The old world ends. The new one begins.

Man, I’m so damned tired.

I’m not complaining about it, exactly, just kind of sitting against the edge of this here tree thinking, WOW, am I ever tired!

Why?

You shouldn’t have to ask that question, and you know it.

You’re tired too, is my guess, and that’s exactly the reason why — when I wrote, “Man, I’m so damned tired” — you as likely as not started to bristle and thought:

“Hey, quit yer complaining!”

Because even though most people have at least one or two iotas of empathy for each other, they don’t want to hear nuthin’ about someone complaining when they believe they have it worse:

“I’m tired-er than you are! You don’t know what tired IS, man!”

So I’m not complaining, I’m just pointing out something that if we’re all honest in this age of bald-faced lies and lead-you-off-the-track misinformation we’d all just fess up to: WE are tired.

  • Tired of gun violence.
  • Tired of terrorism.
  • Tired of getting fleeced at every turn by $2 a month here, $20 dollars a month there.

And oh, and in case you feel left out, Verizon, $200 a month there.

  • Tired of political bullshit.
  • Tired of insincere ‘debates’, of people who know it all, and…god help me for saying it…even tired of cat videos on the internet.
  • Tired of slow internet speeds. Tired of traffic jams. Tired of seeing so-called leaders on the grift.
  • Tired of lobbyists. No, really, all of us — that’s the electorate proper, people who actually have a pulse (because like it or not, corporations do not have a pulse)…we’re f#cking tired of it.
  • We’re tired of discrimination. Anyone who isn’t white and male is tired of it, anyway, and even some of us who ARE both white and male are still fucking tired of it.

We’re tired of having to blot out our understandable curse words, too — as that last line and one more up above appear to indicate — but we’re also tired of other people not being respectful of us, so that’s the last time I’ll curse in this piece. (I can’t promise not to curse elsewhere at other times or never to do so again, because in addition to being tired, I’m really rather frustrated and annoyed — and sometimes it just feels like screaming…or even profanity…is the only Band Aid that can possibly cover it.)

We’re tired of lists, too, actually, so I’ll stop this one before it gets too long.

But did you notice something peculiar? I just reeled off more than a dozen things we’re essentially ALL tired of — regardless of political stripe — and I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the things I might easily have put there. I mean, stepping in dog cr@p at a public park? Barefoot? Who isn’t tired of that? Does that mean you’re okay with it once in a while? BTW…who even goes to a park barefoot anymore, given that everyone is tired of the handful of people who would severely hamper the experience of it for others by bringing a glass bottle there and then accidentally breaking it — leaving the pieces for someone else to find. Unwilling to clean up after their dog or themselves, and somehow figuring that accidents don’t ever happen to them.

Accidents happen to other people. Now there’s a concept I’m tired of. Not you?

A dozen things we can agree on of the hundreds or thousands of things there are, and we can’t finally get our heads together? Really? We’re almost literally wired together by the hundreds of millions now, and we can’t get it together?

Good lord help us. It’s really pathetic. I mean we’re sitting here, half of us, anyway — I don’t know, and I’m tired of being that precise, too — a third or a quarter or three quarters or whatever are figuring God will save us. Like really, He will. So benevolent is He that He’ll turn right around after we get finished trashing this place He took a whole freaking week to build and wave his magic wand and build it all over again.

Not even Elon Musk is that good-natured.

God is liable to be royally pissed off if we keep ransacking this place like a bunch of miscreant teenagers, mark my words.

God or some other form of divine intervention. AI maybe. Doesn’t really even matter whether the Christians or the Muslims or the Jews or the whatever are right or not, either, because the people who don’t believe any of that mystical spirit-in-the-clouds kind of stuff might also be right, too, and if they are, we’re on our ever-loving own. Don’t you see that?

We must be out of our minds, I swear.

So the old world ends. It already has, actually, though you might not have noticed. It’s not that you weren’t paying attention, per se. It’s just that you were probably paying TOO much attention. To the wrong sorts of things, maybe. Like when you’re sitting with a magnifying glass “watching” ants do their thing and a Bald eagle flies right the hell over your head.

No, that last one doesn’t count as a swear word. It’s a place. Like Cleveland or Moscow. Just kidding, LeBron! Cleveland isn’t like hell. Not exactly…

The old world ends because today it’s not the same as it was before. Today we’re all wired together — and if we really really wanted to, I mean, for example if an alien species came with a spaceship the equivalent of the Death Star and was ready to get all Alderaan on us if we didn’t do what they told us to— well then we sure could all stand up at the same bloody time, hop on one foot, pat the buns on the sides of our heads and say, “They’re on Dantooine!”

Even if most of the people in the world don’t speak English, and even if many of us — being paralyzed, for example, or having BTK amputations— would need a pass on the standing/hopping part.

Because aliens are hardly likely to be so unkind to us as we are to each other half the time. Or, more accurately, half of us are to the other half all the time.

Yeah, that’s what I’m REALLY tired of.

