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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 288

Concerned with the changes in shorelines on and near the U. S. coast, journalist Elizabeth Rush sought the reasons for these disturbing transformations. In her study, she explains that sea-level rise is just one manifestation of global climate change. Traveling around the country’s coastline, she covered the area from Maine to Florida, around the Gulf of Mexico, and then up the Pacific Coast. Islands, she points out, are particularly vulnerable. This change, she claims, is “so large it unsettles our very idea of who we are and how we relate to the land we have so long lived atop.”

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Permanent rising water levels are not the only threat; receding waters cause salinization of the soil that destroys agricultural land and forces outmigration, sometimes by people whose families have farmed in the same area for generations. More often than not, the poorest residents of an area, many of whom are from diverse racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds, are disproportionately affected.

Through her use of journalistic accounts including interviews, in addition to analysis based on scientific evidence, Rush carefully builds a complex image. By focusing on key sites that have experienced particular problems, she assembles a larger picture of unique U. S. situations, and, when appropriate, connects them with those of other nations. The book’s dozen chapters are organized both thematically and geographically, as each location or area encapsulates a particular issue that is a significant element of the general problem. An example is one island among dozens in Louisiana’s bayou system. In an afterword, Rush reviews the legacy of the devastating 2017 hurricane season with its unprecedented amount of damage. Scientists predict, she cautions, that such a season may become the norm rather than remain an anomaly.

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