The NBC drama Revolution, which premiered last week, is set in a world completely devoid of electrical power 15 years after a massive, mysterious blackout. People go back to traveling by horse and on foot; villages grow their own food; iPhones become useless relics.

Some critics have complained that the show is short on explanations and jumps too quickly to an inexplicable future where we still have not figured out how to get the power back on, skipping over the juicy blow-by-blow of what happens directly after huge masses of people lose all access to electricity. Revolution does offer a few tidbits from the unraveling in its first two episodes, though: planes fall out of the sky, cars lie abandoned on highways, people stranded in the cities perish, and people commit murder for food, among other grim scenes.

In the real world, we have gotten some unsettling previews of what might happen when the lights go out for a long period of time. This photo gallery of the world’s worst power outages offers a few examples of blackouts around the world caused by storms, human error and other factors. Even though most of those outages lasted just a few days or less, they still drive home the mass misery that occurs when millions are left stranded in the dark. Most prominently this year, more than 600 million people in India lost power for two days in July (see photos from the blackout and an analysis of the country’s power situation).  A month earlier in the U.S. Northeast, where transmission lines are particularly burdened, a powerful derecho system of thunderstorms knocked out electricity to more than 4 million.

Aside from inflicting huge costs and disruptions that range from inconvenient to life-threatening, blackouts force us to recognize the many ways we are dependent on reliable electricity from the grid, and contemplate even for just a few hours what life might be like for the 1.4 billion people worldwide who do not have it. Do you worry about the stability of the electricity grid in your country? How would you fare in a long-term blackout? Weigh in on the poll above and in the comments.

Comments

  1. Janice P
    Vancouver Island, BC
    October 2, 2012, 9:28 pm

    I love the idea of “People go back to traveling by horse and on foot; villages grow their own food; iPhones become useless relics”. But really, why wouldn’t they have people create their own energy with the alternatives that we know are available now (wind, solar, etc), and all become self-sufficient. That would be the better premise and actually open people’s minds to the idea of becoming self-sufficient before it is a forced issue. We are resourceful, technological people, and there are enough talented, intelligent people that would spread the innovations.

  2. Tangled Sin Tax
    Oregon
    October 1, 2012, 8:31 pm

    This was more or less the premise of a Sci-Fi story I read many years ago. Vaporous interstellar critters were attracted to Earth’s electromagnetic radiation and cruised on over to chow down. Cool story, anybody remember the name?

  3. Scott DeWitt
    Texas
    October 1, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I don’t understand, even if electricity did not exist mechanical motion wtill would.Old diesel engines runs without electricity, steam power, gas lamps, all would function without electricity, Yet none are shown to be functioning in NBC’s Revolution. There was a time when electrcitity didn’t exist and most of the industrial revolution was accomplished without it.

  4. rose
    October 1, 2012, 4:18 pm

    The current power grid with the gaint centralized power plants, “iron curtain” one-way meters, one or very few providers of energy and everyone else is just a consumer of energy was really the vision of John Pierpont Morgan – not any of the inventors from Edison to Tesla. One needs to remember it was the grid edition that Morgan – not any of the inventors – wanted that has had all the accidents in the history of electricity over the last 100 years – from Fukushima in 2011 to the New York City blackout in 1965. I just wish people wake up and realize that and start demanding that their jursdictions abandon John Pierpont Morgan’s vision of the power grid/electric system in the favor of those electric systems that the inventors wanted and J.P. Morgan didn’t like.

  5. Ron
    September 30, 2012, 7:52 pm

    One thing that I learned in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac is that sewerage systems run on electricity, the failure of which can cause That Stuff to back-flow up the toilets and into the house.

  6. Korsou
    The Netherlands
    September 30, 2012, 5:04 am

    I don’t worry about the stability of the electricity grid in the Netherlands. I also think that a blackout can’t last so long. As Gergő Szikszay says: ‘I mean it is not that hard to make some electricity, and most people who were in high school still remember the basics, and the basics are enough for a rigged made-of-junk power plant, that powers some computers, which enables us to calculate for more improved results.’ I have no idea how I would cope with a long-term blackout to be honest. It’s something that is very unlikely to happen…

  7. qunibai
    Indonesia
    September 28, 2012, 2:35 am

    Wow there’s a lot of people who doesn’t have knowledge about non electric fridge here. They should look how the desert people provide food for a long hot year

  8. Meg
    Singsthemagpie.blogspot.com
    September 27, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Anyone remember that derecho that destroyed the mid-atlantic at the beginning of July? It was nuts here. We really missed our fridge. Most people had no electricity for a week, some for two.
    Lets hope that never happens long term. 🙂

  9. Gergő Szikszay
    Budapest
    September 27, 2012, 2:04 pm

    I don’t think it is possible that a blackout would last that long. I mean it is not that hard to make some electricity, and most people who was in high school still remember the basics, and the basics are enough for a rigged made-of-junk power plant, that powers some computers, which enables us to calculate for more improved results. Maximum three months until the repairs finish at the first place, I think, if all power plants in the world are beyond repair and have to be rebuild.

  10. Jeremy
    September 26, 2012, 2:33 pm

    I agree it’s a very interesting premise for a new show. I think J.J. Abrams will do well with it as long as there are some boundaries for story. Lost was too hard and slow paced to follow I think. My coworker at DISH basically agrees, he thinks the premise is interesting, but with only a couple episodes aired, it’s too fantastic to be believable. I’ve got my Hopper DVR (which I wouldn’t want to live without) ready for Revolution. It has PrimeTime Anytime which will automatically record every show on in prime time from the four major networks. I don’t have to remember to set a reminder to record Revolution because my Hopper will catch it. On one hand, I think Revolution could fill the void Lost left. On the other hand, I think the show is already getting too complicated.