This was the third talk I prepared for the Swindon Festival of Literature Think Slam, 2014, but never got to perform. I dedicate this to fellow zombie fan and philosopher, Sandrine Berges.
It’s crucial to prepare for the zombie apocalypse.
If we’re to believe the current fad in fiction, the zombie apocolypse is coming.
And so we should be ready for it.
Now before you shuffle in your seats and wonder when it was this turned into a Sci-Fi convention, I’m talking about what happens when the oil runs out, the electricity goes off and we’re immune to anti-biotics.
It’s not like we’re doing much about it. Britain and America keep on resisting bold renewable energy targets; the energy minister is talking fracking and nuclear power instead of really trying to make renewables work. And UKIP, through a charismatic leader, are doing a good job of convincing the general populous that either we ignore climate change and it will go away or there’s nothing we can do apart from buy waders and row boats.
Nope. We’re heading back towards the Stone Age.
So what happens when the country floods, we have to ride our horses to the next town and there’s no internet?
I propose that we need to store up knowledge in the time honoured way. Books on gardening, philosophy, stories, engineering, mechanics, how to fix things, plumbing, how to cure illnesses with common plants, how to look after ourselves and be fit and healthy.
Know our local community, share our resources. Love analogue again. Appreciate things with wheels and hooves. Learn to write with pencil on paper.
But I am a bit serious about zombies. Until recently our bodies took weeks longer to decompose than they used to because of all the preservatives in our food.
We are scientifically modifying crops and creating unnaturally reared meat. We are feeding our babies food created in a laboratory rather than our own bodies.
We eat food packed weeks ago rather than picked today. Who knows when this will cause some gene to mutate and zombify.
Or we could wise up, as told by Philip Lymbery and Jonathon Porrit in this very festival. We should set sensible worldwide targets for halting climate change, ensure everyone has the kind of wage which allows them to eat fresh food all the time, change farming techniques from the 1960s intensive mega farming to diverse farming, eat less meat, eat organic food without pesticides and routinely fed antibiotics, encourage bees and wildlife, have more fuel efficient houses, develop renewal energy, become members of a mutual society rather than individual consumers.
If I might quote poet John Donne:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
I’m sure George R. Romero would agree.