Leeside, USA

The making of a climate utopia

Part of the Global Green Havens exhibit, brought to you by
the Smithsonian Museum of Modern America.

It’s 2057 and no life has been untouched by the realities of a warming globe. But mere decades ago, at the dawn of the 21st century, Americans were only just waking to this truth. Rising seas, powerful storms, and raging fires were destroying their cities, rendering homes uninhabitable, and dismantling livelihoods. Residents affected by such loss began to ask, “Where will we go?” In an increasingly isolationist world, many responded, “Not here.”

But Leeside opened its doors. And after years of implementing innovative policies benefiting both the environment and the city’s residents, the United Nations inaugurated Leeside as the United States’ first Green Haven in 2035. Now, the city is recognized as a model of successful adaptation—physical, economic, and social—to a world in which cities and their communities are transformed by the millions seeking shelter from the storm.

“The first step to building a better future is to imagine it. Leeside will open its doors and fill its empty homes with fellow Americans displaced by climate change, and those in search of a safe, enriching future.”

Jordan EnsoLeeside mayor, 2020-2029
Poster: Our tomorrow needs us all.

Why Leeside?

In the early 2000s, Leeside residents believed their city’s greatness lay in the past. The former manufacturing center was a classic Great Lakes Rust Belt town; it grew rapidly in the early 1900s, and union jobs kept residents comfortably in the middle class. But globalization wasn’t kind to the thrumming steel plants and automobile factories supporting the city. As local industry moved overseas, people sought opportunities elsewhere. By the early 21st century, aging infrastructure and limited employment prospects meant that a third of Leeside residents lived below the poverty line. Nearly 10% of properties sat vacant.

That’s when Jordan Enso arrived. He moved to Leeside in 2017, leaving Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria forced his business offline for months. Elected mayor in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, Enso recognized that Leeside’s location along the Great Lakes made the city more climate-proof than most. Its historic economic contraction and population desertion meant it had cheap real estate, leaving ample space for new residents and opportunities. Enso saw Leeside’s potential as a permanent home for Americans displaced by climate change, and imagined that, as mayor, he could leverage that to return the area to its former economic strength. He won on a platform promising to realize that future.

Lake front

Green space

Redevelop for public space; watch for increase in algae blooms.

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase tree canopy.

Pedestrianize

Disused industrial area

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use: housing, college, shops and cafes.

Give more streets to people and bikes. Ban most cars in the center.

Use vacant lots

Fiddler’s Green

Housing, parks, solar panels,

gardens,

local initiatives.

New Brooklyn? Let’s campaign to attract young people here.

Pedestrianize

Green space

Lake Front

Give streets

to people and bikes. Ban

most cars in

the center.

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase

tree canopy.

Redevelop for public space; watch for increase in algae blooms.

Industrial

Fiddler’s Green

Use vacant lots

New Brooklyn? Let’s campaign to attract young people here.

Housing, parks, solar panels, gardens,

local initiatives.

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use.

Pedestrianize

Green space

Give more streets to people and bikes. Ban most cars in the center.

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase tree canopy.

Use vacant lots

Industrial

Housing, parks, solar panels, gardens,

local initiatives.

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use.

Your screen

is too small

to view

this graphic

Try rotating

your device

or resetting

your browser’s

zoom

Lake front

Redevelop for

public space;

watch for increase

in algae blooms.

Green space

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase tree canopy.

Disused industrial area

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use: housing, college, shops and cafes.

Pedestrianize

Give more streets

to people and bikes. Ban most cars in

the center.

Use vacant lots

Housing, parks,

solar panels,

gardens,

local initiatives.

Fiddler’s Green

New Brooklyn? Let’s campaign to attract young people here.

Lake front

Redevelop for public space; watch for increase in algae blooms.

Green space

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase tree canopy.

Disused industrial area

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use: housing, college, shops and cafes.

Pedestrianize

Give more streets to people and bikes. Ban most cars in the center.

Use vacant lots

Housing, parks, solar panels,

gardens,

local initiatives.

