Planet of the Climate Changing Apes
by Steven Faivus, edited 2019
Unabridged version with curse words
For ages 16 years and older
This "Science fiction” story includes:
1) where fossil fuels were made
2) the history of major extinction events of the earth and
3) the science of the greenhouse effect.
We passed a pretty, swirling blue planet. Readings showed it was covered in life. Curious, I landed.
I encountered a strange animal. A hairless ape had recently dominated the planet. They covered large areas with a hard, mixed substance. Up rose dwellings and a great variety of structures, including artificial mountains with glassy vertical cliff faces and deep, extra-hard roots. Creative, insect-like apes congregated to these cities.
They are on the verge of and amidst great scientific advances, yet tragically and comically stuck in the past. Socially too. They keep on telling themselves and their family and community that they are doing well. On the other hand, everyone is more and more aware and concerned.
Although the past fifteen years saw more scientific and technological advances than the preceding four-hundred years combined, these hominids edge ironically, stubbornly, and ignorantly to early self destruction. It looks like they will take many plants and animals with them. All Earth is hostage to their mass extinction event.
Why so bleak?
Why? What is the problem and the reason?
Science and technology are sticky. They’re tricky. I went to a science professor’s home, a top climate specialist, and froze him in time, taking his form to further investigate. As my brain synchronized with his neural network, I realized more about what was happening on their planet.
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I woke up. Just opened my eyes. Through the dull speckled light, with its faint yellow rectangles stretched by distant streetlights, I calmly acknowledged a crouching figure.
“Hey, what do you want?” I heard myself murmur.
He started to look up, but before I could clearly see his chimp-like face, the scene faded out. I guess I went back to sleep.
I wake up in a pale turquoise fiberglass cage. A meticulous ape stands before the cage. Silk lavender strips hang like thick feathers from his neck and upper chest.
“Doctor Bernard,” the ape says, “I’d like a brief word with you.”
“Am I dreaming?”
“No, doctor, you are not.”
A few suspended moments pass.
My fuzzy head clears.
“What do you want to talk about?,” I finally ask.
“You are a climate specialist for the government, are you not?”
In the corner behind the ape a transparent, light-pink octopus trembles in the air like a newborn butterfly.
“Then perhaps you can explain a few, shall we say, incongruities which we are struggling to comprehend.”
“Who are we?” I ask.
“Let’s just say traveler and curious friend.”
He takes my dull, neutral stare as a signal to continue.
“Given all your advances in science and technology, why do humans still use such an old, dirty, toxic form of energy, the burning of oil, coal, and natural gas? Why are humans ignoring the urgent cry of its scientists about fossil fuels?!”
“First of all,” I softly reply, “there hasn't been much of an urgent cry.”
“Come doctor, the growing danger to life on your rare and beautiful planet has been well documented and publicized for at least 30 years.”
“We've been busy.” I hold a tired stare.
“I understand…a strange species. You find intelligence only to deny its benefits and rewards. Believe me, doctor,” the ape scolds, “on other planets, species far less intelligent than yours make far more sense than you do.”
I don’t respond.
“We thought of simply leaving you alone,” he continues.
The floating jelly sways its tentacles. “Why should we help them?,” my captor sharply demands in its direction.
“We don’t need your help,” I explain. “We’re finding solutions to our own problems, thank you very much.”
This cracks him up. The ape laughs until he wheezes and coughs, face dripping with sweat.
After regaining composure, his furrowed, black-whiskered face settles back into my gaze.
“The gift you have been given is turning into a tragic mess, and you know it.”
“Why tragic? We’re just another life on this planet doing what comes naturally.”
“Is that what you call it?”
Another pause. “Why do you want to help?” I weakly demand.
“That’s a good question. No real reason. Strange and sad to see. You’ve been given such a great gift, yet you haven’t grown into it yet. If you met a child lost in the woods, would you help?”
My eyes open slightly.
“In any case, professor, here we are.”
A long pause. I look at the blue-green bars, wondering why they put me in a cage.
“What have you learned about your technology?,” he asks.
“Well, the burning of fossil fuel has proven to be dangerous for our environment.”
“What are Fossil fuels?”
“Fossil fuels — oil, coal, and natural gas — are burned to make energy and power factories. People use fossil fuels to produce food and heat and cool their homes and office buildings. Fossil fuels were made hundreds of millions of years ago by trapping the carbon in the buried bodies of living things. Today the carbon and trapped energy are released when the fossil fuel is burned.
