Editorial: Zombies are us

You know you’re in Rappahannock County when you see rows of “zombie seats” facing westward.

Zombie seats? I’ve only recently heard the expression – referring to the Adirondacks or other outdoor chairs lined up on Rappahannock residents’ yards to watch the sun set over the Blue Ridge. Zombies, of course, are humans whose consciousness has died but whose physical bodies, risen from the grave, remain very much “alive.”

Yes, Rappahannock County sunsets are so intoxicatingly beautiful that it’s easy to let yourself slip into what can feel like a vegetative state. A bottle of local wine, much less anything stronger, is unneeded.

Unlike the Alps, which inspired 19th-century romantic poets to contemplate the meaning of awesome, the Blue Ridge and its sunsets are of a kinder, gentler beauty. “Peaceful” and “restful” are the most common adjectives I’ve heard.

It’s easy to be lulled into a kind of sleepwalking state, wherein we, the sunset-watchers, forget about our place in the natural order of things. But with dominion over the planet, as the Bible says, we human sunset-watchers have a unique responsibility. It is up to us to ensure that the earth remains healthy and beautiful.

All too often we’re like zombies, however, oblivious to the environmental consequences of our short-term thinking. Take the county’s infestations of invasive stinkbugs and deer ticks, the subject of last week’s editorial. Some residents may complain, others may leave; but we’re all ultimately responsible.

Our demand for cheap consumer goods brought the annoying stinkbug hitchhikers on container ships from China. Our disruption of the local ecosystem and the predator-and-prey balance has led to the proliferation of noxious deer ticks.

And now – as with the much, much bigger issue of global climate change – we don’t see how we can take any corrective, collective action, to undo or at least slow down the harm we’ve done. So we might as well be zombies.

And pull up a chair and have another drink and enjoy the beautiful sunset while we can.

Walter Nicklin