Fiddler’s Green

New Brooklyn? Let’s campaign to attract young people here.

Pedestrianize

Green space

Lake Front

Give more streets to people and bikes. Ban most cars in the center.

Convert old train tracks into green corridor. Increase tree canopy.

Redevelop for public space; watch for increase in algae blooms.

Fiddler’s Green

Use vacant lots

Industrial

New Brooklyn? Let’s campaign to attract young people here.

Housing, parks, solar panels,

gardens,

local initiatives.

Treat hazardous sites and develop area. Aim for mixed use.

Ward 5 vision, 2021 Enso’s early plans for parts of Leeside. Many goals were realized or started by the end of his tenure. Courtesy the Enso Trust.

Enso’s tenure began with a wealth of ambition, but few funds. He assembled the city’s first scientific advisory group, implemented cost-efficient policies intended to mitigate the effects of climate change, and made low-regret decisions to invest in vulnerability mapping, and early warning systems for heat waves and flooding. Under Enso’s leadership the city adopted human-first policies, such as increased affordable housing and more funding for public education. He established bilingual Spanish-English programs, and started to transition the city center away from cars.

Your tomorrow

“Leeside wants to be the city of the future. Will anyone show up?" read the headline of a New York Times story in 2025. Though Leeside and Enso were gaining the attention of politicians, urban planners, and academics, critics argued the city wasn’t doing enough to appeal to those displaced by climate change.

In response, city council founded the Leeside Rejuvenation Committee. Part marketing agency, part nudge unit, the group worked to attract residents. It encouraged the city council to refer to Leeside as a ‘receiver,’ a term already adopted by some international cities seeing increased climate migration, and advocated for other US cities to use similar language. In 2026, the group’s first external campaign appealed to climate pioneers: those with the means to relocate for opportunities, the desire to take advantage of the post-pandemic ‘office exodus,’ and the drive to join an exciting movement.

Leeside postcard. Our city. Your tomorrow. Leeside
Promotional postcard, 2026 Leeside sent digital postcards to residents of US cities predicted to be significantly affected by climate change, like New York, New York; Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana.

The campaign worked. People were tempted by the prospect of cheap real estate and the opportunity to be a part of history. The city offered tax incentives for companies that chose Leeside as their headquarters; called for urban regeneration proposals to revive abandoned brownfield sites; and established Cities of the Future, a sustainability and urban planning conference that would, years later, grow to attract thousands of global attendees annually. Leeside gained significant national attention when, hoping to entice remote workers, it offered free high-speed fiber-optic internet to its entire population.

By 2028, other US cities had adopted the moniker of ‘receiver.’ Buffalo, New York; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Orlando, Florida promoted their status as havens for those escaping fires, floods, and financial instability. That year, a presidential campaign promise of high-speed rail in the northeastern US, which would more easily link Leeside to urban centers like New York, sealed the deal for many would-be climate pioneers.

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

Its topography makes it more susceptible

to the harms of sea level rise than

the west coast.

0%

2

4

6

8

10

Counties directly

affected by

sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will

see large inflows

of people.

 

The interior populations of southern states are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al.

(2020)

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

0%

2

4

6

8

10

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

Its topography makes it more susceptible to the harms of sea level rise than the west coast.

Counties

directly

affected by

sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will see large inflows of people.

 

The interior populations of southern states

are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al. (2020)

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

0%

2

4

6

8

10

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

 

Its topography makes it more susceptible to the harms of sea level rise than the west coast.

 

Counties

directly affected

by sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will see large inflows of people.

 

The interior

populations of southern states

are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al. (2020)

Your screen

is too small

to view

this graphic

Try rotating

your device

or resetting

your browser’s

zoom

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

Its topography makes it more susceptible

to the harms of sea level rise than

the west coast.

0%

2

4

6

8

10

Counties directly

affected by

sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will

see large inflows

of people.

 

The interior populations of southern states are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al. (2020)

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

Its topography makes it more susceptible

to the harms of sea level rise than

the west coast.

0%

2

4

6

8

10

Counties directly

affected by

sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will

see large inflows

of people.