Coal was made in the Carboniferous period, starting about 350 million years ago. The earth was covered with dense ferns competing for sunlight in warm, humid swamps. Some of these plants evolved a long sticky molecule called lignin. Lignin glued together the inner wood, allowing a hard trunk to climb into the air. Branches and leaves spread out high in the sky. Trees were born!
This was a favorable adaptation. Reaching up to the sunlight, trees competed well against their shorter fern cousins. Air thick with CO2 blanketed the globe. Early trees thrived from pole to pole.
When a tree dies today its body decomposes. The carbon dioxide it absorbed and used during its life gets released back into the air. When an early tree died, rolling to the bottom of a murky swamp, the bacteria to decompose the sturdy lignin had not yet evolved. Because the bacteria to break down the hard tree had not yet evolved, the carbon the first trees breathed in was during life was stored in the ground. For 60 million years, carbon was sucked out of the air by early trees and buried in the mud instead of decomposing and slowly releasing back into the air. All these buried trees made coal. When coal burns, its Carbon is finally released into the air after being trapped in the ground for hundreds of millions of years.
Crude oil and natural gas were made later, mainly during the Mesozoic period from 250-65 million years ago. Tropical conditions again covered the Earth, this time with shallow seas instead of swamps. These warm waters were filled with algae and plankton, especially tiny snowflake-shelled diatoms. When these died, they sank to the sea floor.
Mud trapped their carbon in great pockets. Very little oxygen passed through the mud to break the buried plankton and algae down. These pockets became today’s fields of oil and natural gas.
About 35,000 years ago, humans started to burn coal, which released a lot more heat than wood yet was very dirty. Today coal is the most polluting and least expensive fossil fuel to use. The top three countries which mine and produce coal are China, United States, and India. The top two countries which use coal are the emerging economies of China and India.
Since the mid-1700s, humans have refined crude oil to make the highly carcinogenic gasoline, which we still rely on for industry and energy. Refined petroleum was a huge breakthrough for humanity, improving all areas of life from transportation to music and food. Unfortunately it is poisoning our environment and making dangerous changes to our climate.
Natural gas is another fossil fuel. Considered by some to be the least polluting, natural gas is an important contributor to CO2 and greenhouse gas. The simple fact is we need to stop using fossil fuels.”
Now it’s the monkey’s turn to suspiciously stare. “And you’re still using that same technology, hundreds of years later, well into your computer revolution? In fact you’re using it now more than ever.”
“You have to understand. It’s all wrapped up with money and how we live. Civilizations have made so many advances. We’ve known oil is highly carcinogenic. It poisons earth, air, and sea. A few parts per billion in water or soil is considered a toxic spill. ”
“So why do you still use it?”
“We just can’t put it down...and why did you come here again?,” I asked, weakening.
“No real reason. We were just passing by and my commander here got curious and wanted to stop. After getting a quick look, he just couldn't understand—”
“—What's so hard to understand? We got used to a better way of life, and now we can't give it up. We don’t even want to think about it. At any cost.”
“It’s your ‘smartphones’ isn’t it? You can’t think straight.”
“That you achieved marked intelligence is one thing. You spend one fifth of your body’s energy on the brain, making it your most expensive organ. That is not surprising. The universe is filled with creatures such as yourselves who donate at least one fifth of their body energy to the brain.” He paused, giving me a chance to digest before moving on.
“That you discover and cling to science is also understandable. Creatures all over the universe are developing their intelligences through science and technology.
But you went on to worship your symbolic system of exchange. Money undermines your evolution, perverting your instinct. You’ve lost perspective. The tool has taken over.”
“Our economics, then.” I somberly reflected. “Money has exacerbated our inherent struggle with greed, hierarchy, and violence.”
Another pause, but this time the captain broke in unexpectedly, like a peekaboo, popping his face right up against mine.
“Your ‘economics’, as you call it,” he snarled against the cage, “has blinded you to insanity!”
“Okay, we have a problem.”
“You have created a system which stops you from making simple, crucial decisions which effect everyone.”
“Is it our system, or our nature?”
He backed away from my cage.
“Why did you put me in a cage, anyway?”
A long pause.
“Have you ever killed a spider, doctor? What would you do if you were me?”
I didn’t answer.
“Why don’t you just stop using fossil fuels if it is causes so much damage?”
“It’s not that simple.”
“And why not?”
“We are addicted, and addiction is never so simple.”