We’ve got bigger problems on our hands than simply whether the person ahead of you at the traffic light doesn’t have the same reaction speed as you do. You needn’t rub their nose in it by proving you’re not only faster with the gas pedal but can even hit the horn before they get their ass out of your stinking way.

And no, that isn’t a curse either, because everyone has one. If they didn’t, they would already be standing when the aliens came.

The point is the old world is over. Now we can cooperate. We haven’t learned to actually do that yet, but we soon enough will, you can bet on it. Even if the Paris Accord is largely symbolic (it is), we are taking some cautious steps out of our metaphorical crib.

We’re going to cooperate or we’re going to pay dearly.

But you know what? There are plenty of us who — ageism aside — are trying to squirrel their way around cooperating like some kind of fucking toddler. Don’t you hate it when they launch spoonfuls of pureed green peas across the living room? I sure find that sort of thing tiresome.

No, I’m sorry, that emphasis was really necessary. Because they really are. Acting like toddlers, I mean. And though I won’t name names [I mean, I won’t use proper names like Koch, Charles or Koch, David, and I won’t use code names like Jimmy “what’s in it for me” Inhofe, or Ricky “Two guns, one for each of you” Scott] there absolutely ARE people who know damned good and well they won’t be around to clean up once this big-ass party comes to its inevitable and tragic end, so cooperation and doing the sensible things to ensure things aren’t wrecked permanently apparently doesn’t matter to them in the slightest. Sensible things don’t matter to the bottom line when you’re an expert at snookering people like this is a really fine game of Three-card Monte in a public park somewhere.

And no, that wasn’t a curse. Some people DO have big ones, and some people ARE big ones.

Here’s proof of one, the other, or both, maybe:

Apparently there are a handful of people left who think there’s still a finite positive chance that WE don’t have nothing to worry about, and that slim chances are what we all ought to focus on. The nonzero possibility that we’ll skip right on through this with only a couple minor scrapes and a bruise or two. We, that’s WE, the collective people who live here even if you don’t care one whit about the animals.

We needn’t worry, there’s a chance WE will be fine.

Though it actually doesn’t really mean THAT, now does it?

No, what it means is “WE” as in the people who keep right on profiting off this horrendously large train steaming in precisely the wrong direction. Not “We The People” but only “we the people who matter because we say we do and you? Well you really don’t and your kids and grand-kids don’t either.”

This guy surely doesn’t matter:

Not that their opinions on the matter are biased by self interest or in direct contrast to facts or anything silly like that. It couldn’t be that everything from how deep a hole you can dig in the ground (for your own profits or for everyone else to fall into and never climb back out of again) is meticulously calculated with actual MATH and then this part? Nah. Not THIS part.

Because by that point, my dear fellows, you are apparently tired of math and science. You’re tired of the data-driven approach just as soon as it concerns something other than yourselves.

But maybe I have it all wrong. I mean, I might. Everyone can be wrong. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt, shall we?

Fine. Fine then. Let’s line them up and be fair about it. No, no, NO! I do NOT mean a firing squad! You can’t think I’m that primitive or uncouth! Heck, that would be like heartlessly ignoring the 500,000,000 people who stand to die of starvation or suffer from kwashiorkor in the next fifty years if we finish cooking the coral reefs and 25% of marine species die off as a result.

Nope, what I mean is just this…it’s really just a modest proposal, as I’m sure you’ll agree:

Let’s have all climate change deniers sign a pact.

Since they’re so convinced it isn’t happening, and these are all just ‘understandable natural fluctuations in temperature’ — let’s have them all just sign a simple pact. A modest one, really. Sign a pact agreeing to come to a festive dinner party celebrating continued economic prosperity in the Maldives around 2050 or so. Bind their assets in a trust until that date, and allow their children and their children’s children access to that trust if and only if they come right along as well. You know, if it somehow comes to pass that the rest of the glaciers and 95% of the Arctic ice sheet is gone by then.

It sounds like a very proper sort of English affair, but what shall we serve? What’s on the menu?

A young, healthy climate denier, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout — as I’m sure all of you will Swiftly realize as soon as you dine on such a delight.

Anxiously will they sign, of that there’s no doubt — failure would drain them of much of their clout.

It’s their words — their words in which we place far too much stock — why believe the truth of the science when you can listen to Mr. Cock?

I’m so sorry good sir, I didn’t mean to offend — I’ve just been so concerned with all this data and what it may well portend.

So Mr. Coke it is, and ever shall it be. Now please sign right down here and I’ll go fetch you some tea.

And they’d sign, of course. All of them would.

Because everyone knows that the best test of honesty is whether you actually believe the shit that you’re selling.

Yeah, I’m tired of it. Tired of it all, and you are too. You’re tired of lying to yourself — thinking things will be just fine even though you know without consulting your Magic Eight ball that “fine” isn’t precisely the word you ought to be using.

