Zombie Training for the Apocalypse and Climate Change

Katana in hand, Michonne shears body parts from a half dozen shambling zombies in the “The Walking Dead.”

She gives a slight smile when the mayhem’s complete in “Say the Word” Episode 5. Reid Kerr of examiner.com says it’s her first grin on the wildly popular cable show on AMC. He predicts more in the episode ahead when the creepy Governor, who leads a protected community, hunts her down and she digs in with a bit of defense.

The show is the latest in the zombie-apocalypse genre that began so convincingly with George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” in 1968. Romero was the first to use zombies, or “ghouls,” as metaphor. Elliot Stein of the Village Voice says Night’s “gorefest” had the look and feel of a documentary. He says its Pennsylvania farmhouse location showed Middle America at war, and “the zombie carnage seemed a grotesque echo of the conflict then raging in Vietnam.”

“The Walking Dead” updates the theme and adds multiple story lines. The product intrigues enough people that the network justifies a talk show dubbed “Talking Dead,” which appears after the airing of an original episode. Even Kerr’s Episode 5 Examiner story is a character play-by-play of who did what and what’s expected.

The power of the Walking Dead, at least for me, was series star Rick Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln. He’s a small-town sheriff who rallies a small band of survivors. Great stuff, especially the characters who, like Michonne, don’t let adversity get in the way.

However, in this latest episode, Rick Grimes has been reduced to a maniac killer covered in zombie blood. He patrols the bowels of a prison for “walkers” and kills them, his humanity apparently a thing of the past. Then the phone rings.

But I’m getting ahead of the script.

The country, judging by shows like “The Walking Dead” and National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers,” is going down fast. Disaster is right around the corner. Climate change hasn’t been linked directly to Hurricane Sandy. But the destruction the storm left is a pretty good preview of what can be expected by more extreme weather events.

Disaster that real is what makes apocalyptic melodramas so fascinating. Zombie invasion certainly is pretty far out there in the realm of possibility. But weaponized disease isn’t. Somebody has certainly thought about it. Somebody who doesn’t really care about human life or looks at it from a different perspective. A cleansing, perhaps.

Who knows?

One of my son’s friends the other night says his mom frets about the possibility that civilization could break down. No power grid means everything spoils. No fuel means no transportation and no available food. No food means people will fight over what’s left. John Grit, author of “Apocalypse Law,” sketches out the scenario rather starkly. When people get hungry, they’ll kill to eat. It’s no time to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Just how to prepare or what to do to avert disaster is an interesting exercise. If the books I’ve read on the topic are any indication, survivors need luck, tenacity and resources. Most of us are screwed.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson says for a moment ignore the concept of climate change and get on with preparing for its effects. “We can sit around and wait for it to happen. Or we can begin to protect our cities,” he writes.

Robinson takes aim at measures that will protect cities from flooding, maintain electrical power and keep costly disaster to a minimum. But the concept extends beyond capital projects. Pursuing a more diversified energy policy in this country will lessen focus on the turbulent Middle East and the likelihood some pissed off mullah will call for our destruction and succeed.

Or at least that’s my thought.

Will solar panels save the world? I truly don’t know. I haven’t taken the plunge myself and purchased them for my house, but I do support continued research into alternative fuels and clean energy. California’s moving forward with its cap-and-trade system, which is designed to get industry to clean up its emissions or pay for allowances that enable pollution creators to sneak past regulations.

It will start slow but could lead to more such programs. The California Air Resources Board says “the system is designed to show it can be done in the world’s ninth-largest economy and provide a blueprint for other governments,” according to the Washington Post.

Whether that will prove true is anybody’s guess. In the meantime, although it’s unlikely the dead will rise, keep your katana handy.

I wasn’t going to add this but what the heck. Right before we both went off to college and left Anchorage, Alaska behind, Mike Dobey and I went to see Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” a then-modern version of his franchise. It was faster moving. The heroes hid out in a mall. But the shambling dead didn’t stop at the doors.

After that night in 1978, he and I started running at night. Zombies were a motivator to increase our workouts. We’d do about five to seven miles in boots, jeans and jackets. It was cold, deep winter. The ground was solid frozen. One night we ran through the city’s graveyard.

We stopped in the middle of the expansive dead plantation, surrounded by tombstones. And Alaska nights are quiet. The cold makes it deathly silent. The temperature was maybe 12 degrees. Our breath fogged our vision.

I spotted a half dozen pre-dug grave sites covered with plywood. They’re dug when the ground is still soft. Winter turns the earth to solid rock ice. When Mike looked the other way, I ducked into one. He was used to me messing with him so he crept around quietly but in obvious distress.

“Mike,” he said, his voice not much more than a whisper. “Mike. You piece of… “

When he was maybe 10 feet past me, I scrambled out of that earthen pit meant for the dead and darted past him at full throttle. To tell the truth, I was very creeped out. Don’t know what I was thinking. But I was 18 and yelled, “They’re coming!!!!!!” as I ran past.

I have never seen anybody bolt as fast as Mike did that night. He overtook me and vaulted the 6-foot chain-link fence like it wasn’t there.

I’ve never mentioned zombies to him again.