The 5 Nations that (Might) Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Five years post the zombie apocalypse, countries we haven’t called countries, will be leading the ashes. For my criteria, I first tried to think about the nations, or rather regions, would have the greatest strategic advantages against a walking horde of the undead. The greatest of these were geographic. I went into greater detail on that in my answer to What would be the worst and best possible types of places to live in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse? There, I determined that if you had to be stuck anywhere, the best place to be would an island, very far removed from any floaters seeking to undo your happy existence.

After geography, I looked at overall population. A strong enough population will have to exist with which to provide crucial services after import, export systems collapse. This was followed by military capacity and the potential for armed security. This is an obvious boon to any survivors, providing the capability to stay grounded, and eventually even project outward, re-securing territory from the hordes or even rescuing survivors. After this is perhaps the most important, food security. Food and water independence will be vital to survive, even if the zombies aren’t fighting to take what you already have.

That said, I’ve intentionally ignored several extreme examples of several tiny island nations, because they are so small that they simply aren’t interesting enough to talk about. One day the radios stopped working after a big commotion and then no more ships… ever. For example, small communities like the hundreds of tiny islands surrounding the main islands of Indonesia, won’t experience any of the devastation wrought on their home islands. At best, they will see a relative explosion in refugees, but will likely be unchanged. Micronations like Tuvalu, Nauru, the Falkland Islands, or Tristan, literally the most isolated island on the planet, are just too boring to talk about. Thousands of islands exist that together don’t equal a population of more than a few million people. They have no long term significance as they will never be able to help create a world fit for humanity after the Age of the Undead. The best they may do is one day recreate the double outrigger and colonize a few more islands. 10,000 years from now, they might be able to colonize the mainland again… having completely forgotten the most historic event in the history of humanity – it’s destruction. That said, they might go completely unaffected by the calamity, but because they were so insignificant to begin with, I’m just not going to talk about places like Tristan Island anymore, but focus on places that might actually be meaningful after the apocalypse.


5) The Democratic Republic of Puerto Rico

  • Population: 3.548 million (2014)
  • Military: Reliant on US, but consists of high retired veteran population and several large facilities capable of refitting.
  • Food Security: Reliant on imports

Currently a territory of the United States, assuming the effective destruction of the continental superpower giant, Puerto Rico would no doubt seek independence with haste. Who they would declare independence to, won’t really matter, as everyone will have bigger problems than worrying about it. Surrounded by water, the island state is guarded by numerous high cliffs, which have already been fortified by a history of military significance to the Caribbean. The island nation will be able to hold it’s own from both the random zombie caught adrift, or the horde of American, Central American, and South American refugees the tiny island will likely be pushing away.

Add to this the presence of a more than 2000 acre former naval base on the island. Roosevelt Roads provides the means for the Puerto Ricans to create a last refuge for stranded American Naval vessels searching for a secure port. Given this, Puerto Rico may soon find itself the inheritor of the Atlantic fleet. Following this, the new Nation state may find itself with the power and influence to leverage strength for the imports it will soon be desperate for by becoming a leading naval power.

Where Puerto Rico fails is in production of food. The island can support much more than it is currently producing, but given it’s near future calamity… it’s going to need a lot more.

Agriculture constitutes about $808 million US$ or about 0.8% of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP). [44] However, Puerto Rico imports 85% of its food even though most of the land is fertile. Only a mere 6% is arable; a fact that poses a direct threat to Puerto Rico’s food security. [45][46]

After initial growing pains, and once resolving bids for power among the surviving islands of the Caribbean the country stands a good chance of not just surviving, but thriving in the post apocalypse new era.

4) Iceland

  • Population: 323,002
  • Military: Military consists of less than a thousand members of the Icelandic Coast Guard
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

Iceland ranks low on the list for several critical lapses in its Zombie Preparedness Plan, but will able to leverage certain advantages few other nations can.

First, Iceland is a relatively barren place to live. 78% of the island is unfit for farming and agriculture, and of the rest, only about 1% is actually used. Most of this space is used for feed crops such as hey, and the rest for potato and other subsistence foods.

Militarily, the island has nothing to brag about. Geopolitically, it is centered in a part of the North Atlantic so far north that it has little strategic value to anyone. For many years, the only military presence was that of the US military, tasked with being the sole defense force for the tiny country. After 2006, the US forces left, leaving Iceland with no real projection power at all. What remains is a coast guard, consisting of around a few hundred people, juggling three ships and four aircraft.