“Addiction? Is that what you call it? You are a scientist and policymaker studying the issue. Surely you can propose a simple solution.”
“Although many still stubbornly refuse to see it, humans, by burning fossil fuels, are causing a major extinction event. Earth has had several extinction events,” I gravely continued. “This is not the first. Looking at the catastrophes of the past helps us to understand what is happening today.
We get perspective when we look at the deep, big picture history of the earth. Earth’s history is told in its rocks. The dating of rocks, like all technical fields in science, has flourished greatly with the computer revolution. Now puzzles are resolved and stories are more clearly told.
Earth was born 4.6 billion years ago. Cells began about 3.5 billion years ago. Life evolved and changed over long periods of time. The rocks also show short periods of extreme change, called major extinction events. New plants and animals, new eras in history, followed each major extinction event. There is no guarantee, however that the major extinction event we humans create today will end with rejuvenation. It is quite possible, given the unprecedented changes today, that we could destroy all life on earth. Looking at our stockpile of nuclear weapons we know that we have this potential.
The crust of the earth is broken into plates. The plates float and move on the deeper, churning mantle. Because of this, the land slowly moves, about 3.5 cm/year, the rate that fingernails grow. This is called plate tectonics and continental drift. The position of land is a large factor in shaping earth’s environment.
A little before 500 million years ago, the continents happened to be huddled around the equator. The equator is the hottest and most humid place on earth, where today’s rain forests are. Because of the intense heat and rain, there was a lot more erosion of rocks. Rock erosion takes carbon dioxide out of the air. CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas which regulates earth’s temperature and climate.
As the CO2 in the air lowered, temperatures dropped, and the seas became frozen and slushy. Having the land concentrated at the equator also blocked the ocean currents. This further cooled the earth by blocking the circulation of warm waters. The ocean streams could no longer carry the warm equator water north nor south. After a certain level the slush spread. Earth became covered in ice, known as snowball Earth. Blocked from sunlight, most of the life died and went extinct.
Scientists now know of deep-sea thermal vents and the life that thrives in their extreme heat and biochemistry. Also we know of bacteria and life forms that thrive in the extreme cold. These forms would have survived in Snowball Earth, evolving into new niches left open when snowball Earth warmed.
Finally the land broke up. The ice melted and the earth thawed. Plants and animals in the ocean experienced a mind-boggling explosion of evolutionary diversity and ingenuity called the Cambrian explosion. Life evolved quickly in new and innovative ways. A major innovation was that animals began to process calcium in the ocean water to make a hard substance which became shell and later bone. Into these Cambrian seas came sponges, jellyfish, hydras, corkscrew shell cephalopods, curling snail shell nautilus, and ever present trilobites.
Into the Devonian seas fish evolved. Plants and animals evolved onto the lands. Large insects swarmed carboniferous forests. Later, large Permian reptile-mammal Cynodonts tore each other competing at seashores.
At the end of the Permian period, about 250 million years ago, several factors contributed to earth’s biggest extinction event, called the Great Dying. Over 90 percent of plant and animal species went extinct. The main cause of the Great Dying was unclear before the last few years. With new research and advanced rock dating techniques, a more detailed story is told today which we need to pay attention to.
Scientists found evidence of the following environmental stresses, but it was unclear how the pieces fit together. The land formed one mass, called Pangaea, which, as with the precambrian extinction, slowed and stopped the ocean’s currents. The oceans became anaerobic, lacking oxygen. Rocks show that the deep oceans lacked oxygen first. Later, the whole ocean, including the shallow seas near the coast where most sea life live, lacked the oxygen which vertebrate (backbone) sea life need to survive.
An extended magma event happened in what is today Siberia. Sheets of lava bubbled up for millions of years in an area now known as the Siberian Traps. As intrusive igneous rock rose, sheets of magma rose, spewing carbon dioxide and sulphuric gas. Temperatures significantly rose in the air and sea. Oceans became acidic and, lacking oxygen, toxic for most of its plant and animal life. There was also some evidence of astroid creator from that time under Australia. What remained unclear was what exactly caused the extinctions and in what order. Most scientists suspected a combination of these causes acted over time to create such a major extinction event.
Recently scientists discovered that, contrary to expectations, the extinctions happened quite rapidly, perhaps in even as short as two hundred years. The question is, with all these causes acting over long periods of time before and after the major extinction event, why did 90 percent of the species go extinct all of the sudden, in a very short time period? The model that fits the evidence is global warming and climate change, a phenomena we are witnessing today.