 

The interior populations of southern states are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al. (2020)

Population increase of incoming migrants,

due to sea level rise, by 2100

0%

2

4

6

8

10

The Midwest

East coast

Few people are expected to migrate to the areas around the great lakes.

Its topography makes it more susceptible

to the harms of sea level rise than

the west coast.

Counties directly

affected by

sea level rise

The Plains

The South

Compared to their low populations, central states will

see large inflows

of people.

 

The interior populations of southern states are expected to rise dramatically.

 

Data: Dilkina et al. (2020)

Internal migration map, 2020 Early predictions of counties disproportionately affected by climate-induced migration by 2100.

By 2029, Leeside’s population had grown from 255,000 to 270,000. Most newcomers flooded into the historic community of Fiddler’s Green, a leafy neighborhood a short walk from the city center. They increased the tax base, established local businesses, and found ways to creatively utilize some of the city’s many abandoned buildings.

The influx of residents drove up house prices. In Fiddler’s Green, the cost of home ownership was higher than the city had seen in half a century, and longtime residents quickly found themselves priced out. Some left for the flood-prone lowlands on the edge of the city; the population in the poorly-connected area doubled in five years. Others sold their family homes to condo developers.

“Since they started all this haven business, normal people can’t live in our neighborhood anymore.”

Shenice WalkerLeeside resident
Shenice Walker: I have here a postcard, Mr Cowley. My cousin in Miami saw it online and sent it to me. I’m going to hold up my screen so y’all can see it. You see that pretty picture? That’s Leeside—our Leeside. Now if I tap this what does it say? I’m going to read it out: “Leeside: Your chance for a new start. A spacious, innovative city with affordable family homes, enterprising industries and beautiful weather. Don’t wait for the water to rise, choose a safe, stable future for —” Bob Cowley: Thanks Shenice— SW: Now Mr Cowley, what I want to know is, who is making these? Where are they going? Who are we offering these “affordable family homes” to, exactly? BC: Well, I believe those cards appear online in several jurisdictions where— SW: Because let me tell you, if there are affordable family homes in Leeside, I want to know where. I want to know so my daughter and my son-in-law who are getting priced out of their rental can move into one with their four kids. BC: Shenice, I know there are some problems, but what exactly— SW: Listen, I was born here. My parents were renters. Back in the ‘90s, I got lucky. My husband and I, we managed to get together enough from our savings and the state fund, and we bought our own place. Been there for 42 years. But now? My kids? No way they can do that. Since they started all this haven business, normal people can’t live in our neighborhood anymore. We keep hearing about zoning, about rent control, price control. We aren’t seeing any control. We’re seeing prices double every five years… speech_alt: One-page excerpt from the speech: The choice our Haven founders made was to include others, not turn them away. The choice they made was to look at the future with clear eyes and meet it head on. The choice they made was to share space, to share resources, even when their baser instincts said: Hoard. Protect. Build walls. Their brave choice made our lives in this great Haven possible. Now we have a choice. We can look at Florida’s devastation and say: That’s not our problem. We can look at our own city and say, we have our own problems. Schools are crowded. The sewers are overwhelmed. Home prices are outpacing the middle class. I’m not pretending these don’t exist. I’m not even pretending some of them won’t get worse. More people are going to come to Leeside, seeking what you and your parents and grandparents sought: A safe home. What I’m here to say to you is: We have the choice to be brave too. We have the choice to be generous, to be welcoming, to share. These are not easy choices. But they are choices we can make, and that we should make, to fulfill our vision, to live up to our international reputation.
Transcript of city council meeting, Dec. 2, 2027 Conversation between City Councillor Bob Cowley and Shenice Walker, resident of Leeside.

Enso, who was by now the city’s longest-serving mayor, feared the economic segregation of Leeside’s residents. His final acts as mayor attempted to address this gentrification; in particular, he introduced an ordinance offering subsidies on low- and middle-income housing development, and increased support for public legal services and an ombudsperson.

Green Havens

While Leeside was struggling to fund its early receiver innovations, the United Nations was taking the first steps to establish an international framework for climate migration.