Iceland is very far from any populated regions, like the UK and Scandinavia. Crossing the freezing waters of the North Atlantic won’t be easy for even hardy survivors, and the few ships capable of making the voyage will be few enough that the tiny Coast Guard Forces may possibly be able to manage the inflow of refugees.

The refugees, as well as their boats and planes, will serve well the underpopulated island by provided much needed labor to fill the needs they are very quickly going to have. But with every new soul, a mounting problem is going to become more evident, a theme we will see more and more, not enough food.

Iceland, however, does have something that most other nations don’t. It is capable of harnessing vast amounts of the Earth’s geothermal energy to heat its homes and provide power. This will help make up for the small national population, but also provide something few other surviving populations will have, a valuable and rare commodity resource. Five years down the line, the world is going to be desperate for power, as few means exist for coal, nuclear, and there is no where left to produce the vast manufacturing structure required to build solar and wind power, nor repair the massively complex offshore oil rigs. Iceland’s survival depends on harnessing and communicating this power, as it will provide the economic power to make Iceland one of the world’s most valuable exporters.

3) Panama

  • Population: 3.9 million
  • Military: No military, but 12,000 members of the Panamanian Public Forces
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

Panama is the sole exception to the island rule of zombie survival. That is because of its incredibly unique geography. Panama, though technically forming the narrow land bridge between North and South America, is effectively an island. The thick jungle and high mountains mentioned in previous sections describe why never in history has a major land invasion involved walking troops from either North or South of Panama and into the neighboring continent. The nation is just too hostile to land traffic. This has been traditionally very bad for Panama, isolating it between impossibly large and wealthy landmasses, a wall rather than a road. Of course, one day a zombie apocalypse happens and what was once its greatest weakness, is now the nation’s greatest strength – a geography hostile to foot traffic.

For survivability, the Panamanians hold food exports as a major industry. From fish to fruit, the country will be able to care for its own with ample resources while defenders are able to hold back the few walkers at the periphery until, eventually, Panama can play a major role in reconnecting the shattered world via its famous canal.

It’s greatest weakness, however, is that the country lacks any formal military. Panama is the second country in Latin America (the other being Costa Rica) to permanently abolish standing armies. All that remains is a 12,000 strong members of the Panamanian Public Forces. This para-military group lives on standby for civil disturbances and general policing. They will be completely unequipped to handle zombies who behave much differently than a peaceful protest no one wants to turn into something bigger. If only that were all that stood between the Panamanians and the oblivion, then that wouldn’t be enough, but adding in the natural boundaries of both inhospitable jungle and impassable mountains, along with the advantage of how truly few people would be required to defend the two narrow borders, and we can begin to see why they would survive where others wouldn’t.

2) New Zealand

  • Population: 4.471 million
  • Military: 11,440
  • Food Security: Wealth of agricultural surpluses

New Zealand is a large island chain of high mountains, defensible valleys and a stable population and economy. Perhaps its greatest advantage, at least for this question, is its isolation. Though most maps place New Zealand relatively near Australia, in truth, nearly all of the Continental United States could fit between them. New Zealand is alone in void of the blue. Normally, this would be a bad thing, but zombies change things. It is so far out that it poses little risk from floating zombies drifting about, nor does it suffer a great risk of refugees overwhelming the island, some which may even be infected. Once planes stop flying, travel by boat will allow anyone showing unusual signs such as necrotizing fasciitis or spontaneous fits of cannibalism will be vetted and done away with long before reaching port in Queensland.

The active duty military is nothing to brag about, but high mountains also make for defensible terrain. Whether facing invasion from the dead or whoever else is left, a New Zealand Defense Force would have the means to hold up years fighting whatever comes from the sea.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the country has a large food surplus, taking in over 14.8 billion dollars in agricultural exports. This is the true saving grace of New Zealand. Other nations may survive the zombies, but they won’t survive the hunger. New Zealand will survive both, and in fact, may become one of the wealthiest nations on the planet very, very soon, as they supply sustenance to the rest of the world’s small island survivors deeply lacking in basic nutrition.


Noteworthy Mentions:

The Japanese State of Hokkaido

Hokkaido is the northern most island in the Japanese Island chain. While still posting a large and modern population, it is centered in with high mountains and cold winters. It is however, very distant from the more populated islands to the South, and since it is not part of the same land mass, will see refugee traffic required to pass through the whole of Japan before reaching Hokkaido. The military tradition of Japan will also see use as they defend themselves from the horde of Japan, not only of zombies, but refugees no doubt pouring over over from lower Japan, the Koreas, and even China and Southeast Asia. These refugees will serve as the greatest obstacle to Hokkaido’s Japanese sanctuary from the horde. Given the billions of people who may seek shelter there, it may be a distinct possibility that they will prove too much.

Madagascar

I’d love to say that Madagascar would do well. It has a large population, good terrain and is an island nation. There are two reason I don’t see it doing well for this question. First, one problem it faces is the same that it has in this world already. It is a poor nation with inadequate government. That means that the government isn’t quick or efficient at responding to major events. Assuming that the crowded island nation doesn’t succumb to the zombie horde itself, the other horde it will have to deal with will be coming from Mainland Africa. This will be Madagascar’s second major problem. When refugees begin flooding in from all across every part of the continent through the relatively narrow Mozambique Strait, that will be too much for the overwhelmed government. I see starvation and chaos, and that is if there are no walking dead.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a relatively modern place. It even boasts a fairly large military, relative to its small landmass. It even has land to grow crops, and supply its people. What does it have against it? If you’ve caught on to the pattern of the last two… it’s neighbor, the second most populous nation on the planet.

As well prepared as a tiny state might be, no nation on Earth will be prepared to suddenly accept the fleeing mass of a country of over 1 billion people. Whether they manage to cross the narrow and partially submerged land bridge connecting the two bodies, or through thousands of rafts floating across the sea, Sri Lanka will, in a matter of days, be inundated with millions more than the tiny island can support and more than the government can manage. In the end, I didn’t add them because of how well they would do, but how every clearly they would spell the exception to the rule of the safety of the tropical island, if everything else is stacked up against you.


Finally, the nation which will do the best following a zombie apocolypse, one of the few who may actually see an increase in power and influence in the future to come, isn’t a nation at all today, but would quickly become one once the end becomes a reality for everyone else. That nation is…

1) The Independent Hawaiian State

Population: 1.42 million (2014)

Military: Very large military population and immense US Naval assets.

Food Security: High food producer, but also heavily reliant on food inshipment.[1]

The nation of Hawaii boasts many natural barriers to a zombie plague. Surrounded on all sides by thousands of miles of ocean, Hawaii’s greatest defense is the great blue barrier of the Pacific Ocean. Any zombie lucky enough to accidentally drift in the wrong direction for such a long period of time will be cursed with the ravages of coarse salt water, and months of decay as its body dissolves into the sea.

Should it be possible for Hawaii to fall victim to one of the blighted, the mountainous isles lend themselves well to defense against the undead.

In the unlikely event, the chain even has the extraordinary fortune of escape, where all or most of the survivors can quickly evacuate one island by either air or sea, both safe from zombie interruption, to a clear island not far away. This provides time for survivors to be organized, defenses to be manned, and a means for the retaking of any lost island in the chain.

The survivors of Hawaii, however, will face a different battle than most of the world. Their struggle will mostly be an effort to provide a balanced diet. The island state is a major food producer for many various staple fruits, vegetables, and meats, as well as sugar. It’s agriculture, however, is geared toward specialty items and they have to rely on imports for the difference. Early in the apocalypse, Hawaii will face the singular difficulty of having an overabundance of certain foods, while being completely lacking in other nutritional requirements. There are much worse states to be in, but the state will require some time to readjust their agriculture to a structure more geared toward food independence.

Given that, the key factor for the survival of Hawaii is its other great asset of pre-apocalypse strategic importance as an important naval installation. Hawaii bases afforded the United States Navy central staging points for seaborne operations overseeing half the planet. Following the fall of continental bases, most ships out to sea will have little else but to set sale for the last operational command in the United States Navy. Given the overwhelming strength of the US Navy today, commanding more Super Aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined, Hawaii will not only be able to survive, but be transformed into overwhelmingly powerful Pacific hegemon. Given the number of naval ships and Marines stationed on Hawaii, it will serve not only as the greatest source of internal security, but be one of the only remaining nations capable of force projection, and in time, be the leading force in reclaiming earth from the Zombie horde.