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Accidentally Eco: 5 Sustainable Aspects of HBO's Hit Show 'The Last of Us'

In the world of "The Last of Us," an America decimated by a global pandemic caused by a mutated fungus finds characters surviving in a quarantine zone, and encountering accidentally eco moments in the process.

the last of us sustainable moments
Written by
Calin Van Paris
Welcome to post-apocalyptic America. It's 2023, and a global pandemic born of a mutated fungus has been raging for 20 years. Still, the new version of the U.S. (aka the collapse of society as we know it) allows for many accidentally eco moments.
Whether you're a fan of the original video game or simply can't quit a world's end narrative, HBO's The Last of Us has garnered a committed and enthusiastic fanbase. Imagine, if you will, that our real-life
had been fungal rather than viral—and that exposure transformed us into zombies.

'The Last of Us' and Climate Change

the last of us sustainability
The Last of Us flits between a worst-case present tense and events of recent decades, including the initial fungal infection, expert warnings, and environmental commentary.
The show is something of a metaphor for the effects of
climate change
, switching the slow burn with which we're becoming all too familiar—
extreme weather
declines in wildlife
and biodiversity, etc.—for something more instantaneous. Worldwide illness (and chaos) born of a mutated mushroom demonstrates the innate power of nature and reminds humans that, though we may act like it, we are not in charge here—the planet is.
Which brings us back to the show's 2023. As the survivors continue to survive, the world proves itself to be a simpler and harsher place, which is perhaps the ultimate accidentally eco, honest representation of Earth's natural state.

5 Accidentally Eco Aspects of 'The Last of Us'

1. Urban Green Spaces

the last of us sustainability
With a decades-long pandemic comes the collapse of metropolitan areas which, like those infected, are, well, taken over by nature. This results in ample urban green spaces, the increase in trees and ground cover providing an answer to potential
heat islands
Plus, pretty!

Silicone Food Storage Bowls

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2. Hiking and Horses as Transport

Cars are still a thing in 2023, but so are walking, hiking, and riding horses in pursuit of rumored cures and other time-occupying missions. Plus, though the characters still manage to find gas to get around, a surplus of abandoned cars means fewer emissions overall.

3. Used Books

Photo: HBO/
Books (and humor) will save us all. Ellie's book of puns serves as a comfort and a reminder of humanity. The next time you need a pick-me-up, head to your favorite
used bookstore
—your lifeline awaits.

4. Grow Your Own

the last of us sustainability
Seeds for guns? A worthy trade, indeed. As The Last of Us takes place post-apocalypse, produce and other foods that we often take for granted can't be found at the ready, making this viral scene all the sweeter.
The practice of growing food and harvesting the bounty is inherently human and, when practiced consciously, can nurture immense amounts of joy and gratitude, too.

5. Expert Warnings

the last of us sustainability
Photo: HBO/
As noted above, the show's pandemic serves as a character all its own. The Last of Us actually opens with an interview featuring 1960s epidemiologists as they discuss the potential for mass illness, a warming planet, and more.
Perhaps, through art, we can learn to listen.