jewel planet illustration

Palo Alto, Paradise Lost and a Cure for Climate Change

A short story about a walk to the store and the landing of aliens…

“Greetings, Humans. We can’t wait for you to fix this any longer. This is our favorite planet for nature studies, and we can’t let one species ruin it for everyone else. All humans are being rounded up for ego repair, processing, and relocation to pleasant waste-free reservations.

I feel guilty about pretty much everything I do. Eating means someone had to do stoop labor and breath in tractor fumes so I can have tasty organic whole plant foods.

Everywhere I look I know it is us first-worlders who are the cause of all the suffering in the world and all the destruction.

Palo Alto City Hall, Photo by Zoe Zuniga

But I was born into this crazy stystem just like everyone else. Just grateful I am not in some third world country slaving away to mine commodities and resources for first worlders.

It was all set up before any of us who are alive even got here and I am not sure how to get out. I don’t want to just run away and live off the grid on some organic hippy farm. Well, the truth is I do want to run away and live in paradise, but there is no place I can afford to go.

Using toilet paper made from trees and plant fibers is bad news and flushing it down the toilet is even worse. Running our waste through sewage pipes, wasting our precious water on flushing instead of having composting toilets is terrible. Composting toilets would produce clean human waste for gardens in a few short months. Few people here in sunny Silicon Valley have gardens and this baffles me.

Palo Alto City Gardens Photo By Zoe Zuniga

Nobody who owns a home bought a rainwater catchment barrel since the drought ended. Now that there is rainwater to catch they don’t bother.

Don’t they know the world is about to end?

We’re two months from food shortage if there is a worldwide drought. All these people with money and yards are just watering the grass and not growing food.

I just don’t get it.

Washing my hands I notice the water going down the drain with no water catchment or greywater system. Lots of guilt all day every day.

Hey, I was doing ecology marches with my mom from the age of 8. The book Silent Spring came out when I was two years old, so all I ever heard about was how we were going to hell in a handbasket. It was the cold war, and every morning I woke up alive, as a kid, I was amazed that we hadn’t been nuked by some crazy government official accidentally setting something off.

Just looking around the home I have been staying in as part of my perks for my Airbnb job makes me uncomfortable if I think about it. The furniture, the paint, carpet, flooring, wood, and all the metal fixtures, and electrical parts were mined from strip-mines and unethical places that use toxins that hurt the workers and give them cancer, not to mention pollution and destroying the planet with toxic water run-off from the manufacturing processes.

Sigh, guess I’ll go to the store for some organic vegan junk food to soothe myself.

Going out to walk through the wealthy Palo Alto streets I see expensive cars, a stretch limo/ hummer, the street signs, the imported plants and garden furniture, the cement, and the expensive cobblestones. All raw materials imported or mined with strip mining or by destroying forests.

Low-pay wage earners living unhappy lives built all this stuff and maintain all this stuff on a daily basis. They come by to blow the unsightly natural leaves off the immaculate lawns with their noisy leaf blowers.

Child-slaves somewhere unthinkable probably mined the minerals for beautiful, bright colors for the cars and houses. The parts and chemicals that go into the dashboards and computer chips of the cars are made in China where people routinely get cancer and die from the toxins used in manufacturing.

In the Whole Foods market, there is a plethora of expensive exotic stuff shipped in from thousands of miles away, all separately packaged in beautifully designed paper and plastic. I know for a fact that any veggies that are slightly wilted get thrown out each day before the store even opens, and irregular veggies and fruits that don’t look perfect get tossed out like garbage before the food is even shipped to the stores.

All this waste while people in other countries are not seeing any of these delicacies, and poor folks in ghettos are getting all their food from convenience stores and dying early of diabetes and heart disease.

Every single thing we do in Palo Alto and the many other wealthy enclaves causes someone else to suffer and pay with their health or their life.

Palo Alto Craftsman, Photo by Zoe Zuniga

The meat and fish are procured by factory farm assembly lines where people have to work so fast they routinely cut themselves so badly they can’t ever work again.

Ocean nets are being dragged over the bottom of the ocean where delicate coral reefs, whales, dolphins and other unwanted animals are maimed needlessly and thrown back in to die horrible slow deaths, all so people in Palo Alto can eat sushi.

Almond milk packaging and organic vitamins are all probably somehow tied up with child labor someplace. Even if it is made in the US the paper or plastic or colors for the ink came from someplace else where blind children are made to sort things endlessly until they die of nutritional deficiencies or some other ghastly scenario.

Huge objects start coming down from the sky!

It’s early evening when I get my snacks and head home. I hear a loud whooshing sound overhead and bright lights blind me for a moment as huge objects start coming down from the sky.

I see that they are giant structures landing all over the city. Is it the military? Are we being invaded? A series of announcements start blaring in English with a slightly mechanical voice. The accent is a little strange.

“Greetings, Humans. We can’t wait for you to fix this any longer. This is our favorite planet for nature studies, and we can’t let one species ruin it for everyone else.

“All humans are being rounded up for ego-repair processing, and relocation to pleasant, waste-free reservations.

