Journalist Elizabeth Rush's Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore is science, poetry and personal witness, concerned with human and more-than-human communities. It is a reckoning with the ugly reality of climate change, with numbers and predictions becoming grimmer each year. It is a poetic meditation on the nature of change, on how people can make peace with a changing world and our affect on it. And it is an impassioned consideration of the injustices humans perpetrate on one another and on the non-human world.
Rush saw firsthand the reality of rising sea levels in inland Bangladesh. It took her years to follow that story to the U.S. communities she visited in researching and writing this book. In Rhode Island, Louisiana, Maine, Florida, New York, Oregon and California, Rush interviews local residents, observes local flora and fauna and questions scientists. She studies climate change and the rise of sea levels globally, but particularly in wetland ecosystems.
Rush's concerns begin with plants and animals: salt marsh harvest mouse, roseate spoonbill, Caspian tern, rufous hummingbird, red knot, black tupelo. But she quickly extrapolates them to tell a human story, too, about the people threatened alongside greater egret and cypress, and about her own struggle to navigate hope and action within despair.
Rising is in some ways a difficult read; its subjects are sobering and saddening. They are important to consider, regardless of the pain they may cause, but Rising has more to offer: pulsing, gleaming prose and a stubborn search for, if not hope, then peace in the face of disaster. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia