I was researching for an answer to the questionand in my quest to figure out the places that would do the best, I wanted to think first about the places that would do the worst. My first goal was to think about the nations, or more accurately, the regions, that would offer the greatest inherent strategic advantages against a walking horde of the undead, either in slowing them down or aiding the defenders and survivors. As with military strategies, the greatest factor is always geographic. The rest of this list evaluates the most common geographic regions of the planet and their potential as either safe havens or death traps.
The first place we have to start is always the, highly urban centers.
We are just going to brush past the obvious. Ravenous monsters running down streets grabbing and biting everyone in an exponential decline of madness. Crowded cities are zombie all you can eat buffets.
Disregarding the crowded cities’ inherent weakness to viral infection, particularly the sort of infections that make their hosts into auto-ambulatory, semi-sentient, predatory cannibals, cities are also highly reliant on imports, producing almost none of the basic requirements to maintain themselves on their own. Given a general collapse of civilization, and the arteries of fresh produce and products, these city centers would be left void as much by desertion, as by the zombie hordes. This will end life as we know it for metropolitan Europe, the United States East and West seaboard, China, India, densely packed islands like Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, much of Central America, as well as nations dense around major rivers, such as Egypt and much of the Middle East.
Temperate forested regions will be next. The heavy cover will prevent most efforts to guard against the lone zombie stalking through the woods. Survivors can easily face danger while fleeing in these thickets, unwittingly running from one threat, immediately into one much deadlier, hidden in the veil of green. The ability for a single zombie, or even a massive horde, to remain hidden only a few miles, or even a few hundred feet from population and strategic centers means that these areas may provide the illusion of a safe haven from fleeing urban refugees, but will soon visit upon these souls a grisly fate. Millions more who survived the initial infestation will find the dark embrace of eternal night within rustling of leaves. Most of the Eastern United States, what remained of Europe through to central Russia, as well as large and particularly populated regions of Asia and Australia.
Next are the grasslands. While more secure due to the wide openness and lack of a host population than cities, the major plains of the world provide little to no defensive advantage to those who live within them beyond sight. A lone zombie may creep across the plains, able to be put down by trained rangers, but the onset of a horde, will afford survivors no strategic advantage. The open terrain may provide time, but it will not provide safety. At some point, those who make it to the grasslands will be uprooted to survive the hordes. This interruption to daily life may recreate the nomadic lifestyle of the Native Americans and Bedouin peoples, but the quest to follow sources of food is much different than the quest to avoid becoming it. This won’t be a long term survival strategy. If annihilation is avoided from zombies, it will surely overtake them via starvation. If an external source of long term security isn’t met, these nomadic colonies of scavengers will not last indefinitely.
Gone would be the Central North American continent, large tracks of South America, All of Central Africa, the remainder of the Middle East through the Central Asian steppes, India, and Australia.
The tundra provides humans who live there the possibility of being aided by the environment. The intense cold will slow movement of the zombies allowing greater time for defense and culling operations to occur. The danger of the tundra is, however, as it has always been, the in-hospitality of its very nature. The intense cold makes life hard and food scare. No longer able to rely on imports, many of these regions will be worse off from the collapse of self sustaining civilization, than from the few half frozen dead that arrive at their doors. The world in the cold will return to a lifestyle it existed in 500 years ago. If people weren’t able to live then, they won’t be able to live without civilization today.
Once we reach the deserts do we start to experience regions where humans have the advantage. Like the plains the deserts offer large offer a wide area of security where it can be seen if one comes to a settlement. Unlike the plains, the desert itself serves as a weapon to the zombie. Arid heat will dry out the dead walker as shards of sand slowly grind the being to collapse. Once the dead have dried out, they will soon deteriorate to join the sand and the dust of the desert landscape.
It will be said that the desert populations that exist today won’t be able to survive as they do now. Some regions, such as Arizona and Saudi Arabia, have become food exporters through the importing of vast amounts of water, artificially pumped or funneled from far away or by draining their natural, and limited aquifers. These feats were only achieved through incredibly complex technological operations. With a collapse of society, these systems will collapse, as well. Assuming they survive the zombies, many won’t find survive the hunger, to say nothing of those who run out of water. Those that do may see a return to a Bedouin life of nomadic wandering, serving as the vital trade network keeping the last few desert environments surviving just above subsistence.
