Chris Shaw’s article ‘What zombie films tell us about climate change: there’s no happy ending’ claims that in zombie films no new order is established after the status quo is disrupted by the dead rising. Posted on both the Guardian and New Left Project’s websites, Chris’ article is taken straight from his PhD thesis. Though the writing style is still ‘tainted’ with ‘academese’, I commend him for having made the effort to -transpose his research into something more palatable for the public domain – successfully, I think. That said, I’m not sure the zombie film analogy totally works: there is a new order in zombie films, as Chris admits. Although, there’s no happy ending (unless you’re a zombie!), arguably there is an uncomfortable synthesis between being and non-being. For there to be a zombie film at all (for any narrative to exist) there has to be resitance, all be that a seemingly ever diminishing group of humans.
For the most part, this article is a head-nodder: it’s easy to agree with most of what Chris argues. But does his core thesis hold up? Is putting numbers on climate change part of an overt elite strategy to divert attention from the political and social order that has given rise to the crisis? These 2 and 4 degree markers have surely been useful to activist mobilisations such as the camp for climate action, even though the movement’s mantra identified the problem as not within the bounds of techno-fix: ‘System change not climate change’. Didn’t quoting parts per million of carbon and so on help us to visualise climate change without diverting out attention from the political? Arguably campaigns such as ’10:10′ make Chris’s point, but I don’t think the issue is so cut and dried (like a zombie). Constructing climate change as phenomenon with a dangerous limit may be a political act, but ‘overt may be too simplistic an analysis?
Direct and indirect experience of extreme weather events appear to be dragging climate change from some distant 2 or 4 degree future into the here and now of everyday life. I’d agree with Chris that maybe dumping – or at least downplaying – the idea of limits is strategically at least a good idea. And I note the synergy between this article and the work Tom Crompton, WWF and PIRC are doing on values. Final observation on the article, though, and I’m afraid it’s a depressing one: Chris thinks a new order will give way to millions of different endings, albeit some happier than others. I fear that elites remain so powerful and people so unprepared that capitalism and its state committees will enforce a single unhappy ending across the globe for a very long time to come. Oh, if only we could dig up a politically discriminating zombie horde, a revolutionary if deceased proletariat! Now there’s a movie I’d buy popcorn to watch.