FINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL OUTDOOR BOOK AWARD
A CHICAGO TRIBUNE TOP TEN BOOK OF 2018
A PUBLISHERS WEEKLY AND LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOK OF 2018
Hailed as “deeply felt” (New York Times), “a revelation” (Pacific Standard), and “the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing” (Chicago Tribune), Rising is both a highly original work of lyric reportage and a haunting meditation on how to let go of the places we love.
With every passing day, and every record-breaking hurricane, it grows clearer that climate change is neither imagined nor distant—and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways. In Rising, Elizabeth Rush guides readers through some of the places where this change has been most dramatic, from the Gulf Coast to Miami, and from New York City to the Bay Area. For many of the plants, animals, and humans in these places, the options are stark: retreat or perish in place.
Weaving firsthand testimonials from those facing this choice—a Staten Islander who lost her father during Sandy, the remaining holdouts of a Native American community on a drowning Isle de Jean Charles, a neighborhood in Pensacola settled by escaped slaves hundreds of years ago—with profiles of wildlife biologists, activists, and other members of these vulnerable communities, Rising privileges the voices of those too often kept at the margins.
Timely and urgent, this report on how climate change is affecting American shorelines provides critical evidence of the devastating changes already faced by some coastal dwellers. Rush, who teaches creative nonfiction at Brown University, masterfully presents firsthand accounts of these changes, acknowledging her own privileged position in comparison to most of her interviewees and the heavy responsibility involved in relaying their experiences to an audience. These include the story of Alvin Turner, who has lived in his Pensacola home for more than five decades, survived numerous hurricanes, does not carry flood insurance, and lives "alone on the edge of a neighborhood threatened from all sides." Alvin's story is not unlike that of Chris Brunet, a native of the shrinking Isle de Jean Charles in a Louisiana bayou, who must decide whether to stay on the disappearing island or leave. While showing that today's climate refugees are overwhelmingly those already marginalized, Rush smartly reminds readers that even the affluent will eventually be affected by rising sea levels, writing that water doesn't distinguish "between a millionaire and the person who repairs the millionaire's yacht." Rush also presents a legible overview of scientific understandings of climate change and the options for combating it. In the midst of a highly politicized debate on climate change and how to deal with its far-reaching effects, this book deserves to be read by all.