The 1973 movie Soylent Green tells the story of a dystopian New York City in 2022. The earth has become overpopulated and polluted. Climate change has caused dramatic rises in temperatures. Overpopulation and climate change have led to widespread food and water shortages. Only the richest in society can afford to live in comfort and eat well. The massive Soylent corporation controls the government and all information channels. Soylent controls the food supply, manufacturing synthetic food wafers to feed the masses.
The story focuses on a detective investigating a murder. In doing so, he delves behind the public face of the Soylent Corporation. He ends up discovering a terrible secret about the Soylent Green synthetic food wafers. We’re not going to spoil that, so if you want to find out what happened, watch the movie here! Instead, we’ll take a look at whether 2022 is really the dystopian future that Soylent Green predicted.
In Soylent Green’s portrayal of 2022, the world is vastly overpopulated. New York city has a vast population of 80 million people. With around 20 million people in its metropolitan area, the real 2022 New York isn’t as overpopulated as Soylent Green’s version.
The population is so great, and concentrated in cities, that people live in cars, stairwells and any available space.
The movie doesn’t explicitly mention the world population, but it’s not just New York that’s overpopulated. The novel on which Soylent Green is based (Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!) has a world population similar to our current 8 billion.
Luckily, we’re not at the stage yet where the majority of people live in the streets. However, the growing global population is a significant threat to food security for many.
Pollution & Climate Change
In Soylent Green’s 2022, global temperatures have risen drastically. In New York city, the temperature never drops below 90oF (about 30oC), and a smog always hangs in the air. The changed climate has affected food production, and combined with the huge population, has led to massive food shortages.
The public are told that Soylent Green wafers are made from nutritious plankton. However, we discover that the seas are dead because of pollution. There isn’t any plankton, or any other life in the sea. Soylent Green is made from something much more sinister
In the real 2022, we are already seeing the effects of climate change. The temperature is not a constant heat like in Soylent Green’s 2022, but the world climate is getting warmer and dryer. Weather patterns are less stable, with more severe and more frequent storms causing large amounts of destruction.
Our seas are not dead, but there is a significant risk of this happening. Agricultural chemicals running into water courses, and eventually to the sea are causing acidification.
Although the details might not be quite what we see today, Soylent Green’s prediction of the future climate is worryingly close to home.
Food Shortages & Price Rises
In Soylent Green’s world, climate change and overpopulation have caused dramatic food shortages. The majority of the population live on manufactured Soylent wafers. Only the richest in society can afford real food, with a jar of strawberry jam costing $150!
While the movie takes it to the extreme, many people around the world do not have enough food. Climate change is putting pressure on food production in many areas of the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens to make this even worse. The World Bank president, David Malpass, said that price rises could lead hundreds of millions of people into poverty and malnourishment.
Big Corporations In Control
Soylent Green Corporation controls food supply and the supply of information to the public. It is therefore able to protect itself from the public, and publish whatever story it wants people to believe.
In the real world, we see many examples of this now. Although there isn’t one massive corporation in control of everything, there have been many cases of misinformation being spread. Social media makes it very easy for false or misleading information to spread quickly.
Governments and businesses often attempt to influence public perception. In some countries, where the government controls the media, this is very simple.
Is Our 2022 Like Soylent Green?
There are some surprisingly accurate predictions in the movie, but fortunately we haven’t quite reached that reality yet. Is Soylent Green still an accurate portrayal of our future, or is it a dystopian fiction? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
And if you’ve not seen the movie yet, watch it here!