Taking place during the zombie apocalypse, it makes perfect sense that The Walking Dead spends most of its time being dark and depressing, with very few moments of genuine hope experienced by Rick Grimes and his ragtag group of survivors. But just how bad are things in The Walking Dead universe? While the show has covered a handful of locations in its nearly six-season run (including Los Angeles at the start of the outbreak in Fear the Walking Dead), information regarding the number of survivors worldwide has not been exactly forthcoming.
That information is a lot like the cause of the outbreak itself, in that it seems highly unlikely such details will be uncovered anytime soon. But just because the source material doesn’t offer an exact explanation or a precise number with regard to the questions at hand that doesn’t mean there aren’t those unaffiliated with the show who are willing to put the time and effort into creating elaborate fan theories that claim to have the answer.
In fact, the folks at YouTube channel SourceFedNERD have taken it upon themselves to enlighten fans of The Walking Dead when it comes to the Earth’s post-apocalyptic population. Fan Matt Lieberman has calculated — using information available from The Walking Dead comic, the TV series, and its spin-off — the total number of people left alive on Robert Kirkman’s fictional Earth — and it is not a high number.
The complete calculation Lieberman uses is rather complex, and those interested in all the nuts and bolts involved are invited to check out the full video above. One thing some fans are likely to dispute is the assertion that The Walking Dead’s zombie outbreak began in January 2012, and that Rick woke up in the hospital in late May. This seems odd since The Walking Dead TV series began airing in 2010, in what one would assume was present day.
However, Lieberman cites some compelling evidence in the pilot of Fear the Walking Dead to establish the timeline, including the fact that people are seen using Apple products released in late 2011, characters are seen wearing winter coats, and no holidays are seen marked on visible calendars. For the record, this places season 6 in December 2013, based on The Walking Dead Wikia’s estimate that 614 days have passed on the series.
To make a complex formula short, the estimated total left alive in The Walking Dead’s universe is a mere 382,885. For perspective, that’s not in one country, that’s in the entire world. So much for global re-population. Of course, there are a few factors to consider when weighing Lieberman’s number. For one, he doesn’t take into account any babies born during the apocalypse. It’s almost assuredly a low number, but we know for a fact that at least one baby was born during the series, and that Maggie is currently pregnant with another.
Also, variables for different countries weren’t taken into account. Arguably, one of the reasons Rick and company have been able to survive so long is the amount of accessible firearms and ammunition to be found within the USA. Melee weapons have also proven more than effective in capable hands, but in many instances only a gun was able to prevent a character’s death and/or ensuing zombification. In nations where guns are harder to come by, this could have led to further loss of life. Furthermore, one would assume that island nations would have taken longer to be overrun by walkers, potentially altering the total of current survivors further.
Should Matt Lieberman’s number of 382,885 living humans on Walking Dead’s Earth be taken as canon? No, probably not. Too many extrapolations and assumptions have to be made to get there, although the basic ideas are sound. Still, it’s an interesting mental exercise, and worth considering the implications of.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC. Fear the Walking Dead returns April 10, 2016.