Harvey. Maria. Irma. Sandy. Katrina. We live in a time of unprecedented hurricanes and catastrophic weather events, a time when it is increasingly clear that climate change is neither imagined nor distant—and that rising seas are transforming the coastline of the United States in irrevocable ways.
In this highly original work of lyrical reportage, 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 accounts 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 the communities both currently at risk and already displaced, Rising privileges the voices of those usually kept at the margins.
At once polyphonic and precise, Rising is a shimmering meditation on vulnerability and on vulnerable communities, both human and more than human, and on how to let go of the places we love.
Like this book? Sign up for occasional updates
Praise and Prizes
“Sea level rise is not some distant problem in a distant place. As Elizabeth Rush shows, it’s affecting real people right now. Rising is a compelling piece of reporting, by turns bleak and beautiful.”
“Rising is a smart, lyrical testament to change and uncertainty. Elizabeth Rush listens to both the vulnerability and resiliency of communities facing the shifting shorelines of extreme weather. These are the stories we need to hear in order to survive and live more consciously with a sharp-edged determination to face our future with empathy and resolve. Rising illustrates how climate change is a relentless truth and how real people in real places know it by name, storm by flood by fire.”
“Elizabeth Rush’s graceful Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore addresses elevated sea levels from front stoops and town halls of communities watching their climate change through clinched teeth.”
“Moving and urgent . . . Elizabeth Rush's Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore is a revelation. . . . The project of Rising, like the project of Matthew Desmond's Pulitzer Prize-winning Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, is to draw attention to ongoing material crisis through the stories of the people who are surviving within it. Rising is a clarion call. The idea isn't merely that climate change is here and scary. There's a more important message: There are people out here who need help.”
“Lovely and thoughtful . . . Reading [Elizabeth Rush's] book is like learning ecology at the feet of a poet.”
“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. Elizabeth Rush masterfully presents firsthand accounts of these changes. . . 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.”
“A strange new kind of travel guide, Rising is a journey through the turbulent forefront of climate change—the coastal communities, rich and poor, human and nonhuman, that are already feeling the first effects of our rising seas. Elizabeth Rush sets out to put a face on a subject that is all too often depicted in abstract graphs and statistics, and gives us a group portrait of the men and women who are fighting, fleeing, and adapting to the terrible disappearance of the land they live on.”
“In this moving and memorable book, the voice of the author mingles with the voices of people in coastal communities all over the country—Maine, Rhode Island, Louisiana, Florida, New York, California—to offer testimony: The water is rising. Some have already lost their homes; some will soon; others are studying or watching or grieving. Though they haven’t met each other, their commonality forms a circle into which we are inexorably pulled by Elizabeth Rush’s powerful words.”
“Elizabeth Rush rises. She brings stories out of the woodwork, revealing the true effect of sea level rise on the land, on the sea, and on people. She writes from a generation not asking if climate change is true or not, but how to live in the face of it, how we adapt, lose, or gain. Logging the finest, most intuitive details, Rush holds her subjects in tight focus, each coastline conveyed down to its grains of sand and inflections in the tides. Her writing is present among relocations and dying swamps, conveying the intricate nature of sea level rise. How do levees work? What does saltwater do to a freshwater aquifer? What voices are coming out of the wrack line, and what does it sound like as a coast is rewritten? Rush makes real a monolithic subject often too large to digest. You can taste the coming salt.”
“Rising is not just a book about rising sea levels and the lost habitats and homes—it’s also a moving rumination on the rise of women as investigative reporters, the rise of tangible solutions, the rise of human endeavor and flexibility. It is also a rising of unheard voices; one of the eloquent beauties of this book is the inclusion of various stories, Studs Terkel-style, of those affected most by our changing shoreline. A beautiful and tender account of what’s happening—and what’s in store.”