I really want to know: Would you eat Soylent Green?
Remember (*spoiler alert!* sheesh!) Soylent Green is people, as Charlton Heston discovered. But no one ever talks about the rest of that movie, mostly because it’s kind of terrible. But for what it was, there were some cool ideas in Soylent Green.
First, a quick recap: In the movie, the earth is overpopulated and over-polluted. Global warming is in full swing and even rich people have to eat crummy food. The government hands out rations of Soylent products, which are awful, flavorless cubes and loafs of “soy” (actually plankton but really it’s irrelevant cause it’s people) foodstuff that look like red, blue, or green Play-Doh. When you die, you go to a death-a-torium of sorts where you pay a small fee, then watch a really pretty movie filled with scenes from nature and peaceful music. You die quickly and painlessly from a colorless, odorless gas.
Then your body is shipped off and turned into Soylent Green which everyone loves to eat.
Ok! That last part is traumatic, I admit. But Soylent Green isn’t The Road. Marauding hoards of hillbilly cannibals aren’t threatening to strip the meat from your bones. You die peacefully. There is no space for anything in the movie’s version of the future (people are everywhere) and cremation involves burning, which isn’t exactly great for global warming. So what to do with the bodies of humans in a world where there is no room to put them and everyone is starving? What to do indeed…
So, in the spirit of ethical inquiry, I’d like to do some thought experiments. We’re all rational, scientifically minded individuals. In what situations would a reasonable person eat food made of people? Let me set up some scenarios for you, and you tell me how much you’d love to eat Soylent Green (which is people) in that scenario. Here we go!
First some ground rules:
- Soylent Green is, indeed, people.
- No one is hurt or killed forcefully. Only natural/voluntary deaths.
- Soylent Green is safe.
- Soylent Green is delicious.
Scenario 1: The Movie’s World
The world is overcrowded, hot, there is no food and you are starving. You haven’t eaten in a day and, after waiting in line for 4 hours, you get handed your bag of Soylent Green (because Tuesday is Soylent Green day!). Your stomach gurgles with hunger. No one but you knows it’s people. Do you eat it?
Scenario 2: Long Pig
Perhaps my favorite comic, Transmetropolitan has its own version of the other, other white meat: Long Pig. Transmet‘s lunatic anti-hero gonzo journalist, Spider Jerusalem, loves eating Long Pig, which is brand name, vat-grown human meat. Scientists think vat-meat might be necessary to feed everybody in a couple decades, and if it’s vat-grown, who is to say some of what’s in the vats isn’t people meat? Let’s say you live in the world of Transmet, where everyone eats Long Pig, including your favorite journalist. Long Pig sends you a free bag of jerky to try. If you don’t eat it, your roommate will. Do you eat it?
Scenario 3: The Road
You survived the apocalypse. The overcrowded, polluted, impoverished world from before was a joy compared with the daily nightmare you now endure. You find a bag of Soylent Green (it keeps forever) in an abandoned supply depot. You haven’t eaten in four days and it’s a fifty-mile trek to the Twinkie factory on your map. The Soylent Green is your only option other than starvation. Do you eat it?
Scenario 4: Right now!
There is a big ol’ plate of Soylent Green cubes right in front of you right now. It smells amazing. No one would have to know, you could have just one. Do you eat it?
I am genuinely interested in people’s responses. I encourage comments and fellow bloggers to tell me their thoughts on Soylent Green.
Image of people excited for their rations of Soylent Green by bandita via Flickr Creative Commons
Links to this Post
- World’s Strangest | Would You Eat Soylent Green? | December 17, 2010
- Serious Question: Would You Eat Soylent Green? – Discover Magazine (blog) | Biomechanical Engineering | December 23, 2010
- Just V-D-B » Blog Archive » http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/sciencenotfiction/2010/12/16/serious-question-would-you-eat-soylent-green/ | March 18, 2011