IMDB Synopsis: In the world ravaged by the greenhouse effect and  overpopulation, an NYPD detective investigates the murder of a big  company CEO. 

Director: Richard Fleischer 

Writers: Stanley R. Greenberg (screenplay), Harry Harrison (novel) Stars: Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Leigh Taylor-Young  

The on-screen preamble for Soylent Green: 

“In 2022, Earth is overpopulated and totally polluted; the natural re sources have been exhausted and the nourishment of the population is  provided by Soylent Industries, a company that makes a food consisting  of plankton from the oceans.” 

And here is a summary of Late Capitalism: 

In 2021, Earth is overpopulating and polluted; natural resources are  dwindling, 1 on 8 people on the planet go hungry every day, food monopolies like Monsanto control the means of production for 8-% of farm ing activities, scientist are exploring cricket protein and kelp to keep up  with the growing population’s nutrition requirements. 

In 1966, author Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room! (the  basis for the movie) took a swing for what 2022 might look like. He just about nailed it. 

Soylent Green shows a very realistic future. From sexism, to soy-based  food production, to police states, and privatized everything, we’re head ed in a very Soylent direction. Soy and Lentils for all! 

When the movie opens, Edward G. Robson (Sol) is remembering the old  days while Charlton Heston (Detective Thorn) eats a human. The point  of the movie is that cannibalism is taboo, but cannibalism happens, it’s  how people survive, people fight over green crackers made of human  

flesh. The world (or at least NYC) has turned to cannibalism as a way to  feed the masses, and the corportacracy that is Harrison’s version of Late  Capitalism controls the meat grinders. Citizen uprising? Great . Bring  in the dozer, there’s a food shortage anyway. The problem becomes the  solution. This is, of course, the way capitalism works. It’s victim and  judge paradox described by Theodore Adorno, 1951 Minima Moralia:  Reflections for Damaged Life: 

“The Culture Industry piously claims to be guided by its customers and to  supply them with what they ask for. But while assiduously dismissing any  thought of its own autonomy and proclaiming its victims its judges, it  outdoes, in its veiled autocracy, all the excesses of autonomous art. The  culture industry not so much adapts to the reactions of its customer as it  counterfeits them. “ 

So, while Heston chomps on a people-biscuits, Sol fills us in: “When I was  a kid, food was food, before our scientific magicians poisoned the water,  polluted the soil, decimated plant and animal life. Why in my day you  cold buy meat anywhere. Eggs they had, real butter, fresh lettuce in the  stores…how can anything survive in a climate like this.” 

This reminds me of a story of my son. Charlie was about six and was  eating some chicken nuggets – one of his two food groups. He turned to  me and said “wouldn’t it be funny if chicken came from chickens?” The  next day we went to a farm and planted a vegetable garden.  

In this memory, I am Sol and he is Heston. 

In that same scene with Sol and Heston, the lights flicker and Sol  hops on a stationary bicycle to create some juice. We see this dream  today often. 

How can anything survive in a climate like this? It does sound a lot  like Late Capitalism. Comedian Bill Maher pulls this into the modern  content with this line: “Twenty years from now, when your kids ask you  over a glass of soylent green, ‘What did you do during the Trump years,  daddy?’ you don’t want your answer to be, ‘My job was to go on TV and  pretend Trump didn’t say what everybody just heard him say,’” the host  continued. “That is an enabler and that word is not a compliment.” Maher is an idiot, but he’s on to something too. 

Over the radio, we hear an ad for Soylent Corp, promoting Soylent  Red and Yellow, a high protein food replacement, and the new sea-algae products. The announcer reminds us “Tuesday is Solent Green day” much in the same way that in 1969 Prince spaghetti reminded us  “Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day.” 

And, in the same way that the FDA reminded us during World War I  about “Meatless Mondays,” a phenomena that has returned under the  guise of a Climate Change mitigation strategy thanks to  founder Graham Hill who proclaimed in 2010 that he would become a  weekday vegetarian, only eating meat on weekends. None of this is to be  confused with Taco Tuesdays, or maybe it is. 

Bundle depression era austerity sentiments, government rationing (Food  will Win the War!), global hunger as meme (First as Tragedy, Then as  Farce, indeed) to a Global Warming msitigation, and ol’ grab-em-by-the pussy-Trumpism, and you have Soylent Green. Objectification of women, a police state, rule by the wealthy, global hunger? Welcome to Late  Capitalism four years early. 

The bourgeoisie in Soylent Green get vegetables, booze, beef and furniture. And, by furniture, I mean women. It’s as if the Playboy Grotto  was relocated to Trump Tower, – women come with the place. In Soylent  Green, women are called Furniture. Charlton Heston basically rapes  Shirl, the lead female in Soylent Green. And, by “basically,” I mean raped  by his cold dead hands. But in classic Hollywood (and Luke and Laura a’  

la General Hospital) fashion, they quickly fall in a kind of love, so it’s all  cool. Soon after, when asked about Shirl by his police chief, Heston cups  his hands to make the universal sign for two boobs, and says she’s “like  grapefruit.” Chief Thatcher has a great post-fruit world comeback, “you  never saw a grapefruit.” Burn. 

In one seen after a hot shower in some kind of Spinal Tap come back  tour plastic cocoon pod-thing, Heston becomes a good guy and defends  a grotto full of women (referred to in the movie casting notes as Furniture Girls) from a glorified bellhop named Charles. Charles is punching  women willy-nilly. Heston goes from rapist to Good Guy with a Gun  in seconds. I think this is supposed to humanize Heston, but he is an  asshole. When he brings Sol lettuce (that he stole from a dead rich guys  apartment while on duty), Sol relishes it. Heston shrugs as if it is noth ing special. This is supposed to point out that the elder, Sol, remembers  some of the good times before environmental collapse, and Heston can’t.  But he just looks like an asshole. As proof, there are more scenes of him  punching women. 

Another rich man eventually rents the apartment that Shirl belongs to.  He likes to entertain his friends, 3 or 4 night a week asks, “are you fun?”  which is code for “we’re going to gang rape you.” There is no middle  class in Soylent Green. I point this out because just as SciFi writers like  Harrison are pretty good at depicting a possible path for the Earth’s  environment, we should also heed their warnings on our more social  projections. 

And, because if you don’t think the gender equality isn’t a major part of  sustainability (or misogyny isn’t partially to blame for Climate Change), you’ve been eating too much moss. 

And, I’d be remiss, if I don’t call back to the closing lines of Heston –  “People! Soylent Green is People!” Well, so is sustainability.  Sustainability is not about saving the planet. It’s about saving  the people.