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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 376

Elizabeth Rush creates a moving, multi-faceted account of one way that climate change is affecting millions of U. S. residents through the rising water level of the oceans, rivers, and lakes that surround most of the nation. Rising is most effective in putting a human face on the catastrophic effects of such “natural” disasters as hurricanes, especially in the last decade. The ideas that the water is swallowing up ever-larger areas of land and that many affected coast communities may never recover structure are present in her presentation of the diverse cases she has investigated.

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Rising is also a solid work of science; the research underlying the interviews and first-hand accounts is solidly done. While there are many differences among specific places and the phenomena that hit them—Maine and Miami, for example, are worlds apart in terms of terrain, demography, community structure, and other features—Rush also found more common threads than she anticipated. Although the challenges come from sky and sea, the disaster part of it is all too often human-made. Problems such as the improperly constructed levee system in New Orleans that exacerbated the effects of Hurricane Katrina have become well known. Repeated flooding is not only a matter of tides: the deliberate location of communities in flood plains, with the poorest people pushed to the last desirable lands, is age-old problem that continues to worsen.

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. Rush openly confronts the complex political issues, including the need for policies that are consistently written and applied. However, her stance is not partisan. Rather, she helps the reader understand how these issues affect all Americans, even the most landlocked ones, because of the ways they impact communities and food production—fisheries, rice and sugar...

(The entire section contains 515 words.)

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