“Bring one bag with you and leave the rest behind.

“Come to the space ships voluntarily by 21-hundred hours or we will be forced to move you ourselves.

“We repeat: Human reservations are being built to house you while we repair the earth ecosystem.”

I run the rest of the way home and grab my backpack from the apartment and fill it with the few clothes I have in the drawers. I grab my phone charger, wallet, Kindle reader, and my laptop computer hoping they will let us use them wherever they are taking us.

I leave the rest of my stuff where it is stored in the garage. I haven’t used most of it in the past 3 years anyway.

The Aliens have disabled electronics, so the streets are dark except for the bright lights from each of the many spaceships, and cars are left parked in the middle of the streets when I run outside again.

I hear the same recorded announcement: “Greetings humans. We can’t wait for you to fix this any longer. This is our favorite planet for nature studies, and we can’t let one species ruin it for everyone else…”

Palo Alto Office Garden: Photo by Zoe Zuniga

I see my neighbor standing in his driveway looking around and frowning. His jaw is thrust out. He always looks angry. He may be a Vietnam vet so he probably has every right to be angry. His ponytail is always disheveled but his yard is in its usual perfect impeccably clean state this evening as I jog up. “Come on,” I say, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “Let’s go see what this is all about.”

“No way, it’s got to be a hoax!” he says and goes back inside.

“But the ships,” I say as the door slams. I shrug and get going. He always was crabby anyway.

There are a lot of people milling around outdoors now that cars are not working. People are standing on their lovely porches and in their immaculate leaf-blown yards, or just standing in the street trying to talk on cell phones but the cell towers have been silenced too.

A mom stands holding her pre-teen kid close and crying. “Come on,” I tell her, “lets’ go find out what’s happening!”

But she just stands there and shakes her head, tears running down her cheeks.

For some reason, I am not afraid yet. I am curious and downright excited about this new event. I have been hoping something would happen to stop all the madness. I wasn’t having fun anyway. These well-off people have something to lose, but I lost everything a long time ago.

A ship has landed in the park just around the corner from the place I have been staying. The ship is round and shiny and ten stories tall and heat is still radiating off of it. The small opening at ground level is filled with light and I can see several silhouetted figures standing guard from a block away.

I go slowly toward them. They are wearing dark green armor or space suits or some kind of protective gear. The recorded message continues to play every few minutes with a mild mechanical siren beeping for a few minutes between rounds.

A group of people is watching the ship from across the street, but I am the only one who crosses into the park.

The beings look humanoid from here in the armor. They have a set of extra arms though, sticking out from the sides of their waists. That must be handy, I think.

Hi there, “I say edging slowly closer. “So, what was that you said about ego correction?”

The closest helmeted being turns toward me. It is much taller than me by about a foot or two at least.

“Yes indeed, do not be afraid. Come along, human and we will correct your default mode network and make you feel better.” The voice sounds feminine and a bit mechanical with the hint of that strange accent. I suspect they are using some kind of translator device. “It is a completely safe, noninvasive procedure and if you don’t like it you can switch back easily enough.”

“Fantastic!” I say and start to laugh a little hysterically. “Woah! I am really nervous.” I sit down on the grass near the space ship, My legs just don’t seem to want to hold me upright suddenly. “What took you so long? We have been needing our brains fixed and some human reservations for a long time!”

“It’s OK.” says the mechanical voice. But it manages to sound kind, “We are here to help you now. No more worries.”

I notice the announcement is still going on… “Greetings humans. We can’t wait for you to fix this any longer. This is our favorite planet for nature studies, and we can’t let one species ruin it for everyone else…”

“Great, sign me up,” I say rather cheerfully, considering the situation. The alien proffers a hand and gently pulls me up. It pats me lightly on the shoulder and ushers me into the space ship.

The inside of the ship looks pretty much the way you would think a space ship should look. Plain greyish walls and long curving hallways with doors on either side. I follow the space-suited alien down the hall. It smells kind of stale inside the ship, but other than that nothing unusual.

I start blathering idiotically I am so scared now. “We have scientists working on something that can quiet the default mode network without brain damage, but it is cost restrictive right now.

“I have been meditating like crazy to try and correct the damn thing myself, but so far no lasting results. Just a few hours of peace here and there and it is so unpredictable.” We turn a corner and continue down the nondescript hallway.

“And anyway, it’s kind of too late with global warming, all the violence, the rain forest destruction, and so on. I really hope you have some tech that can help us with all of this. And who is going to sort us all out finance-wise? We are stuck in this money system with GDP growth and all these wasteful useless jobs and careers and consuming and selling. Can you get us sorted so things work logically?”

I notice I have been ushered into some kind of exam room with a big table and high-tech looking machines of some sort. There is a wall of shiny metal panes with buttons and a few stand-alone blocks of metal.

“There, there.” Says the space-suited creature, “Just lie down here and when you get up you will be able to think rationally and help us with saving your planet.” It helps me off with the backpack. “We’ll just set this down for now.” It gently helps me onto the table.

