I was fascinated by the series “Connections” (1978), especially with the first episode “The Trigger Effect” which started with the Blackout in New York on Tuesday, November 9, 1965. This was particularly interesting for me because at the time it started I was in a graduate philosophy class at City College of New York. It was late in the afternoon, getting a bit dark; so we had the lights on. At some point the lights flickered and we waited to see what would follow. Well, they kept on flickering when the professor decided to dismiss the class, and just then the lights went out — everywhere.
I think that this episode, “The Trigger Effect,” had a lifelong influence on me by its depiction of the fragility and vulnerability of our technologically dependent world. In my actual experience of the blackout, I saw that there were no lights anywhere except for car lights. At some point I started to see some people with candles, and because there were no traffic lights, I saw some grid-locks with cars. However, what was happening in Manhatten did not enter into my consciousness until the next day with news reports about how people were stuck in subways and elevators, and the problems with electricity in hospitals, refrigerators, and gas pumps. This was my transient, one day experience of the blackout.
The episode “The Trigger Effect” depicts an imaginative scenario in which the blackout is a permanent state. And it depicts not only what I actually experienced, but it depicts what would and must follow if there were no public electricity — period.
In the “The Trigger Effect,” it is portrayed that as you leave the city, you should look for a farm, and start farming. But, in reality, you may be thrown into the wilderness, and what you need is a knowledge of wilderness survival skills.
I have always been drawn to the problem of survival in the wilderness, a situation which is recreated by Bear Grylls in the popular TV episodes Man vs Wild. He is literally dumped into a sea, a river, a mountain top, a forest, a desert, and such, and his task is to survive for a week while making his way to civilization. He is recreating situations where a person survives a plane crash, a capsized boat, or even just getting lost while hiking. To survive, he has to utilize, to an extent, the kind of information which is taught to Boy Scouts. He has to know what his problems are, and solve them. One main problem may be hypothermia, and one obvious solution is to build a fire. In one episode, he solves this problem by removing the innards of a dead carcass and crawling into it. His task is to survive while getting out of the wilderness. Here is one of the many episodes, survival in the jungle of Belize (notice: he comes into the jungle with a long-sleeved shirt, pants, boots, a knife, flint, and a water container strapped over his body. He also knows he is in Belize and that the coast is to his east):
In other situations, someone may want to live in the woods, like Henry Thoreau. But unlike Thoreau, who brought supplies and materials into his cabin on Walden Pond; in the following episodes, Tom McElroy shows us how to survive for a week in a relatively hospitable environment. Notice he goes into the woods with only pants, a shirt, a tee shirt, no shoes, and a knife.
There is also the predicament of a castaway, such as Robinson Crusoe in Daniel Defoe’s novel. In the novel, Crusoe has access to the tools and materials of the wrecked ship, including some food; so, his task is to set up a relatively permanent shelter while hunting and gathering food, and eventually he comes across another human being, Friday. The novel is based on the real character, Alexander Selkirk, who was marooned on an island all alone, as portrayed in the following video:
Perhaps the most popular semi-survival show was Survivor, which ran for many seasons. It combined the problem of survival in the wilderness (with an initial provision of some tools and food) with a competitive social interaction, in which members were voted out until a winner emerged as the sole “survivor.” It was a copy of the Swedish TV series: “Expedition Robinson” (1997).