Timeline & findings
Make a prediction!
The history of Somerville, 2010-2100 Contact

Between February 2009 and December 2010, we spoke to hundreds of people about the future. A few dozen of these people were nice enough to make predictions about the future.

Some of these predictions took the form of elaborate short stories, or intricate drawings or maps.

Click on their names to see what these participants submitted to the project. (Note: to see these predictions in context, click on "Timeline & findings", above.)

Adam Olenn
Alain Jehlen
Alana Kumbier
Alex Pirie
Amara Good
Andrew Lynch
Auditi Guha
Ayanna B
Bambi Good
Ben Husk
Bill Rankin
Bill Ritchotte
Columbine Phoenix
Emily Arkin
Hannah Beynon Strutt
Heather Berlowitz
Heather Pena
Jay O'Grady
Jenn Harrington
Jennifer Mazer
Jessica Straus
Jim H.
Josh Burchord
Julia Fairclough
Karen Krolak
Lauren Schumacher
Lawrence Paolella
Linda Frye Burnham
Linda Haviland Conte
Louis Epstein
Maureen Barillaro
Neil Horsky
Pam Summa
Paul Johns
Rachel Strutt
Robin Wilcox
Sandra Day Smith
Seth Itzkan
Stacy Hill and Erin Leiman
Steven Popkes
Ted Bach
The Dan Crary Fan Club
Tim Devin
"Tinkerbell's human companion"
Wesley Heidi
and a number of Anonymous people


Notes from a time traveler. Written on plain lined paper, found in a decaying leather suitcase in a closet in West Somerville around 1999.

So I accepted the invitation to time-travel to Somerville in 2048. The invitation came from a little bird - a grey bird, like a mockingbird, only smaller. (And then, he spoke to me, in English, inside my head, so I knew he wasn't a regular mockingbird.) He says he will be my travel guide.

As we come flying in over the city, I am dazzled by the rooftops. They are covered with solar collectors of all shapes and sizes. The ones like mobiles wink and glitter when the breeze stirs them. The flat rooftops are green with gardens - grape arbors and climbing roses, vegetables and herbs, even trees. As we circle Davis Square, I can see that the rooftops host a combination of birch and fir, hanging gardens, and open meadows of grass and wildflowers.

No one's using fossil fuels anymore, the bird says. It's changed everything.

He adds that there's no advertising anymore, either - no commercials, no newsprint advertisers dumped in mailboxes, no flyers, no print catalogues, no billboards, no focus groups, no glossy magazines, no spam, no telemarketers, no pop-ups. How did that happen? All the bird will say is that the word yuppie is no longer in use, anymore than the words homeless or 'disadvantaged', because calling people names because of the amount of money they make or don't make is just 'silly'. As if this tells me anything.

But he continues: Many of the roads have been dug up and planted. The houses in rows are still there, but now the rows tend to curve, and from the air the neighborhoods - like little tribal enclaves - are obvious, even though they run into each other. Streams knit and divide the neighborhoods - he says the streams are all the water that used to run free above ground, released, as well as irrigation creeks, running off every which way, and glinting with the quartz in them.

Highland Avenue is planted as far as I can see with spirals of corn, and tucked in next to the corn are all kinds of plants, that the bird says are vegetables and flowers. Around and off from the spirals are greenhouses for vegetables and fruit; but the greenhouses are in the process of being dismantled for the summer, as the orchards and gardens come in.

In the middle of Davis square is a giant European purple beech, about fifteen feet in circumference. It's a wishing tree, and it's hung with offerings - bells and folded colored paper, tiny bottles, birdseed on sticks. Underneath the tree there is always a storyteller, and there is always a dreamspeaker. Other parts of the square are devoted to music and dancing, and moving or not meditation, and outdoor schools. Apparently all the squares in Somerville - and what used to be Boston and the Cape - are like this now.

The T station is still here, only it's running green on a combo of wind and solar energy. There's a monorail system overhead, zipping around as silent as a dragonfly, and carefully constructed to follow ley lines. I see horses and donkeys - Tufts field has become pastureland - and even more bicycles and bicycle-carts - the bike path that used to end at Cedar Street now runs all the way to ocean in the east, and to New-York-state-that-was in the west.

Meanwhile the parking lots in Davis Square have become live-in parks, dotted at random with small to medium-sized cottages - each one different, but most have grass or flowers on the roof - that turn out to be no-income housing, for those people who used to be called homeless. Now they live among communally owned and tended orchards and gardens, but in their own homes, each stamped with the personalities of it's owners - one is nearly invisible in the bamboo grove around it, another is painted in blue, pink, and green stripes, another seems made entirely of windows in different shapes and sizes, each one curtained in so many colors the house looks like a patchwork quilt.

There are a LOT more birds - even big ones like eagles and cranes, and is that a flock of passenger pigeons? - and fewer people overall, but way more children out and about, playing in the grassy spaces where the traffic used to be. There isn't anything resembling a skyscraper around here, not even downtown; my bird-guide tells me they went the way of the woolly mammoth and the meter maids. And the big nursing home on College Avenue is part-school, part elder home. Apprenticeship is once again the mode, so there's less 'retirement', and then there's always those elders who are good with kids, and kids who need them.

Across the street and up a block, it seems the West branch library is open 24/7, with plenty of librarians for each shift, and no shift lasting longer than 4 hours. It seems like a joke in poor taste that the library was once closed most evenings, every night, and all weekend, and understaffed besides. In this day and age it has been completely restored inside, and has trees out front and flowers on the roof, like a crown.

People are so much more laid back! Nobody walks around talking on their cell phone and clutching their commuter cup of coffee. They laze in the sun, or weed the gardens, or do Tai Chi, or dance and play music, or read, or write, or eat and drink at little tables on the sidewalk patios, or sit with their own picnics by the creeks and streams, or on benches and stones in the parks. They're paying attention to the people they're with, or to what they're doing, or just watching the world go by. They seem to be enjoying themselves.

They don't dress all alike, either - it's not business suits or jeans and t-shirt. There's a tall, large person of indeterminate sex striding down Holland Street wearing floaty pink robes and headscarf, just for instance. There are people in simple monochrome colors, and ones in tatterdemalion; there are robes and skirts and trousers, shirts and vests and tunics; but everything is looser and more comfortable looking. Even the shoes look comfy, no toe-pinchers here.

I take off my own shoes to walk barefoot in the grass. The air smells sweet, and the light is somehow different - less brown, more blue. Is that because I'm dreaming? But as the sun sets and a million stars come out, I see that the Milky Way is visible once more in the night sky, and realize, without the bird telling me, that it is simply lack of pollution that has changed the smell of air and the color of light.

The night market is opening. I stand at its entrance, at the old bike path behind the Somerville Theatre. The line of overarching trees is still here, but so tall! And it seems more like an endless forest, this place, than a line of trees. The night market is lit by humming globes of light, floating in the air. They move as if they're alive. What are they?

But the bird doesn't say. I smell grilled fish. A strawberry cart is close by - a young woman is turning the heaped piles of tiny strawberries into juice. Just as I am wondering what to use for money, the bird whispers in my ear, and I am pulled back.

And then I am at home, back in the here-and-now, hungry and thirsty in this particular once-upon-a-time.

May 30, 2009
Pam Summa