As early as 2007, international organizations and scientists published reports warning the world to prepare for the significant movement of people from at-risk communities into cities. But by 2030—after years of increasingly alarming studies from climate experts, the world's failure to avoid passing the Paris Agreement warming threshold of 1.5ºC, and the beginnings of a climate refugee crisis in countries such as Kiribati, Vietnam, and Bangladesh—there was still little international planning to tackle mass migration both within and across borders.

The UN approved the Green Haven Initiative (UNGHI) in 2031. Administered jointly by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, its Environment Programme, and the International Organization for Migration, UNGHI was designed to support cities preparing to receive climate migrants. Participating locations were provided access to infrastructure grants, support for urban planning and public awareness campaigns, and emergency assistance.

“Sometimes it’s smarter not to stay and fight. Retreat means survival.”

Nadia BitarUN Secretary General, 2031
UNGHI Development Goals, 2031 Green Haven cities must demonstrate progress toward these goals in periodic reports.

In 2035, following a lengthy application process, Leeside became the first Green Haven in North America. Like other cities that obtained this status—Mongla, Bangladesh and El Alto, Bolivia—it had to meet certain eligibility criteria. Green Havens must either be at relatively low risk of climate-related disruptions such as flooding, wildfires, storms, and extreme heat, or have invested in effective mitigation measures. They must also have sustainable access to water.

The introduction of a Green Haven on US soil was controversial. On behalf of 10 Republican-led states, the governor of Pennsylvania wrote a WeChat News op-ed condemning the move. However, Democratic president Angela Ponte, three years into her first term and behind on piloting her own FEMA-coordinated Receiver program, praised Leeside’s designation. Today, there are 19 urban centers around the world participating in the Green Haven Initiative.

Reluctant arrivals

When Leeside became an official Green Haven, its city council was eager for the extra funding. More and more migrants were arriving—and unlike the early climate pioneers, many of them did not come by choice.

Conservative PAC ad, 2032 During the ‘climate election’, Democrats focused on the perils of human migration, while conservative groups argued that resilience was the fiscally responsible thing to do.

The national conversation had started to reflect the urgency felt by coastal communities. The 2032 presidential race became known as the ‘climate election.’ In 2033, the new administration implemented initiatives to encourage Americans to move away from at-risk areas. It consolidated funding into the voluntary Safe Buyback program, encouraging owners to leave flood- and fire-prone zones by purchasing their land and houses. Participants were given credits to buy homes in any safe zone in the country, including Leeside.

Federal programs like Safe Buyback brought over 20,000 newcomers into Leeside between 2035 and 2050, increasing the city’s population to 290,000. The city established a fellowship program for new citizens in association with the University of Leeside to encourage career development in renewable energy engineering and urban agriculture. Not all arrivals came from within the US, but most did, including from Charleston, South Carolina, and Chicago, Illinois. Former residents of the Marshall Islands made up the largest group from outside US borders.

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me. Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me.

Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me. Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Your screen

is too small

to view

this graphic

Try rotating

your device

or resetting

your browser’s

zoom

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me.

Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me.

Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Iọkwe Mareva,

Well, it’s been three months, and things are finally starting to settle down here in Leeside.

 

First, as you know, there was a lot to figure out with the house, schools, and of course work: The Buyback Bucks only go so far. The job I was hoping for with Uncle K didn’t happen, kinda typical. I’ve been doing some work for the city, just manual, roads and stuff. So many roads. And so little water. I think about the next time I’ll see the ocean. And the kids, growing up so far from their ancestors.

 

When we’re really on our feet I want you to think about sending the boys out to us, ok? I’m not going to tell you it’s time for you to leave, not again. I’m just saying, there’s always room for you all here. Consider it. I know you don’t want to leave mama’s grave, but it’s going to be underwater anyway in just a few years. Now that they’ve stopped maintaining the sea walls. Just write to me, tell me how you are? Every time I hear about another storm, I worry.