This is how the Permian extinction pieces fit together. Starting in the middle of the Permian period, volcanos in Siberia released a lot of CO2 into the air for hundreds of thousands of years. The CO2 entered the ocean and became carbonic acid, acidifying the oceans. CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas, controlling temperature and climate. With CO2 added to the atmosphere, the average temperature rose significantly. Average global temperatures rose 5 degrees Celsius before the extinction, and continued to soar higher after the extinction.
As the ocean water warmed, it no longer could hold oxygen. Due to climate change and the Pangaea land mass blocking ocean currents, currents stopped and the putrid seas stagnated. Life held on and conditions built to a critical point, then suddenly events spiraled out if control. Life that had evolved over million and hundreds of million years went extinct in perhaps a few hundred years.
The main idea here, the main takeaway from the permian extinction event, is that climate change factors build up and reach a breaking point when greenhouse gases are rapidly introduced into the air. Instead of species slowly becoming extinct due to slowly deteriorating environmental conditions, as scientists expected, conditions reached a tipping point and suddenly became much worse, killing plants and animals en masse all at once. Feedback loops activate, mounting a deadly effect.
We see this today. Melting white arctic ice becomes ocean, a darker surface which absorbs more heat, accelerating global warming at the poles. Newly-thawed Tundra permafrost releases Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the air. The methane mixes with the CO2 to hold in more heat and melt more permafrost. Deforestation means more CO2 in the air because trees, like all plants, breathe in carbon dioxide. More CO2 in the air changes the climate so that tree-killing fungi, moths, and Beatles move into newly-vulnerable forests, killing more trees. The latest worldwide studies show that global warming is accelerating faster than predicted due to these and many other feedback loops. Feedback chains activate, symptoms and causes conglomerate. The environment reaches a tipping point, as we find in the rocks. At this point things go rapidly and excessively bad and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
But we are not at that point yet. This is an urgent warning. One thing the history of the earth shows over and over is the importance of CO2 on the environment. Rapidly raising the CO2 in the air is not something we should do. We must stop using fossil fuels now. But how? Just for fun, let’s finish our tour of earth’s major extinction events.
Another time, about 65 million years ago, a large asteroid hit the earth in the Yucatan peninsula in southeast Mexico and ended the Mesozoic era of the dinosaurs. The explosion kicked lots of smoke into the air, which circled the globe and blocked out the sunlight. Without sunlight, plants died. Without plants to eat, herbivorous dinosaurs died. Without herbivores to eat, carnivorous dinosaurs died. The passing of the dinosaurs opened opportunity for small, mouse-like mammals to come out from under the shrubs and evolve into elephants, tigers, humans, and whales.
Today there is a major extinction caused by humans burning fossil fuels. Scientists predict over half the species of plants and animals will be extinct by 2050 due to human-created climate change. Without humans excessively burning oil, life on Earth would have enjoyed 300,000 years of stable, moderate climate good for all life to thrive. But there is no way to predict when we will hit the tipping point and exactly what would happen next.
We are adding CO2 at an unprecedented rate never before found in earth’s history. Because we continue to burn fossil fuels, the world we are leaving to our children is dangerous and uncertain. Why can’t we just stop?
This would not be the first time a species’ success leads to extinction. After all, over 99.9% of all species that have been on Earth are presently extinct. Life devours life. Evolution works off of competition and the survival of the fittest. Life forms come and go. That is the way of evolution and natural selection. Also, all the other hominids, about twenty species, came and went. Why not us too one day?” A rock opened up in my stomach. I was having a moment.
“The mind races,” I continued. “So soon? And how many of our life family brothers and sisters are we going to take with us? And for no good reason? Only our ignorance, greed, laziness, inertia? We could drive ourselves and possibly even the planet to extinction. Is it possible we could leave our beautiful blue green planet a lifeless rock? Or maybe just make things very uncomfortable for our children? Or wipe out all life down to bacteria?
But how can this be? We are a lovely people. God’s children. Now is the the time to step into possibilities. Our greatest challenge. Our greatest opportunity.
I know there are many possibilities. We are not at the tipping point quite yet. One thing is for certain-we need to stop using fossil fuels right away. I have known it but been afraid to say it for a long time. It sounds crazy. But that is the truth. The whole world needs to stop using fossil fuels right away. Maybe our meeting and having this discussion is a part of that.”
