhaven has been selected by the district Foundation office to pilot a new crowdfunding platform,” Schweitzer said.

The Foundation has contracted Useed, a higher education crowdfunding company. The Windmill Garden fund launched Feb. 15. at dcccd.useed.net. After the video, Chesney read a selection from the book and asked the group about any lightbulb moments in their own lives.

Brookhaven currently has a display of books on the subject outside of the library, as well as selections on the shelves dealing specifically with their migration patterns.

A follow-up event will take place Feb. 24 with Janet D. Smith, Dallas County master gardener, who will deliver her lecture, “The Miracle of Monarch Butterflies.”

The discussion continued further into the topic of climate change. Chesney said: “The media is [covering the migration], and the coverage seems to be focused on the what. Look at this, it’s here, and it’s not focused on the why.”