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  • Published: 18 January 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787332256
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $40.00

The Treeline

The Last Forest and the Future of Life on Earth

A powerful blend of reportage, nature, travel and science writing, deeply researched and beautifully written, underpinned by a startling and urgent message for our time.


'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

The Arctic treeline is the frontline of climate change, where the trees have been creeping towards the pole for fifty years already. These vast swathes of forests, which encircle the north of the globe in an almost unbroken green ring, comprise the world's second largest biome.

Scientists are only just beginning to understand the astonishing significance of these northern forests for all life on Earth. Six tree species - Scots pine, birch, larch, spruce, poplar and rowan - 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.

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. Deeply researched and beautifully written, The Treeline is a spellbinding blend of nature, travel and science writing, underpinned by an urgent environmental message.

  • Published: 18 January 2022
  • ISBN: 9781787332256
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $40.00

About the author

Ben Rawlence

Ben Rawlence is the author of City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp (Granta) and Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa’s Deadliest War (Oneworld). He grew up in England and studied Swahili at the universities of London and Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and then an MA in International Relations at the University of Chicago. He worked for Human Rights Watch in Africa for seven years, when he became fascinated by the Dadaab refugee camp, a place that would later become the topic of his 2016 book, City of Thorns. In 2013, Rawlence left his job and devoted himself full-time to writing and speaking. 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 has appeared on BBC News, Channel Four, PBS, Al-Jazeera, CBC and many other TV and radio broadcasts.

Praise for The Treeline

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, author of WILD

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, author of LOSING EARTH

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.


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, author of THE LOST PIANOS OF SIBERIA

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

Ben Rawlence circumnavigates the very top of the globe - returning with a warning, in this enthralling and wonderfully written book, that all would do well to heed.

Mark Lynas, author of SIX DEGREES

Rawlence evokes the natural world in lyrical, delicate prose... A timely, urgent message delivered in graceful fashion.

Kirkus, starred review

Compelling, intriguing, and thoroughly engaging... A title of the utmost importance at a time of tremendous peril, The Treeline is a game-changer.


Rawlence is a fine ecologist and an excellent writer with the rare ability both to tell an absorbing tale and to convey the subtleties of science. The Treeline is timely, salutary and eminently readable. Excellent.

Colin Tudge, Resurgence & Ecology

[An] urgent investigation into the Arctic treeline... a meticulously researched and compellingly presented read.

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

A lyrical travelogue documenting the decline of the great boreal forests that encircle the north of the globe, and the cultures that depend on them... A grim and thought-provoking read.

Rory Dusoir, Gardens Illustrated

[A] lyrical and passionate book... The Treeline is a sobering, powerful account of how trees might just save the world, as long as we are sensible enough to let them.

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

This clear-headed, perspective-altering book... will rightly provoke fear, but also a sense of wonder ... A beautiful and evocative portrait of the natural world. It is essential reading for those hoping to better understand our changing planet.

Tom Lathan, Spectator

Absolutely fantastic and devastating.

Emma Gannon, author of DISCONNECTED

[A] sweeping account of the Arctic forest that circles the world in an almost unbroken ring.

Financial Times

Beautiful and affecting.

The Herald

Ben Rawlence... writes with accuracy, beauty and urgency.

Andrew Robinson, Nature

A sobering account... The Treeline is a powerful reminder of the far-off impacts of global warming.

Kit Gillet, Geographical

A compelling blend of travel writing, clear-eyed, sober, scientific reportage and plentiful ecological insight... The Treeline is wise and considered, offering both klaxon warning about the state of the earth and beautiful hymn to its interdependencies.

Jon Gower, Nation.Cymru

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