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WE ARE A SHIP OF FOOLS: Magickal, Experimental, and Ridiculous Ideas to Save Miami from Sea Level Rise

Nathaniel Sandler

Pieter van der Heyden, Die blau schuyte (Ship of Fools), 1559.

“Madness or Folly was at work, at the very heart of reason and truth. It is Folly which embarks all men without distinction on its insane ship and binds them to the vocation of a common odyssey…” -MICHEL FOUCAULT, from Madness and Civilization (1964)


Folly strums a clumsy, sweaty shanty tune. Madness it is to live in a place so obviously sinking and so regularly jeered by doomsayers. Miami is a ship of fools, oared by obliviousness and floating leeward to certain doom. Splashing contentedly about in the salt water, each idiot Miamian babbles an incomprehensible gurgle.

We are a ship of fools and our home will die eventually by water.

What follows are solutions, written aboard the ship Mayaimi,in the year of some lord, two thousand and sixteen.


A good first step toward conquering sea level rise is to trash these self-involved analogies about Atlantis. Hark the words of the legendary occultist/windbag Madame Blavatsky, who believed that the libraries of Atlantis contained the “materials for filling all the gaps that now exist in what we imagine is history.” If we take the Madame at her word, we need not have worry of becoming Atlantis; Mayor Carlos Gimenez will destroy our libraries before the seas rise. Our rich are not Ptolemies. There is no Plato in Wynwood.

But Blavatsky gives us a pathway. To combat the devilry of rising seas we must embrace all considerations, and in Miami’s case the ancient lore of humanity is relevant.

We must immediately and without haste create the Miami Dade Division of Hydromancy Affairs (MDDHA). Officials would pinpoint aqua-sensitive locals, while hiring international experts (probably Dutch) to begin divination work upon the waters of Biscayne and the Gulf Stream, effective immediately. The incorporation of Introduction to Hydromancy classes in the Miami Dade Public School system is critical and teachings should begin at a young age.

If we teach our children to become skilled at the magickal art of water divination, perhaps we stand a fighting chance. Unfortunately Hydromancy—any two-bit warlock will tell you—is not necessarily control. We would just be raising a hyper aware populace. A drowning race of water augurs drowns none the less.

Maybe it’s simpler than that. Why not rebrand water (Poseidon’s micturition? Algae asylum?)? Let’s tell water’s story. Why can’t we change the rhetoric to: “It’s not rising it’s thriving”?

Miami is home to some of the sharpest and most well washed public relations professionals in the world. We’ll do this in-house! Great B2B potential for the shareholders. Studies show that Miami has the bestmedium-to-large-sized city brand identity in the world (this is actually made up). You can travel the streets of Ulaanbataar and introduce yourself as a Miamian, and they’ll immediately get a sense of the place.

Sea Level Rise: Rebooted. Send pitches. We’ll circle back on this issue off line.

But this is only preparation for the deluge. Calm before the storm. It’s like hurricane shutters; when you open up, there’s always the worry of a massive sub-tropical toad jumping on your face.


“Where are your monuments, your battles, martyrs? Where is your tribal memory? Sirs, in that gray vault. The sea. The sea has locked them up. The sea is history.” –DEREK WALCOTT, from “Writing on Water” (1979)

Miami need look no further than the countless real prehistoric submerged civilizations to understand we are not special. There’s an entire (and rather complicated) book on Submerged Prehistory (2011) that explains the archaeology being done on now sunken civilizations, digging through the fates of men who dared live near the coast.

The book is 336 pages long. Its length isn’t a symbol of any kind, more a recognition of the fact that we probably won’t read it. Laziness is something we should all reckon with. We are not unique. We are lazy. Caught in a net of our tired ways, gargling salt water as it rises to our necks as we will hold the value sheets of our real estate holdings over the white crests.

The Hydromancer reads the droplets and boldly declares that no matter what, Miami Beach will be lost. Holy shit will there be a party at that wake.


Modern amenities are available to us! Flex Seal AS SEEN ON TV. Have you seen that guy paddle the boat with the screen door as a hull after he sprays that fucking stuff all over it? Just cover the damned limestone already, it couldn’t be more obvious.

If the success of the National Football League is any indicator, then Human Growth Hormone should be injected directly into the bedrock, in the biggest veins: the Miami River, Alligator Alley and the goal lines at Joe Robbie, as well as the zoo. We kept the zoo after Andrew, we’re gonna want the zoo after total inundation.

Mandatory boob jobs for all citizens, male and female, swiftly increasing the floatation capability of every citizen. Not silicone, something more buoyant, like the stuff they use for those NOAA buoys in the North Sea. The altering of human bodies may put a moral strain on our local medicine men, but these are desperate times. At a certain point, we have to admit we’d all rather be Dr. Moreau than that beardo who captained the Titanic. Cross breeding with manatees or surgically implanted gills. All of it. Call a meeting of the mad scientists.

Some schmuck will inevitably bring up the idea of shooting water into space because whenever there is a problem there is always an idiot who brings up shooting the problem into space. Shooting things into space doesn’t work, you loon. And look here, it’s possible pissing off aliens is what got us here in the first place. Did you think about that? No you didn’t because you’re crazy.

The first International Colloquium for Pneumatic Structures met in Stuggart in 1967, launching a movement towards experimentation with inflatable architecture. Initially, people experimenting with the form intended to be playful and provide pleasurable experiences. In the decades since, practitioners of the form have begun investigating practical uses for the medium. If our houses are inflatable, will we not sink? If our schools are filled with air, do we really even need to know how to spell the word

There’s a phrase that’s used constantly at the corporate Nike office when suggesting someone not overthink or do too much with a task: “Don’t boil the ocean.” O muse, Nike, goddess of victory, and people who sweat too much, can’t we just boil the ocean every couple years and steam off a few inches?

It is a cruel joke that we must keep training the dolphins. If we can’t handle the waves, they may be our only friends.


In 1922, somewhere in Sea Cliff, New York, Harry Houdini was asked by a group of children if he could make the rain stop. So, in response and with his arms raised he incanted three times, “Rain and storm, I command you to stop.” And the rain stopped. The children were unconvinced, claiming—understandably—that it would have happened anyway. So he stepped forward once more, arms raised, and invoked the “the great commander of rain” to proceed yet again.

It began to downpour. He refused to make it stop despite the children’s best efforts. He did not want to take any more chances.

We are a ship of fools in need of Houdini. But Houdini is dead.

Nathaniel Sandler is the current managing editor of the Miami Rail.