“The world runs on fossil fuel. I mean, how stupid is that?”
— Dr. Edwin Jenner, The Walking Dead (Season 1, Episode 6)
Apocalypse (a·poc·a·lypse) (/əˈpäkəˌlips/), noun.
“An event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.”
“Fear the Walking Dead” kicked off with a bang last month as the zombie apocalypse from the popular cable television series spreads through Los Angeles bringing the sprawling metropolis to an undead standstill.
Dark and desperate end of the world sagas have long fascinated humankind. Following that trend, AMC’s The Walking Dead has become a cultural phenomenon, and the highest rated basic cable show of all time. Set in in modern times, Robert Kirkman’s popular graphic novels, and now television shows, depict “survival horror” with a fearless band of survivors fighting their way through the hordes of “the walking dead” as well as other bands of human survivors. The new show promises nothing less than the original.
Renowned leftist academic, activist and critic of the political economy, Noam Chomsky reflected on the popularity of the series when he said, “it’s a reflection of fear and desperation. The United States is an unusually frightened country, and in such circumstances, people concoct, maybe for escape or relief, [narratives] in which terrible things happen.”
In a sense, the apocalypse is not just fantasy. While the frightening things are not a fantastical plague bringing the dead back to life, they are instead the warming of the climate and the collapse of eco-systems, as a result of human generated greenhouse gases, causing catastrophe on an epic scale.
Currently in California, the latest version of the climate apocalypse is ravaging the countryside with wildfires and drought faster than any zombie horde. This past weekend, fires swept northern California displaced over 23,000 people, destroyed thousands of structures, caused billions of dollars in damage, led to one at least one fatality and left the landscape a smoking ruin.
As a result, currently, a smoky haze hangs over the San Francisco Bay Area adding to the already terrible air pollution from the area’s refinery corridor.
But this summer’s wildfires are only part of the climate apocalypse as California has suffered from a horrific drought for over three years now. Farms in the state’s Central Valley have been put out of business; local economies have been devastated and the state has resorted to water rationing.
The environmental devastation of California is further exacerbated by a huge oil spill in Santa Barbara last May. Over 3400 barrels of oil were spilled into the Pacific by Plains All American Pipeline. In 1969, a similar disaster spilled over 80,000 barrels of oil and ranks as the third largest oil spill in US history after the Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez. The 1969 spill inspired the first Earth Day.
But, of course, the real villain is not a flesh-eating walker from Robert Kirkman’s TV show or some maniacal post-apocalyptic demagogue, but instead, as always, the oil industry. Just last week, industry lobbyists gutted key sections of Jerry Brown’s climate bill.
As journalist Dan Bacher reported – “Under intense political pressure from the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the oil companies, Governor Brown and legislative leaders agreed on Wednesday, September 9, to remove a provision to reduce demand for petroleum use in vehicles by 50 percent by 2030.”
Furthermore, Jerry Brown has also called for “taking carbon out of modern economy,” but continues to support fracking.
Bacher further reported that “Last year the Western States Petroleum Association spent a record $8.9 million on lobbying, double what it spent in the previous year. In the first six months of 2015, the oil industry spent $6.2 million to lobby state officials, including $2,529,240 spent by the Western States Petroleum Association alone.”
You don’t need a horror show when you have the power of Big Oil undermining clean economies, polluting pristine environments and profiting from the climate apocalypse at every turn. We’re living in dark times, we don’t need to Fear the Walking Dead, when you can look out your window or read in your newspaper to catastrophes being caused by climate change every day.