 

I sent a picture of our house. Look at the trees! And a picture to make you laugh. It’s a fish from the supermarket, all packed up. That’s the only way you can buy a whole fish here! Look at it staring out of the plastic like it doesn't know what’s hit it.

 

Write to me soon. Bring mama something from me.

Tell her we miss her.

Ahomana

Email, July 2052 From Ahomana George, 28-year-old father of two recently arrived in Leeside, to his older sister in Majuro, the Marshall Islands.

Predictions made as early as 2010 suggested 13 million people in the US would leave homes at risk of sea level rise by 2100. Worried that a rapid increase in migrants would put the city’s services and infrastructure under strain, the Leeside City Council invested in the development of a digital twin. Popular in the world’s major urban centers, detailed city replicas fed by real-time data were commonly used to test the impact of policies on social patterns and the built environment before they were implemented.

Leeside’s councilmembers used the tool to determine infrastructure upgrades, plan public transit improvements, and design for population growth. A replica of the tool, below, simulates how councillors used digital twins of their wards to work out how to house, employ, and maximize well-being for their residents and potential newcomers.

Ward 5 Digital twin, 2040 The tool helped policy makers plan how to accomodate a future influx of up to 10,000 climate migrants. Courtesy KPFui.

Over two decades, migrants arrived with neatly organized moving vans, tossed-together cars, and the packs on their backs. They came on trains with meager suitcases, after hours-long bus rides. Many were distraught at having to leave their homes and communitiesland held by the family for generations, the houses they grew up in, the graves of their loved ones. Others left behind stubborn family members. As they arrived in Leeside, they were just some of millions in flux around the country.

American refugees

Poster: Our community needs us all.

“The ‘Us All’ series was one of the most successful adaptations of the nationwide “Moving Forward” campaign, which re-imagined the American Dream in the face of swelling internal migration.”

Alison MarlHistorian, PennState

September 2051 resulted in tragedy greater than superstorms Katrina (2005) and Joyce (2036) combined. Three category five hurricanes—Nicholas, Odette, and Rose—made landfall in the Florida panhandle. Further up the coast, the naval base in Norfolk, Virginia was destroyed. More than 4,000 people died, and 1 million were forced to leave their homes. The media talked about a flood of “American refugees,” dubbing the event “Cruel September.”

The Green Belt Resettlement Program, created just three years before and funded through the US Internal Migration Program, jointly managed by HUD and FEMA, was put to the test. Participating cities such as Buffalo, Cleveland, and Leeside, received additional federal funding and infrastructure subsidies in exchange for taking in refugees from the storms.

Time to move? Cruel September gives birth to coastal exodus
Congress bans developers from accessing insurance for buildings in climate risk zones
Tent communities set up in Orlando as internal refugees flee the sea
Safe Buyback program will be funded for ten more years
Extreme Heat Warning: Seek shelter
Be advised: Your home is in an at-risk area. Vacate within 12 months, or face penalty

Even so, the deluge of newcomers strained Leeside’s infrastructure, which was stretched to accommodate its close to 300,000 residents. The Resettlement Program was slow to authorize funding. The city council requested access to the UN’s Green Haven resilience fund, and voted to rapidly repurpose vacant commercial spaces, offer migrants residence in vacant apartments and foreclosed houses, and start construction on temporary dwellings. They used the fund to provide low-income arrivals a stipend for food and clothes, and to replace some of their possessions.

The increase in arrivals triggered tensions. Xenophobic groups like Moms for Opportunity (MO) seeded fears that the surge of newcomers meant increased crime and lost opportunities for locals. Over the week of May 13, 2052, several hundred Leesiders staged protests in front of City Hall. They chanted “Florida’s not my problem!” and held placards that said “haven for who?” and “put a cap on climigrants.”

Editor

Is this true?

Are schools full?

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

Editor

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

Ausland

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

Ausland

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Editor

She’s talking about the protests?

Editor

Is this true?

Are schools full?

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

Ausland

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

Editor

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

Ausland

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Editor

She’s talking about the protests?

Ausland

Editor

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

Is this true?

Are schools full?