“Well said, doctor. Now you're starting to make a little sense.” His eyes gleamed.
“Again, why do you care? What business is this of yours?”
A strange long pause, looking like trying to not pass or pass a painful fart, or about to start to sneeze, chin tilted a little up and in.
“Did you swallow a frog?,” I thought.
“Where did life come from?,” he finally lead.
“We’re not sure,” I answered. “Many scientists think it probably just randomly formed from the elements that came out of the volcanoes as the early earth cooled—methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, and water—with lightening, frequent meteor collisions, and time. This theory is called abiogenesis, or life coming from non-life.
Scientists do not agree if the creation of life is common or unusual in the universe. The basic elements of life — hydrogen, carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen — are common everywhere. The raw materials for life, nucleotides and amino acids, have been found floating through outer space. Some scientists believe early earth was too harsh to allow for the chemistry of early life to coalesce. They hypothesize that DNA and life came from outer space.”
“Okay, I'll tell you,” he said, face releasing, forehead tilted slightly to the right, eyebrows a little raised. “About 4 and a 1/2 billion years ago, back when Earth first cooled enough to have land, air, and ocean, I visited here. I seeded the sea with DNA.
You are my children. I never told anyone and I could never return until now.”
“Is this true?!,” my mind screamed. “Why is he saying that? Why did he bring me here? What does he want from me?”
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Back on Earth, I tried to pull a few political strings with my mimicked body while speaking to the scientist above.
“Senator, why are you hesitating to act?” I inaudibly hissed into his subconscious: “Your words and actions show that you do not believe that humans are creating global warming and climate change. Without this fundamental understanding, you are unable to fulfill your political duties at this key time in human history.”
“Excuse me, but who are you?” Small grey eyes, like knots on an old tree, shifted below tufted thin grey grass/misty, well-formed hair.
“Let's just say a concerned observer.”
“You know how many assholes have tried to stir the pot, son?”
“Excuse me, senator? I’m a Nobel-prize climatologist. I know the science. The scientific community now acknowledges global warming. The evidence is clear. I'm sure you’ve heard–the debate is over.”
“How many times have scientists gotten it wrong? Every time. That’s the way science works, ain’t it? Science gives theories, not facts.
And you expect us to change everything based on your computer–generated, made up crap? You expect me to let mamsy-pamsy assholes like you tell me what car to drive and what to eat? You're crazy son. This is America. The land of the free. Besides, there is a lot more uncertainty in the science than you are assuming. Our scientists certainly tell a different story than your alarmist leftist scientists.”
“Listen Senator, it's not that complicated. It's not a matter of anyone telling anyone what to do. This is about things we all want. Security and safety for our children and everyone. Okay, except maybe not for our enemies and spiders and ants, cows and especially chicken. We fucking hate chicken.”
“I’ll tell you what this is about,” the senator weakly spat, ignoring my attempt to be funny. “This is about you using your version of science to try to dictate public policy. You’re trying to take advantage of the public’s lack of scientific literacy. You want to limit the free market, don’t you?”
“Is that what you think this is, someone trying to take away your rights and freedoms? Let's get away from debate senator, shall we? What goes up comes down, right? That's gravity. We trust it.
However, we can also ask questions about gravity. Imagine a rock moving away from the earth after I throw it into the air. What pulls it back down? The air? The earth doesn't grab or suck the rock down, so why does it fall? The word ‘gravity’ doesn't explain this ghostlike mystery.”
The senator let me ramble on. His droopy, passive yet attentive eyes gazed slightly up towards my hairline. It was a little magic trick from my planet, a way of gently hypnotizing through the eyes. Yup, he was tilted.
“Consider the moon,” I continued. “The big heavy ball wants to go straight out into empty space, but Earth's gravity pulls the moon into its orbit around the earth. But how can the Earth pull hard on the moon through a quarter of a million miles of empty space?
It seems impossible. No strings, no matter, but a consistent, strong pull. The moon acts as if it’s attached to the earth by a huge, thick cable. Only there is no cable.
The moon pulls on the earth through empty space, too. That’s why the oceans swell up under the moon’s tug, creating daily high and low tides.
Here's another strange observation. Even though they are not touching, there is friction between the moon and Earth. Friction happens when surfaces rub together and heat up, like a rubbing your hands together or a tire rubbing the road.
When the moon began, scooped out of the early molten earth by an asteroid about 4 billion years ago, the moon was faster and much closer to the earth. Over time, the friction between them has caused them to slow down and move further apart.
