The Treeline is a spellbinding blend of nature, travel and science writing, deeply researched and beautifully written, underpinned by an urgent environmental message.
The Arctic Treeline – the northern limit of the boreal forest that encircles the globe in an almost unbroken green ring – is the second largest biome on our planet. At this little-known frontline of climate change, the trees have been creeping towards the pole for fifty years already.
Six of the tree species that populate these forests (Larch, Spruce, Mountain Ash, Downy Birch, Balsam Poplar and Scots Pine) form the central protagonists of Ben Rawlence's story. In Scotland, northern Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, Canada and Greenland, he discovers what these trees and the people who live and work alongside them have to tell us about the past, present and future of our planet. Scientists are only just beginning to understand the astonishing significance of these forests for all life on Earth. At the treeline, Rawlence witnesses the accelerating impact of climate change and the devastating legacies of colonialism and capitalism. But he also finds reasons for hope. Humans are creatures of the forest; we have always evolved with trees. The Treeline asks us where our co-evolution might take us next.
Ben Rawlence is the author of City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp and Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa's Deadliest War. He studied Swahili at the universities of London and Dar-es-Salaam, and then an MA in International Relations at the University of Chicago. While working for Human Rights Watch in the Horn of Africa he became fascinated by the Dadaab refugee camp, which would later become the subject of his 2016 book, City of Thorns. Ben has written for the Guardian, London Review of Books, New York Times, New York Times Book Review, New Yorker and many other publications. He lives in Wales and is the founder and director of Black Mountains College, an institution dedicated to preparing people for the changes to come.
"The very treeline is on the move: a devastating image. This book is an evocative, wise and unflinching exploration of what it will mean for humanity."
– Jay Griffiths
"Our trees are on the move but we have no place left to go. Ben Rawlence's The Treeline is a moving, thoughtful, deeply reported elegy for our vanishing world and a map of the one to come."
– Nathaniel Rich
"A fascinating book drawing on a brilliant, original line of thinking to reveal the roots and reach of our changing boreal forests [...] A perfect combination of lyrical writing and rigorous reporting. Utterly illuminating."
– Sophy Roberts
"What an extraordinary book this is! Ben Rawlence writes with elegant clarity about a world knocked out of whack. The Treeline is a fine work of science journalism, an adventure tale that tracks the shifting fortunes of the planet's northernmost forests, a record of the cruel legacies of capitalism and colonialism. Most of all it is a sustained act of attention, of observing and listening to a land that observes and listens back. 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
"An urgent and insightful tour of some of the world's strangest, most bewitching and most endangered environments. It is at once 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