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

Editor

Ausland

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Your screen

is too small

to view

this graphic

Try rotating

your device

or resetting

your browser’s

zoom

Editor

Is this true?

Are schools full?

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

Ausland

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

Editor

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

Editor

She’s talking about the protests?

Ausland

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Editor

Is this true?

Are schools full?

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

Ausland

Editor

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

Editor

Ausland

She’s talking about the protests?

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Editor

Is this true?

Are schools full?

Ausland

“I mean of course our platform is schools. Because there are only so many spots for students, right? I mean unless the mayor gets off her behind and actually builds those extra schools she’s been promising for the migrants, or whatever. The kids who have been here literally since they were born should have the first right to those places. And not in classes polluted, er, I mean diluted, by kids from—I mean, where exactly are they from? But what I’m saying, what we at MO are saying, is that we just want our kids to have a fair opportunity, right? And I don’t condone any of the terrible things that went on earlier this year, of course I don’t. But I understand. I understand why people see, you know, a new family with, like, ten kids move onto their block and think, hmm. Where are you from? What are you doing here? You know? I get it.”

I don’t think so.

I’ll find some data.

Editor

I’m not sure we should use any of this quote. It’s bigoted, if not straight up racist. Does it serve a purpose in the piece?

Ausland

If it’s the groups platform, and they’re not exactly a fringe group, shouldn’t readers know that?

Editor

She’s talking about the protests?

Notes and edits, 2052 Notes from Amy Ausland, reporter at the Leeside Journal, on her interview with Jennifer Jordan-Pike, founder of Moms for Opportunity.

Locals who opposed the bigotry also showed up. They felt the federal government wasn’t doing enough to help incoming migrants, and they draped a large banner across the steps of Leeside city hall that read: “The rent in utopia is too damn high!” Similar protests flared up across receiver cities in the former Rust Belt. Hostilities peaked in Buffalo, and police intervened in a violent clash, killing Michael Morales, a 20-year-old protestor who had recently migrated from Santa Barbara, California.

In Leeside, the unrest subsided when Mayor Gabriella de León, just a year into her first term, gave a speech asking residents to find peace, remember their compassion, and return to the welcoming mandate of the city.

Mayor’s speech, May 22, 2052 A page from the working draft of Gabriella de León’s speech. Courtesy the de León Trust.

“So when they arrive, let’s not meet them with anger. Let’s not meet them with distrust. Let’s show them what Leeside can be at its best.”

Gabriella de LeónMayor of Leeside, 2052–present

In response to the demonstrations, Mayor de León bolstered migrant-friendly policies. City council established the Migrant Advisory Committee, with members appointed from newcomer communities by the mayor’s office. To give the Cruel September victims more permanent accommodations, the city developed the Migrant Revitalization program.

At the same time, the federal administration tried to ease tensions between new arrivals and longtime residents in other receivers. The First Gentleman’s national “Moving Forward” campaign appealed to citizens to welcome migrants in their communities. Receiver cities around the country were given funding to produce their own messaging, and Leeside created the now-iconic “Us All” campaign.

Now, five years after the devastation of Cruel September and the unrest that followed, Leeside continues to navigate the challenges of being a modern receiver community. Sections of the city experience periodic flooding, liberal and conservative ideals clash occasionally in the cafes, and the sewage system is in need of an overhaul. But as a model Green Haven, Leeside’s citizens are safe from the most traumatic impacts of climate change, and there is no fear their homes will be destroyed. While the city’s modern history has been at some times controversial, and at others overly idealized, it has always been focused on tomorrow. Today, many Leesiders will tell you their city’s greatness no longer lies in its industrial past, but in its innovative present, and resilient future.


Created by: Amanda Shendruk
Editorial: Tim McDonnell, Alex Ossola, Katie Palmer, Cassie Werber, David Yanofsky
Design & product: Bárbara Abbês, Emily Diamond, Noah Emrich, James Shakespeare
Special thanks to: KPFui
Mayor’s speech recorded by: Anne Quito
Illustration: Matt Chinworth
Video credit: Jaime Byrd/Shutterstock.com