Einstein’s general relativity makes extremely accurate predictions about gravity. It states that matter bends the space-time continuum, which creates gravity. Now what does that mean? Can you picture it? Can you understand it? There’s always room for question and doubt, but the theory fits observation and experimentation.”
The Senator snapped awake. “What in hell are you babbling on about?,” he blurted. “What does any of this have to do with a hill of beans?”
“So for any theory,” I patiently continued, “there’s room for question and doubt. We don’t fully understand gravity, yet we don’t doubt a ball will fall back down when we throw it up. Even something as simple as throwing a ball up and watching it fall poses deep theoretical questions.
Think of the theory of climate change like that-it’s happening, whether you understand it or not. Global warming and climate change follow from the carbon dioxide humans are putting into the air. It’s a simple fact we need to respond to, not debate or ruminate.
Like an apple falling from a tree. This is simple science, like gravity. We all need to understand it and act now.”
“Like a frog on a tray,” I thought. “He would never let me lecture to him like this if I hadn’t tilted him. The question is, is any of this making it passed his blank stare? Is he paying attention in any way? We plant seeds, but there isn’t much time.”
“The greenhouse gas itself, like a blanket or coat, does not make heat. A coat is warm because it holds your body heat in. This is how a coat and blanket work. The blanket and coat are fluffy. They are filled with stagnant air packed tightly into layers. Air, because its gas atoms are spread out, is a poor conductor of heat. This means air does not carry, or pass, heat well. Air is called a good insulator, or a blocker of moving heat. Heat tries to leave your body because your body, at 98.6℉, is warmer than the room temperature. The fluffy coat or blanket - with trapped, layered air - won’t let the body heat leave. That’s how a good coat is warm even when it is very cold outside. Like how an arctic penguin’s feathers make it possible to withstand extreme cold. Greenhouse gas warms the earth like a blanket but does not insulate the same way.
This is how the greenhouse effect works. Sunlight streams through the air and heats the surface of the earth,” I lectured on to the senator, acting out the words with my hands, mixing in some more subliminal hissing. “The heated earth radiates infrared radiation back into the sky. Infrared is a low frequency light which hot things give off to cool down. Infrared has longer waves and lower frequency than visible light. This rising infrared radiation is reflected back down to earth by greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide. Before humans started to burn oil, the average CO2 in the air was about 250 parts per million (ppm) for the past 1 million years. In May, 2019, the CO2 was measured at 414.83 ppm. The CO2 has almost doubled! Humans are adding CO2 to the air at an alarming rate. This causes global warming and climate change. Melting poles. Rising sea levels. Extreme storms. Drought. Record breaking temperatures. Fires. Acidification of the oceans. The major extinction event we see today. The burning of fossil fuels must stop.”
(Again, I relaxed the senator’s trance.) “Are you done?,” he blustered, coming up for air. “Do you think I haven't heard this before? Since the invention of street corners, we've had folks preaching on their soapbox about the coming doom and gloom and why everyone must do things their way. Where’s your long dirty beard and ‘The End Is Near’ sign?”
“Look Senator, this is about values we share. We all want safety and happiness for our children. In order to survive we need to work together. This is humanity’s greatest challenge and opportunity. This is not the time for war and competition. We have a common problem we all contribute to and we all need to creatively address.
Atoms and molecules are like little springs which jiggle at their own frequencies. Frequency means how fast it vibrates. It turns out that each element has its own unique frequencies at which it resonates, or vibrates at. Each jiggle at their own unique speeds. This gives each element its own signature color. Because of this, we can read the elements in starlight, and understand how light and matter interact.
Greenhouse gases,” I further explain, “vibrate at lower frequencies than the tighter nitrogen and oxygen molecules which make up over 99 percent of the atmosphere. Infrared radiation also vibrates at low frequency. The low greenhouse frequencies match the rising infrared radiation (IR) as it tries to escape from the heated surface of the earth. Greenhouse gases absorb and remit the IR. By engaging the rising IR, by dancing with it, the greenhouse gas redirects some of the IR back down to the ground. The nitrogen and oxygen gases which dominate the sky are completely aloof, acting as if the rising IR wasn’t there. That is why and how greenhouse gases send rising infrared radiation back down to earth’s surface. When the IR comes back to the ground, it heats the Earth like an IR lamp keeps cooked food hot in a restaurant.
