The Activist’s Bookshelf: Reshaping the World

Review: New book details devastation of rising sea levels 

In “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore,” journalist and author Elizabeth Rush offers tragic insight into the lives of those who have suffered most at the hands of rising sea levels. Rush takes her readers on a highly personal journey through the small coastal towns and cities which have been affected by climate change.

Instead of focusing on the physical effects on the landscapes of these towns, the author demonstrates how global warming is affecting individual lives by reciting their stories word for word. She goes into depth about each person’s life, which allows the reader to truly sympathize with these climate change victims, their situations and their stories.

Through her poetic writing style, Rush puts the bigger picture in perspective as she describes human impact on our planet as “abundant” and “geographically widespread.” 

The stories from the towns where the author visits are unsettling to read yet impactful and always inspiring. In “Rising,” published by Milkweed in June 2018, readers are taken along as Rush travels to Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, where we meet Chris Brunet, a native who loves his home yet lives in fear of it vanishing due to the sea levels rising. Next, readers visit South Florida, which is at risk of being drowned by the melting ice caps from Greenland. 

Each story and destination is accompanied with a black-and -white photograph demonstrating the devastation these beautiful coastal landmarks and those who reside there are forced to suffer through.

Although this non-fiction book is primarily based on the lives of of those the author meets, Rush grants readers access to witness her own personal journey of intellectual and cultural growth. We are shown the raw emotions she experiences when seeing the devastation climate change has brought upon these towns. By doing this, Rush is no longer a environmental reporter looking for the newest data, but instead a ordinary human, passionate for what she believes in. 

Rush writes about her profession as an English professor at Brown University and even goes as far as mentioning some of her students and all that she has learned from them. The ability to always learn and grow becomes a constant theme within “Rising,” as Rush shows her readers that there is always more to discover and always more than one story.  

After reading Rush’s work and understanding all that she has seen and learned, it is truly remarkable to me that there are some who hear these tragic stories and yet still do not believe taking the necessary steps and precautions to reduce sea levels rising is an immediate issue.  

Through the tales of suffering and the stories of growth,” Rush points out that humanity does not do enough, does not care enough, as she time and time again reminds us that we live in “a world worth rescuing.” As a community, we cannot sit back and watch while communities get erased off the map.

About the Author

Elizabeth Rush is the author of “Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore” and “Still Lifes from a Vanishing City: Essays and Photographs from Yangon, Myanmar.” 

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, the Atlantic, Harpers, Guernica, Granta, Orion, Creative Nonfiction, The Washington Post, Le Monde Diplomatique and the New Republic.

Her newest book, “Rising,” is the winner of the National Outdoor Book Award, the Chicago Tribune Top Ten Book of 2018, and is the Best Book of 2018 for the Guardian, NPR’s Science Friday, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal.

As well as being an author and journalist, Rush teaches nonfiction writing at Brown University.