When I wake up it is better than my last kensho experience or “glimpse of enlightenment”, or whatever you want to call it. I had felt so happy that time there was no mistaking it. But this time is even better.

I feel as if a thousand-pound weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. There is no mistaking what has happened. This is the real deal. I am finally awake and complete and the monkey mind has been put in its place at the back not the front of the line. There is little mind chatter and it is very distant in the background. There is a lot of silence and a kind of well being. Everything seems ok. I seem ok for the first time since childhood.

Photo by Meiying Ng Unsplash

I know where I am. I am lying down in the recovery room off of the medical bay. I know the aliens have come to help us and I am not scared anymore. I am joyful and very relieved.

I feel one with the aliens and with everyone and everything. I feel full of love and peace and silence. The old worries and little ego thoughts are just about silent. But I can still think. I can use the working mind to think: I wonder where my backpack is. I see it by the side of my cot and let it be.

“Hello, I’m awake,” I call. One of the creatures in a space suit comes in and I smile at it. I am not afraid anymore. I sense its goodwill and wisdom, somehow. “Hey, did you program in some psychic ability or intuition or something into the treatment?”

It nods slightly, clasping both sets of hands in front of its torso in a Zen-like posture.

“Neat!” I say swinging my feet over the edge of the cot and standing up. “So is the earth atmosphere not great for you to breathe or do you think you would startle us by looking different?”

“We are not sure about the different bacteria here, so we are extra cautious for now.’ It explains. “But in a few weeks, we might be able to take this stuff off when we are around earth people, once we get you all processed.”

“Ah,” I say with new comprehension. Yes, the aliens will not scare me no matter how they look now that I am able to truly feel empathy.

I feel really great, better than ever before, and I start helping out with the other humans as they are brought in. Once they get the default network suppressed down to a normal level, the humans are all fine and not afraid anymore.

“It isn’t really brainwashing,” I tell my neighbor with the ponytail when I get him up and guide him into the cafeteria on the ship. “It’s just correcting a glitch with the human brain that got us into all this trouble.” He is not frowning now.

Oh, I agree.” He says and smiles warmly. “I feel so much better. I am going to miss my home here in Palo Alto, but I see that this is for the best. And I am just not as attached to my stuff anymore.”

“Yeah, I love Palo Alto too, but I didn’t have a home here and they can’t get us all on zero waste in separate homes. We have to be in green cities for a while at least. And we can go out and visit the wilderness any time we want.”

“The eco-corridor idea is brilliant.” He says grabbing a sandwich. “I’ll get to use my gardening and organizing skills and feel useful for once.”

Another human joins us smiling warmly. Now that we are all slightly telepathic, we feel his warmth and friendliness without even saying anything. “With the bullet trains, we will be able to visit everyone even if we end up in different areas.” The new guy says. “I’m just happy they got here before it was too late to fix it.”

Photo by Meiying Ng Unsplash

“Once the brain is better you just feel less selfish,” I say. “They are going to use an idea a human came up with for the first corridor for the US continent. It will be down south, so they don’t have to cut through the rocky mountains. It will house us all with plenty of room and interesting job training, and food and gardens, and no waste. It’s is going to happen over the next few months.”

We are one of the first groups to get rounded up in the US. It is amazing to be around such an advanced species. They are quite beautiful to look at actually with beautiful eyes and expressive faces.

They have been enlightened for many centuries. They didn’t want to have to come in and clean up after us. They kept waiting for us to figure it out on our own but then they realized there was a glitch in our brains, so they came up with a way to suppress the default mode network.

Once it is done you just have to meditate every day for half an hour or so, and you can keep yourself stabilized in this state of peace and stillness and deep contentment.

For those who want to go back to the old way all you have to do is to obsess over some trivial selfish emotion and cultivate it. But really who would want to go back to that?

The aliens are open to our suggestions now that we have had the procedure and are truly sane. I am learning all about their technology and sharing ideas about permaculture I have been learning. They are incorporating our ideas for a paradise.

Some people may stay in the old cities but more than half of us want to move to the new corridors and start fresh. Much of the land that was used for highways and other clutter like shopping malls etc. will be reclaimed by nature.

But now that we are sane we can see that this is a good idea. It doesn’t threaten us not to have tons of shopping malls and consumer goods all over the place. We are so content within ourselves that we can finally see that we won’t be needing as much stuff.

We can still make stuff. We just have to make better quality stuff that lasts and do it in non-polluting ways. Anything we do want to create will be made in our own local fabrication labs anyway.

They have stopped many of the industries cold, factory farming, lots of commodities, oil, container ships transporting useless consumer goods. They are swapping out local foods and greenhouses as fast as they can.

China was the fastest to adapt of course. China is so culturally used to teamwork and sacrificing themselves for the good of the group. So once they had their brains zapped they were more than ready to comply.

In China, they have already completed two corridors with greenhouses supplying all their food locally, and they have installed new energy machines supplied by the aliens. Thousands of Chinese have come over to the US to help us build our new sustainable self-contained home corridors.

This is really what we have all been praying for in our subconscious minds all along. The aliens are happy for us and glad they can help us fix our mess because they are quite fond of earth.