Climate science is complex. The earth has been through many changes over the last 4-1/2 billion years. The climate has changed a lot. Today, speaking of global warming, we are actually in an ice age phase of the earth, where the CO2 in the atmosphere is relatively low. Because of the complexity, some people are able to confuse the central issue about the dangers of human CO2 in the atmosphere. Many people imagine nature as immense, here for us to freely use, as long as we have the money to buy it. But that perception needs to change now. One thing is clear, adding a lot of CO2 quickly to the air is very bad for our health and stability.” I released the tilt.
“Please stop,” the senator weakly protested. “You’re boring me to death! What are you doing? You really think spewing all your supposed scientific facts at me will help anything? I hate it! And I don’t care!
Look son, maybe there is something to what you’re trying to say. I sure as hell can’t get my mind around any of it. I never could and I never will. So leave me the fuck alone with all that crazy science talk. We have people out of work. I have families I serve which are suffering, losing their homes because they can no longer make their mortgage payments, losing their savings. Now this is my real concern-getting good jobs for my people. Hell, coal and pipeline work are some of the best jobs around here.”
“This is all related, senator.”
“Shut the fuck up and get out of my way.”
“So, commander,” asked the alien ape, “what are we going to do next? Let’s take a minute and back up, explore the lay of the land and our options. We are dealing with a filthy and dangerous species. No one would judge us for squashing them. Is that what you’re thinking we should do? Come now, captain, surely the thought’s crossed your mind.”
“Since when are we senseless murderers?,” the commander finally responded, his transparent jelly strobing light magenta.
“But this would not be us being senseless,” the ape asserted. “They’re senseless..,right? How much of their rare and beautiful planet are they about to destroy?”
“So you want to kill them because they might kill. Where’s the high ground there?”
“Sir, I’m just nervous and trying to see where you stand. You think we should destroy them, right”
“Not necessarily. We don’t know for sure what will happen next on this strange little planet. You seem more than a little curious. Why?”
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The scientist was crying to the alien ape, tears streaming down his face. "My wife and I, alien creatures, trying to understand each other in order to parent together.” His body shook with the sobbing. “We’re like the plants and animals needing and trying to communicate and collaborate with us.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I asked. Both the commander and I were getting pulled in to the language and emotions of these humans.
“I don’t know myself,” he wailed louder.
“It’s just, we’re not used to working together. We often judge our success or the success of our team compared to others.”
“This is not that kind of thing.”
“I know. This is awkward for us.”
Just relax. Humans have done this before. This is a world wide problem. Every one contributes to this problem and its solution. It’s time to face our struggles and heal, for all people of the world to play nice.”
“That’s what I’m saying-we’re not used to that.”
“Well you need to get used to it. Figure it out.”
“It seems like the earth is in serious trouble, getting worse, not better.”
“And we are just supposed to sit by and watch?”
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“There’s something else sir.”
“Along the lines of don’t be so sure, don’t pigeon-hole them.”
“They’re reality makers, sir. Shape shifters.”
“Oh really...how can that be, given their base struggles and addictions? They can not see clearly enough to shift.”
“It’s not like that, sir. It’s not a gift that they study and refine. It’s something their brains do involuntarily, collectively, subconsciously.” He paused, then said wistfully: “I found them to be surprisingly creative and tender.”
“Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts.”
“About exterminating those pests and saving the planet.”
“Yah.., I’m not so sure. They could pull a rabbit out of a hat.., you know, do something unexpected. There is a strange potential here, almost technological.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean, what do I mean?”
“What do you mean ‘something unexpected’?”
“Truly sir, there are too many variables to be sure what will happen next. Perhaps technology will come to the rescue. There is talk of far cheaper solar panels than anyone had thought possible. People could find a common ground based on survival and collaboration.”
“You’re acting weird. You’ve been acting strange ever since you talked me into landing here.” A long pause. “Alright, let’s back up and think over our options.”
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"Maybe we are not looking at this the right way. Our perspective has us locked in, trapped in the corner, no way out, no solution. That's because we are holding onto the stuff so hard. Our mind is trapped within our clasped hands, tight, small, anxious. But we don’t have to fight to break our way out. We are already out.”
“Who are you talking about? Why are you talking that way?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re using the word ‘we’”
“I think we are done here. It seems clear what is happening and what needs to be done next, right corporal?”
“No, not really. That's what I'm trying to say. Look, Commander, the people on this planet have been working alone, but they don't have to. The plant and animal kingdoms on this planet are strong, built upon families who have honed their cultures and traditions for millions of years. They want to help to keep things in balance but the humans have no way to hear them. They just need a little guidance, that’s all.”
