Worrying about the economy keeps techno-cornucopians and unicorns up at night. Us back-to-the-landers, not so much.

Oiled collage after images by Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Sitting barefoot beside the Indian River on Earth Day 2021, Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk told Singularity University and X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis that the population problem will become a crisis by mid-century. I was expecting to hear him say overpopulation was killing the planet.

“We’ll need more people,” he said.

Musk was pointing out that over the next 80 years, in almost every country, population will shrink. According to a 2017 “Global Burden of Disease” study published in The Lancet, some…


Demand for soy in the EU uses 6 million square miles. 5.2 million of that is in South America.

Fifty-nine weeks ago I crossed the border from Belize and decided to make my stand in a small Mexican village with dirt streets and thatched roofs. I had been coming here to write for more than ten years and I knew that it would likely be well-insulated from the rest of the world as the pandemic raged. That was true for many months because this town, and many neighboring towns, wisely ignored the denialism of Mexican state and federal health authorities…


A year at a time is how we are taking life now. It is preparing us for our future.

Covid caught many, probably most, people in the world unprepared. Not unprepared in the sense of public health care systems, although there was that.

Not unprepared in the sense of social fairness, equity, or access, although deep flaws became obvious in those places too. Deeply ruptured social fabrics were laid bare in the US, UK, Italy, Spain, France, Mexico, India, South Africa, Brazil. The pandemic was an ironic, not to say ghastly, un-leveler. …


How do pandemics, climate variability, plastic, toxic pollution, and other threats affect fertility?

Image after Saisha Bloom: beinG sLAVE

Some time back, I came across an odd fact that did not seem to reconcile with what had I thought about natural systems and planetary homeostasis. Girls all over the world, from the capital cities of Europe to the remote regions of Pakistan, were getting their periods younger. In Europe, menarche declined from age 17 in 1840 to about 13 in 1970. In North America it declined from about 15 in 1890 to 13 in 1920. The age of onset was shortening.

This extends the window of…


Ökodorf Freie Republik Wendland at May 1980 Gorleben Protestcamp

We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.
— expression in the Soviet era

In his breakthrough role as beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” actor Bob Denver had an audible brand. He was unable to say the word, “work,” without a voice break, the inflected half of the word rising a couple octaves. That speech impediment was generally understood by a 1959 TV audience as denoting the beatnik aversion to labor, a false stereotype, not unlike later tropes about dirty hippies or pacifists spitting on veterans.

During the 2020 election cycle, Democrat…


Legalization of cannabis may be, for the global climate, like re-creating the fossil fuel industry from scratch.

With the domestication of wheat, some 10,000 years ago, the plant world split. Some became crops and others became weeds.
— Elizabeth Kolbert, Under a White Sky (2021)

Cannabis is now the United States’ highest-value cash crop, even where it is still illegal. Thanks to the genius of ATF top gun Harry Anslinger in the 1930s, marijuana moved to that rank decades before it was legally grown.

It sits in the top export product ranks for Mexico, Colombia, too, and likely some nations…


It would be a mistake to imagine the greatest super-wicked problem of our time being solvable by spending trillions of dollars.

“I have now established the fact that every kind of whale that swims the ocean we can get within 100 feet of, I have every reason to suppose. I may entirely prevent all whales from sinking, and it now only wants me well made Weapons and the way to float them prepared for use and ship fitted for one more cruise to make the thing complete to place the whole whaling business upon a brand and sure basis and…


Digital painting from photo by Gopan Nair, Miss Beautiful Eyes (2015)

Solomon James said, with tears in his eyes “I don’t know who’s the first to put the chains on her, but I’m glad to know I was the last to take them off.”

Mary Helen Blanchard, an educator with over 30 years teaching and writing experience, would often take her 3 children and classroom students to visit the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, Louisiana. There they would visit the zoo’s only elephant, a lonely elder named Shirley, with a crooked leg and torn ear. Then one day she was gone. Old and ill, the zoo sent her to…


“People want to eat the same thing and that’s sort of a condition of humans, but also you want to innovate so you don’t get bored, and that’s life. That’s cooking.”

No sooner had I finished working up a recipe with my sister to accompany the story last week about grasshopper delicacies, than a Spanish friend said, well, if you like Mexican insects, you have to try chicatanes.


after Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want — U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Grasshopper powder contains 72% protein, all essential amino acids, and a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Eating bugs is nothing new. I often see confusion on vegan friends’ faces when I point out that:

  • Every fork-, spoon-, or chopsticks-full of food they shovel in their pie-hole contains over a billion animals, some of which have eyes and try to get away.
  • Most, if not all of these feel pain, avoid it when they can, and do not want to die.
  • Ethically distinguishing the animals you will or won’t consume by their size is a dubious proposition. By…

Albert Bates

Emergency Planetary Technician and Climate Science Wonk — using naturopathic remedies to recover the Holocene without geoengineering or ponzinomics.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store