The Treeline: The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth (Hardcover)
"Original and readable." ―Financial Times' Best Environmental Books of 2022
"Superb, inspiring." ―Winner, National Academies of Science Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communications
“Illuminating.” – Silver Medalist, National Outdoor Book Awards
Longlisted for the American Library Association's 2023 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
In the tradition of Elizabeth Kolbert and Barry Lopez, a powerful, poetic and deeply absorbing account of the “lung” at the top of the world.
For the last fifty years, the trees of the boreal forest have been moving north. Ben Rawlence's The Treeline takes us along this critical frontier of our warming planet from Norway to Siberia, Alaska to Greenland, Canada to Sweden to meet the scientists, residents and trees confronting huge geological changes. Only the hardest species survive at these latitudes including the ice-loving Dahurian larch of Siberia, the antiseptic Spruce that purifies our atmosphere, the Downy birch conquering Scandinavia, the healing Balsam poplar that Native Americans use as a cure-all and the noble Scots Pine that lives longer when surrounded by its family.
It is a journey of wonder and awe at the incredible creativity and resilience of these species and the mysterious workings of the forest upon which we rely for the air we breathe. Blending reportage with the latest science, The Treeline is a story of what might soon be the last forest left and what that means for the future of all life on earth.
About the Author
Ben Rawlence is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch in the horn of Africa. He is the author of City of Thorns and Radio Congo and has written for a wide range of publications, including The Guardian, the London Review of Books, and Prospect. He is the founder and director of Black Mountains College and lives with his family in Wales.
One of Booklist's Top 10 Environmental Sustainability Book
"A sounding alarm, and a call to action."
―NPR's Best Books/Books We Love
"You feel the layering of [Rawlence's] heightened noticing throughout the book."
―Verlyn Klinkenborg, The New York Review of Books
"Written with refreshingly lovely and occasionally aching prose."
―James Tarmy, Bloomberg
―Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[A] trip to six boreal forests around the world (Scotland, Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada, and Greenland)...worth the effort."
“Compelling, intriguing, and thoroughly engaging …The Treeline is a game-changer.”
“Rawlence evokes the natural world in lyrical, delicate prose … A timely, urgent message delivered in graceful fashion.”
"Eloquent...Nature lovers and travelers alike will find this a lovely paean to a rapidly changing landscape."
"Lyrical and passionate."
―Mail on Sunday
"Clear-headed, perspective-altering book... a beautiful and evocative portrait of the natural world. It is essential reading for those hoping to better understand our changing planet."
"Rawlence is a fine ecologist and an excellent writer... Timely, salutary and eminently readable. Excellent."
―Resurgence & Ecologist
“The book’s many detailed descriptions of the natural world are coupled with contemporary climate science, making the process of learning about the forest’s inner workings both awe-inspiring and ineffably sad.”
"Absolutely fantastic and devastating."
―Emma Gannon, host of Webby nominated podcast Ctrl Alt Delete
"What an extraordinary book this is! ... This is not just a description of a warming world but an active invitation to live differently, to participate with wisdom and humility in the cacophonous and ever-unfinished abundance of terrestrial life."
―Ben Ehrenreich, author of Desert Notebooks
―Sophy Roberts, author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia
"In this beautiful homage to the world’s northernmost forests, Ben Rawlence brings the zeal of a journalist and the heart of a naturalist to his journey following the treeline east into the rising sun. As Rawlence explores vast wildwoods of pine, birch, larch, and spruce, he uses alluring prose to present fascinating and challenging ideas of what a forest is: not a static place on a map but a creative, evolutionary process―a “mobile community." Rawlence documents how the treeline is now undergoing one of its greatest transformations with enormous consequences for humanity and the planet. By focusing his formidable curiosity and craft on the arboreal biosphere, Rawlence has given both trees and people an enormous gift."
―M.R. O'Connor, author of Wayfinding
“A moving, thoughtful, deeply reported elegy for our vanishing world and a map of the one to come."
―Nathaniel Rich, author of Losing Earth and Second Nature
"Rawlence takes us on an unforgettable personal tour of the major treelines of the Northern Hemisphere. His prophetic insights on how global climate change is rapidly rewriting the boundaries and biodiversity of earth’s boreal forests are colored by the insights of the botanists, glaciologists, and indigenous peoples he met along the way. The Treeline is a page-turner that poetically challenges us to confront the elephant in the room."
―James McClintock, author of Lost Antarctica and A Naturalist Goes Fishing
"Urgent and insightful tour of some of the world’s strangest, most bewitching and most endangered environments... A tribute to indigenous wisdom, a paean to the otherworldly beauty of the taiga and the tundra, and a highly readable overview of the latest science. This is an important book, and one I will be pressing into other people’s hands."
―Cal Flyn author of Islands of Abandonment
"Evocative, wise and unflinching."
―Jay Griffiths, author of A Sideways Look at Time