“You know very well that’s not the way it works.”
“Listen, commander, just give me twenty more years. Many want to hear. There is a turning. This is humanity’s time, their greatest challenge and opportunity. This is the time for them to evolve (into the beautiful peaceful creatures they are meant to be.”
“There you go again! What is your crazy, special connection to this planet?!”
“Just twenty more years, sir. That’s all I ask. You’ll see, they’ll wake up.”
“I will return in twenty years to see how you are doing.”
“Thank you, sir. You won’t regret this.”
#!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$%* #!@$
Artists and scientists started to work closely together everywhere to learn and get the word out. People went green all the way and corporations adjusted. People downsized and pulled away from technology and industry, going back to living locally. People worked on having a balanced relationship with nature, controlling their population and use of the land accordingly.
Six years later, 2 Ill-Tempered Robots became a run-away hit show first on youtube then on Broadway. Here is a snippet from a script for one of their earliest episodes.
(2 ill-tempered robots are stranded outside. Despite beautiful, Frank Lloyd Wright, art deco style copper alloy work, golden with green patina highlights and fine, elegantly curved cheek and shoulder lines, the robots move and sound very grumpy. For good reason; toxic snow begins to fall.)
“What is all this mother fucking shit?”
“The fuck if I know. (Pause.) Some kinda snow?”
“That ain’t no fucking snow. It’s not cold or wet.”
“Then what the fuck is it?”
“It’s hard and crusty, kinda flakey. Reminds me of something...”
“It’s fucking dandruff!”
“No fucking way. How could that be? Unless there’s some huge mother fucking dog up there scratching on its crusty fucking ass.”
“You guessed it. You’re so fucking smart.”
They both stopped talking and looked up into the grey, nondescript sky.
“What the fuck’s happening?’
“Fuck if I know.”
“Like they always say, not every stick matches every line.”
“Who the fuck says that?”
“You know, every motherfucker, like don’t judge a book by its cover and different strokes for different fucking folks and dancing to the beat of a different drummer and all that shit. The truth will set you free shit.”
“What the fuck does any of that have to do with this shit?” Clumps hit their heads. Jagged white flakes pile above their boots.
“What the fuck is this shit?! This is some seriously sick shit.”
“Right, like I said, this stick doesn’t fit any mother fucking line.”
“How the fuck is that supposed to help us.”
“It isn’t. This is just some strange ass shit.”
“What is this shit?”
“I got a bad feeling about this... We should have listened back then when we had a chance.”
After his alien abduction, the scientist became a big time activist, out there on the cutting edge.
“Hello?, he thought. “Is there anybody out there?
I’m not sure if any of this is working, but now I really want to keep trying. I find a naked man sleeping fretfully half out of a sleeping bag in the park. I wake him up. Tell him about this shit, about what’s really going down. He doesn’t give a shit. He already has ideas of his own, thank you very much. And he wants to sleep.”
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"–really Corporal, I've never known you to be so chatty. We've often gone for 20, 30 years with not so much as a sigh. Gentle, peaceful, meditative silence."
"In any case–“
"Is it about that planet again?”
"If I may say, commander, you have been unusually edgy yourself. They seem to have gotten under our skin. I just can't help thinking–"
"Thinking what? What's going on back there?"
"Well, sir, I just can't help thinking that if they just knew a little more about their history, it could help them get perspective and move forward. They're smart, creative, intelligent, afraid, anxious, and warlike. This is their brain, what they have inherited from their genetic tree – the intelligent monkeys and apes.
Being intelligent and conscious, they look for questions and answers, filling in what they don't know with imagination. Through myths, religion and science they have forgotten that they are apes. They imagine they are separate from their animal kingdom. In many ways this is beautiful; they sense their potential for peace and creativity and I love it! But they are still apes – wild, tribal, territorial, hierarchical, angry, anxious, and violent. This gets in the way.”
“How is that supposed to help?”
“Because this is not end of the story. They are still evolving. They are not stuck with hierarchy, anxiety, violence, and war. But to fix a problem you first have to face it. This could be a refreshing opportunity for them, I think."
“Corporal, could you do me favor?”
“Will you please shut the fuck up for the next two years?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
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This is my latest attempt at a climate change short science fiction story. Time is running out. Please write your questions and comments in the comments section below. Subscribe to get notified on new postings.