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Soylent Green was made in 1973, and set in 2022, only ten years from now, 2012.
In 1972 the world had 3.9 billion people. Today we are past the 7 billion mark and continue growing by 75 million a year, on a planet with far less resources.

Our leaders are advocating growth,

never mind overpopulation,

never mind overshoot:

science, money, innovation, technology, and optimism
will solve all problems.

"All Things Must Pass"George Harrison's... - Kassandra
View the movie from a DVD! It's worth the while, also because of the story background and the interviews with the main actors.
Some audio recordings will provide an idea:
Tuesday is Soylent Green Day
Unreliable...
Believe, the evidence is overwhelming
Going Home
What did he confess?
"Soylent Green Is People"
"Soylent Grün ist Menschenfleisch"

Soylent Green

Introduction by Paul Tomlinson

Soylent Green opens with a series of photographs depicting the history of the United States of America. Early images show the first settlers in the country, and the slideshow goes on to reveal the major changes that these people and their descendants brought: the railways, the cities, and all the trappings of an industrialised society.

The music accompanying these pictures is a lively jazz-style piece, but this suddenly changes with the introduction of discordant sounds resembling car horns in a traffic jam. The photographs on screen change at this point too: we see scrapyards full of old cars, hundreds of them; and beaches strewn with sea-birds killed by a spillage of oil. Man has changed the country, adapted it to his needs, and eventually overpopulated and polluted it.

The titles following the opening sequence read:

The Year: 2022

The Place: New York City

The Population: 40,000,000

This establishes the movie as being set in the future, but the future we see is not the gleaming white utopia of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, instead is a sweltering, grimy world where the problems of over population, dwindling fuel reserves and pollution have come to a head.

the very worst of the living conditions endured by New York's population - the slum dwellings

we see people living on the stairs in Thorn's apartment building, and we briefly glimpse people living in old cars in a car park.

'soylent green is people'. The dying citizens of New York City are being recycled, and their mortal remains being made into food to sustain the living.

The 'revelation' that soylent green is people is one of the worst kept secrets in movie SF (Search the internet, and you will find Heston's final line of dialogue on dozens of sites), and in all probability didn't come as any great surprise to audiences when the film was originally released. It's a stupid idea, and it shifts the story away from the real problem of too many people and too few resources, and instead concentrates on the pretend problem of the nature of the synthetic food.

Sol Roth is a weak liberal who decides to kill himself when he discovers that the oceans are so polluted that they can't produce the 'miracle plankton food' as the Soylent Corporation claims.

Roth checks into a 'suicide parlour', where he dies surrounded by cinemascope images of meadows filled with wild flowers, mountains, and clean sandy beaches - all the things which mankind has destroyed - accompanied by a soundtrack of Beethoven's 'Pastoral' Symphony. Even without the knowledge that this was Edward G. Robinson's last on-screen appearance (he died from cancer shortly afterwards) this is a memorable scene, with the images of a lost world contrasting sharply with the overcrowded, sweltering city streets which Heston's character fights his way through.

Paul Tomlinson, December 1999
Links:
www.harryharrison.com
www.iol.ie/~carrollm/hh/soyintro.htm
www.harryharrison.com/ reproduced for educational purposes only
photo exhibition No. 1 & No. 54
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