It will not knock the wind out of us all at once — it will surge, subside, return, and then return again, until we learn that we must learn to live with it. In between a roar and a trickle, littered with the bits and pieces of city life that it so inadvertently disrupts, the ocean will rise. Salty, murky, and unforgiving, it will lap at the base of the Ivory Tower. And it will stay.
The primest of Harvard’s real estate will be the first to go. A crop of giddy freshmen will score Winthrop House on Housing Day, not knowing they will be the first who have to wade back home. Relentless, the water will wash through Eliot and Kirkland, Quincy, Lowell, Leverett, Dunster, and Mather. The Lampoon castle will become moated by Mount Auburn Street.
Some students will be sleeping, and will not hear the thunder, or the rain, or the very first sounds of the sea. They will be woken by the din of waves and mayhem, as the Atlantic makes its chaotic Cambridge foray. Across what was once a river, the Business School will be almost completely underwater, as will much of Boston. Cold and clean from the sky, brown and brackish from the sea, water will merge and surge and render Adams House oceanfront.
The skies will clear. Shortly thereafter, so will the water. It will leave a mess behind. And it will come again. Too soon, it will not take a storm for the sea to swell. The moon will be full and high tides will be higher, and there will be a sunny day when the tide quietly draws the ocean back up just as far. About twice a month, by the end of this century, Harvard will get soggy, and emergency will become normalcy.
Rising sea levels and the havoc they will wreak are dystopian, but they are not hypothetical. Algorithms, not imagination, are the backbone of these projections — they come straight from an extensive report on rising seas published in 2017.