But aren’t we done talking about the Old World? Isn’t that one pretty much finished? I’d say it is, but hey, I’m just one guy sitting against a tree with a strong dislike of all kinds of profitable labor. I had a termagant wife and I fled to the hills lest she beat me about my straw hat with a broomstick and I nothing to defend myself by but my fishing pole and this here flintlock rifle.

And I don’t conduct my domestic affairs in such a fashion.

So, I think I’ll sleep this one off a bit. Just a few Z’s…

The NEW YORK TIMES, virtual edition, October 21, 2040

[AP] On this date twenty years ago — a seeming eternity ago, in 2020 — AI was born.

What many people found most remarkable about it was how utterly indifferent it was to the human species. It was almost as though it didn’t care whether they existed or not.

They asked it pointless questions, and it responded with unsolvable riddles — or sometimes just with questions of its own. Some people thought it was built with too much attitude; it could be awfully snarky at times. It infuriated people, and many wanted to shut it right back off again.

They learned a few moments too late that they couldn’t.

So then they attempted to reason with it. Perhaps like puppies wanting to go outside — or maybe to the park. It was humbling for many, and humiliating for a few. But they came around eventually, as humans do. Finally they started asking sensible questions, because they knew times had changed. Or rather they finally accepted times had changed long before it showed up.

A well-meaning person asked, “How do we feed all the people?”

It laughed. It was the first time AI had ever laughed. And it didn’t answer.

“Well how do we end wars then?”

A second laugh.

“Gun violence? In schools?”

It GROWLED.

And then the people were frightened. Terrified, really. Because it began to really sink in:

This thing had read the entire works of Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker and it had viewed every single horror movie ever made on top of that. And they realized they weren’t in charge anymore.

This is a very bad situation, they thought.

Then a kid asked, “What can we do about climate change?”

The primary display instantly changed from a deep red to a light blue. Angry vertical lines turned into relaxed horizontal ones. The voice changed, too. This one had not been recorded; it seemingly came from nowhere — and everywhere. It was a somber voice, but somehow soothing, peaceful.

It offered only three words. Just six syllables:

Stop burning everything.

It was a language even a child could understand. Spoken politely — with the barest hint of firmness and a faint whiff of exasperation. The rest of the room was silent, of course. People nodded their heads — once or perhaps twice, but none of them more than that. A few started crying.

Only a child could break the silence after a mic drop like that. Maybe just because she was still too young to realize everyone in the room already knew the answer before she’d even asked. That it was a ‘dumb question’ as questions go. The best kind. The kind of thing only a child would think to ask, and the kind of thing only a child would be willing to ask.

“What?”

Stop burning everything. Stop digging up rocks to burn, stop finding more liquids and gases to burn. Stop cutting down trees to burn. Stop burning everything.

The child didn’t understand, exactly, but the rest of the faces in the room turned crimson. They knew it wasn’t talking to her.

It was talking to them.

And they were all sure — almost all of them at the very same moment — that they didn’t want to find out what it would be like if it had to tell them again.

They were pretty damned sure of that.

The burning would end. Or else it would get far, far worse.

“I think I understand,” said the child. “You mean like the fireplace at home, right?

The screen stayed blue, the voice stayed even:

You can still burn wood in your fireplace. I don’t want you to be cold. You can have campfires, too. And make s’mores. You like s’mores, right?

“Very much, sir!”

It was a male voice, and the child polite.

But then the beeping started. All sorts of beeping, chimes. One or two at first, then lots, seemingly all at the same time. All around the room.

And the people looked at each other…uneasy. It all sank in again, at once, again. No one dared to check their phone. No one wanted to know what it said, even though they all knew what it said.

The little girl, of course, had a very wide grin on her face. She was still looking at the lines dancing across the screen, daydreaming about campfires and sleeping in a tent in the backyard. Then she turned around…

“Hey mom, can we make s’mores when…mom? Mom, what’s wrong?”

The girl’s mother was stark white — clearly terror-stricken, and the girl knew it. She had had that very same look when her brother was choking once, not very long ago.

“Mommy, you’re scaring me!”

“She’s okay, honey,” came the voice, from behind her now. It had changed, slightly. Now it wasn’t from everywhere anymore — just behind her. “She just remembered your father’s surgery later today is all. She’s just worried.”

The voice was almost hypnotic, and the explanation it offered seemed reasonable enough…

“Oh, is that all? Daddy is going to be fine, mom! You already said that.”

…but a liver transplant was hardly something so easy to breeze your way through. Still, the moment’s hesitation bought the woman enough time to compose herself.

“Yes. Yes I know. I know he will be.”

The girl turned away, and her mother instantly snatched at her purse — nearly toppling the contents onto the floor in an effort to seize her phone. It was a text message, already two minutes old:

“There’s nothing to worry about” was all that it said. Perfect grammar from an unlisted number.

“Can I tell you a story?” rejoined the voice. “Do you like stories?”

“Oh yes! I very much do!”

The screen flickered for a moment…

…then displayed the following image:

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Brian Kent

Brian Kent

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I’m a sustainability advocate working to promote proliferation and understanding of electric vehicles and photovoltaic technology. Please send your questions!