We’ve all seen the memes when 2022 began a few short months ago. The posters and images of the famous sci-fi film from 1973, Soylent Green, which made sure we were aware that the film took place in 2022 and we were now in that year. So, we were supposed to conclude we would become food source for the starving masses. Well, to be short, that has not happened.
The film’s prediction about humanity becoming food is wildly off the mark, but there are many worthwhile messages in the film, and the book it’s based on, Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, that are very relevant today.
The most important and obvious one has to do with environmentalism and how we are failing as shephards of our planet. In Soylent Green, overpopulation has choked most of the world’s resources and the film’s location of an overcrowded New York City was a disturbing example. The city’s population was 40 million and society was crumbling as it struggled to feed humanity. Basic necessities that we take for granted like running water and fresh food were reserved for the mega rich. Actually, small and simple images of the film’s main character, Detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston), coming upon fresh beef, vegetables, air conditioning and even a bar of soap were the most disturbing as he celebrated his newfound treasures.
Another barely mentioned situation in the film that catches anyone’s ear today was that global warming had taken hold and was wrecking our world. Thorn and the other characters were sweltering in the constant heat. A couple of times, characters mentioned that it was not cold in New York anymore and that the oceans, the final food source for starving billions, were dying. Hence, the need to turn from plankton as a food source to humanity.
The film is disturbing in that many images feel so real and remind us of our social strife. From the unfed masses crying out for justice and basic needs to failing infrastructure to gigantic corporations choking our society with their monopolistic holds on us.
Thankfully, while our current environmental situation is dire with unpredictable weather, we have not reached the apocalyptic situation of Soylent Green. But as many scientists and activists are warning, time is short for us to prevent some of the situations in that film from becoming reality.
So, yes it’s 2022 and the memes are fun and the film is an excellent cautionary tale about how things could turn out for us. But our situation is a lot better than shown in Soylent Green. Let’s keep it that way.