The Oil Drum: New York City

Helping New Yorkers understand, prepare and adapt to the implications of Peak Oil

Monday, July 25, 2005

NYC Blackout 1977 vs 2003


Now that I'm finished with the epic Crime and Punishment, I picked up "Blackout" by James Goodman. It's about the 1977 blackout in NYC and all the various reactions across the city, from opportunistic looters to people who made great acts of kindness and generosity. Emergencies bring out the best and the worst in individuals, especially in the context of a city that prides itself on its anonymity. The picture above is from the 2003 blackout which was relatively calm and peaceful by comparison even though it occured over a much wider area.


I think these are fascinating case studies of what happens in crisis situations. The relative calm of the 2003 blackout was based on the premise that the power would be restored in a day or two. What if no one was confident that the lights would come back on? What if we had 2-3 hours a day where power would be shut down due to lack of fuel (gas, oil, coal transport?).

It makes me think of the classic Issac Asimov short story "Nightfall". That's the ultimate nightmare scenario, complete chaos and civil disorder. If you haven't read it, I recommend it.

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