The Great Pause Week 46: Wolf Kill

Dear Friends,

Sixteen years ago I decided I needed to find some place warm to be in winters. I had heart and respiratory issues and got chronic pneumonia, my physical regimen suffered from sitting indoors too much, and looking at the health of others who snow-birded away a few months every year, I thought that kind of thing would be better for me, too. A friend in Mexico offered me a place in a nature preserve where I could live within the limits of my meager retirement savings, so I took her up on that offer. She moved to Los Angeles and I house-sat in her ecovillage in Quintana Roo.

That first winter I started work on The Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook, a how-to book on simple living and family care. Fortuitously, we were struck at the end of October by the largest hurricane in Atlantic history up to that time, and my survival guide in progress got a practical workout. With no power for a month, I charged my laptop from a portable solar panel during the days and joined with friends around a fire to play music and tell stories at night.

Fast forward to being caught out in March 2020 when the pandemic struck and, rather than return from snow-birding, I had to stay in my now much improved one room thatch and keep writing. What would normally be a 3-month working vacation—the book I was finishing up then was The Dark Side Of The Ocean—has now become 10 months on an expired tourist visa. But what a difference 2020 was from the post-hurricane campfires of 2005! Now, I have a productive garden, flood-managing hugelswales, marginally serviceable internet and satellite radio. We went through four category 4 hurricanes this year, one of them passing directly over us and forcing evacuation.

Apart from the rare speaker’s fee for a 30-minute virtual keynote, I don’t have my usual income from teaching and lectures, but my productivity didn’t wane in lockdown here—it soared. Dark Side was published and is coming out with a children’s version, Making Waves. Transforming Plastic—my 2019 winter’s work—came out with a children’s edition, Taming Plastic, that has been nominated for the 2021 Earth Prize by Goodreads. September saw publication of my Spring project, Plagued: Surviving a Modern Pandemic. Other books went into audible, paperback, Kindle, and translation. Since August I have been churning out this winter’s manuscript on the subject of population and biodiversity. This week’s blog post is a chapter on wolves. Next week’s is about the evolutionary biology of dogs.

Having my needs met for an un-demanding lifestyle of simple living, with Patreon or SubscribeStar supplementing my $120 per month (after useless Medicare deductions) from Social Security, I feel almost guilty about my idyllic situation in comparison to people struggling to pay rent or a mortgage, living on fragile unemployment benefits and evaporating savings, likely bombarded by polarized and often flagrantly false polemic, their children unable to socialize or school. I am often shocked when I speak to trusted friends and hear them spout rumors that have zero science or fact underpinning them and I worry about the generation being raised amid that. There is a mental health pandemic going on in my home country—“50 states of confusion” to quote Mike Barnacle—that we are not experiencing here in Mexico.

Rumor has it that by some time this summer anyone in the US who wants immunization will be able to get it. That is unlikely to be the case where I am, so my lockdown remains indefinite. The government is talking about maybe being able to get the Russian Sputnik vaccine soon. Still, I count my blessings. Preparation is 90% of survival in almost any situation. I have been preparing for this moment for a lifetime and am adequately provisioned, physically and mentally. One point worth bearing in mind, from my book Plagued—this is why it is so important to nip any pandemic in the bud by rushing health teams to breakouts, contact tracing, and isolating early: the larger the size of the population infected, the more easily and frequently a virus will mutate. Given a large enough population to inhabit, mutations can even out-pace vaccine development. We haven’t seen that yet, but we still could.

About three months into my Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 1972, I was somewhere near the Tennessee Tri-Cities when I had an epiphany. For some days I had been carefully keeping my feet dry and cool because my socks had worn through and I wanted to avoid blistering. Then, at a random junction, on the top of the trail sign, I discovered a pair of new socks—a gift from some hiker who didn’t need them, or had found them accidentally dropped somewhere along the trail. At that moment I realized that when you get in your groove, you really have all you need. Gaia provides the rest.

My ‘Wolves’ post is here:

Thanks for your support,


The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed lives, livelihoods, and economies. But it has not slowed down climate change, which presents an existential threat to all life, humans included. The warnings could not be stronger: temperatures and fires are breaking records, greenhouse gas levels keep climbing, sea level is rising, and natural disasters are upsizing. As the world confronts the pandemic and emerges into recovery, there is growing recognition that the recovery must be a pathway to a new carbon economy, one that goes beyond zero emissions and runs the industrial carbon cycle backwards — taking CO2 from the atmosphere and ocean, turning it into coal and oil, and burying it in the ground. The triple bottom line of this new economy is antifragility, regeneration, and resilience. Help me get my blog posted every week. All Patreon donations and Blogger subscriptions are needed and welcomed. If you are not that keen on Patreon I am experimenting with a new platform at SubscribeStar/albertbates. Check it out. You are how we make this happen. Your contributions are being made to Global Village Institute, a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charity. PowerUp! donors on Patreon or SubscribeStar get an autographed book off each first press run. Please help if you can.