Jungles will fair well for those who can just plain survive in the jungle. The dense vegetation will make traversal by way of mindless dead nearly impossible. Fighting off deadly predictors, rot, or simply being swept away by floodwaters will see most of the dead plague disappear into the heavy growth. Even bugs will become the defenders of mankind in that environment. The jungle, however, proves just as much of a burden to defenders seeking to protect populations. In much the same way that human warfighters were defeated by the ravages of jungle living in World War II all the way to Vietnam, rangers set to defend regions from zombies will have to learn to survive in the jungle before they have to learn to survive the zombies. That said, like with the temperate forests, one wrong move could put you at odds with a dead man’s bite. Fortunately, these instances will be one off misfortunes, not the type of exponential collapses to society we see in other parts of the world.
Given that the jungle also provides a wealth of vegetation and even suitable cropland, small communes of villages could spread throughout the jungle terrains, providing sanctuary for millions of people. Rather, millions of survivors. We may see hardy bands of villages reform all across the equator as humans cower in the jungles. Places like the Gold Coast of Africa into the Congo may see massive die offs once the cities are emptied, but their people may survive the apocalypse if enough of them find their way to the jungles. Northern Brazil and Southern Venezuela just the same. The jungles of Asia, including the Burmese, and those the Indonesian island chains are problems, there, they have such massive and dense populations (Burma is a country smaller than Ireland or Virginia, but with a population equal to Russia, and Indonesia is the third most populated nation on Earth) that they would face unimaginable carnage before anyone reaches a deep jungle haven. Even once they did, I’d imagine the undead saturation would matter far more than jungle rot, snakes, and giant spiders.
Mountains. Almost the best location to be will be those centered high in the mountains. Providing difficult terrain to navigate and highly defensible natural barriers, they will form virtual fortifications for those who dwell inside.
The only burden to those within the confines of the high altitudes will be food. Places like the United States state of Colorado, Europe’s Switzerland, or Asia’s Afghanistan may be highly weaponized populations and able to provide for their own security, but being that all of these exist as part of a globalized network of partnerships for goods and services, they will be without certain valuable, in some cases, live saving commodities. Without some access to large quantities of fresh food, either through subsistence or protected conclaves of agricultural, they will do little better than those who live in the tundra.
So, we’ve eliminated virtually any place on the planet from being somewhere where a nation might do well to survive the end. There is, however, one geographic type which provides those who live there the best set of strategic advantages to survive, both as a population, and without suffering the onslaught of the zombie horde. That would be the islands.
Islands, such as the island of Tristan (the world’s most remote island) can be miles, sometimes thousands of miles from the range of the walking dead… or anything else. Though the dead are dauntless in their trudge across the land, when water comes into play, they suffer the ravages of salt water corrosion, as well as the rotting effects of something saturated in water for days. Presuming a zombie even could walk across the bottom, or perhaps float to the shore, but it would likely dissolve in a matter of days, or be eaten by some unlucky dweller of the deep long before that. Given that, the horde of undead coincidentally all emerging from from the sea to overwhelm a lonely victim seems incredibly unlikely.
Islands also possess another advantage to their inhabitants, being a long field of view. Many islands in the sea are really just the peaks of massive underwater mountains, mountains which reach up above the water and sometimes, high into the sky. These mountains, as previously stated, offer a wide view. Seeing out miles and miles to the sea gives their inhabitants hours to prepare for what little may be able to come, where others living in places listed above, might have only minutes, or even seconds, to deal with a mountain of very, very bad things.
Last, and perhaps most important, many islands are sustainable by growing fruit and vegetables on their own. This means that those who survive, can afford to last a while, at least until plans can be made. Granted, most islands today sustain their large populations thanks to huge amounts of imports… so that’s going to be rough to get through, but a slow starvation of some isn’t the same as becoming food for others. That said, many islands are capable of self-sustainment, as they have been for generations before the dawn of modern shipping. Those that can make the transition, we will see them do well in the Age of the Undead.