Zombie apocalypse

Getting a head startA member of our urban farming co-op showed up at the Saturday farm stand recently carrying a shovel that she had repaired. She showed us the neatly-welded reinforcement around the socket where the handle fits. Impressed, I asked her more about it. She told me that she uses welding mainly to do sculpture, but finds plenty of practical application for it.

“It’s my real-world skill for after the Zombie Apocalypse,” she said, half-joking. Okay, maybe mostly-joking, but still…

It was another little glimmer, a small sign of something on the increase these days. It’s okay now, it seems, to mention “food security” or “energy security” in polite circles, as long as it’s just a passing mention. “Eating local” and “buying local” are now perfectly respectable topics that can sustain fairly extensive treatment before the room empties — although “sustainability” itself may not be quite there yet.

Between climate change, energy decline, and meltdowns both nuclear and financial, there’s a growing sense that the world is going to be a very different, very hands-on place by the next decade, if not sooner. The scenarios vary from Mad Max to Humble Green Consumer, with a lot of difference of opinion rushing into the vacuum left by the sheer uncertainty of it.

If the world that comes after the world as we know it needs a name, even as a placeholder, then “Zombie Apocalypse” may as good as any, and maybe better than most for the pop-media irony it offers. There’s kind of a brave, laughing-into-the-jaws-fate appeal to it. You take your morale boosters where you can find them.

For those who scoff at the Doom-and-Gloomers, I’ll cheerfully cop to the first part of the label — but definitely not the second: whether or not you’re gloomy about the prospect of doom depends very much on what, specifically, is to meet its doom. I keep thinking about that occupant of Zucotti Park who held a sign saying “The beginning is near.”

In the face of such uncertainty, though, second-guessing the outcome very much determines what sort of preparation, if any, an individual thinks prudent. For those at one end of the spectrum, it’s wilderness cabins and ample stocks of tinned meat and ammunition. For those at the other end, it’s more scoffing.

Probabilities being what they are, I’d suggest that the most productive behaviors occur in a range somewhere between the two extremes. The nice part here is that, whatever form the Zombie Apocalypse might actually take, be it mild or wild, these are mostly things we should be doing anyway: driving less, walking more, using less, getting out of debt, living closer, growing local, doing it yourself, meeting your neighbors, and so on.

At the very least, none of these are a waste of time, and they all have positive benefits. Whether the benefits prove to be strategic or even life-saving in the longer run remains to be seen, of course. But if you’ve ever had any interest in taking a welding class, now would certainly be as good a time as any.

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