Thursday, April 07, 2005

Soylent Green

Based on a comment a while back from Venado,

I watched Soylent Green the other night.

You have to get over "not from these cold dead hands",

"in real life gun loving" Charlton Heston as Thorn,

and try instead to remember him as God's chosen

in Cecil B DeMills epic of the Ten Commandments,

or at least as God's cursed as an astronaut who has returned to a

Planet Ruled by Apes.

Here is Warner's description:

Richard Fleischer directed this nightmarish science fiction vision of an over-populated world, based on the novel by Harry Harrison. In 2022, New York City is a town bursting at the seams with a 40-million-plus population. Food is in short supply, and most of the population's food source comes from synthetics manufactured in local factories -- the dinner selections being a choice between Soylent Blue, Soylent Yellow, or Soylent Green.

When William Simonson (Joseph Cotten), an upper-echelon executive in the Soylent Company, is found murdered, police detective Thorn (Charlton Heston) is sent in to investigate the case. Helping him out researching the case is Thorn's old friend Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson, in his final film role). As they investigate the environs of a succession of mad-from-hunger New Yorkers and the luxuriously rich digs of the lucky few, Thorn uncovers the terrible truth about the real ingredients of Soylent Green.

Now the thing that Venado pointed out was that the World was a mess in the movie because of the Greenhouse Effect. Given the date, I thought this was totally unlikely, but in fact, Thorn and Sol recite in unison early in the first act, that the reason everything was so bad is because of the Greenhouse Effect.

Since the movie was made in 1973, you've got to hand it to Harrison for his prescience. I would offer then that Soylent Green is the first movie to depict the effects of climate change.

Heston is constantly stepping over bodies as he comes and goes from his apartment. The electricity is lousy and he actually charges a battery with a bicycle charger in the apartment to keep the one lone bulb running. He constantly steals and pilfers in his official duties as a police investigator. In fact, he steals and eats his first steak from the refrigerator of the murdered man's high rise apartment.

There are no cell phones or communicators, Thorn must use a locked phone box instead. There are no computers and no fancy cars. The rich guy (Joseph Cotton) does give a computer like game to his barbie like female helper, also known as "furniture," to help keep her entertained.

So the basis of the movie is this. The Greenhouse Effect is screwing everything up, and now everyone must eat food from the sea, because the land is not productive any more. The nasty secret is soon revealed that even the oceans are dead.

That leaves only one other solution.

Right now, we eat oil.

Oh, not directly of course, but almost.

This article by Norman Church of the UK does a good job of covering the main points.

Why Our Food is So Dependent on Oil
by Norman Church
April 2nd, 2005

"The systems that produce the world's food supply are heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Vast amounts of oil and gas are used as raw materials and energy in the manufacture of fertilizers and pesticides, and as cheap and readily available energy at all stages of food production: from planting, irrigation, feeding and harvesting, through to processing, distribution and packaging.

In addition, fossil fuels are essential in the construction and the repair of equipment and infrastructure needed to facilitate this industry, including farm machinery, processing facilities, storage, ships, trucks and roads. The industrial food supply system is one of the biggest consumers of fossil fuels and one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases.

Ironically, the food industry is at serious risk from global warming caused by these greenhouse gases, through the disruption of the predictable climactic cycles on which agriculture depends. But global warming can have the more pronounced and immediate effect of exacerbating existing environmental threats to agriculture, many of which are caused by industrial agriculture itself.

Environmental degradation, water shortages, salination, soil erosion, pests, disease and desertification all pose serious threats to our food supply, and are made worse by climate change. But many of the conventional ways used to overcome these environmental problems further increase the consumption of finite oil and gas reserves. Thus the cycle of oil dependence and environmental degradation continues.

The vulnerability of our food system to sudden changes was demonstrated during the fuel crisis in 2001. A sharp increase in the price of oil or a reduction in oil supplies could present a far more serious threat to food security and is likely to as oil enters its depletion phase. Food production and distribution, as they are organized today, would not be able to function."

From the Wilderness also has this piece. It is as good a review and assessment of our food system from an energy perspective as I have seen.

Eating Fossil Fuels
by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

"In a very real sense, we are literally eating fossil fuels. However, due to the laws of thermodynamics, there is not a direct correspondence between energy inflow and outflow in agriculture. Along the way, there is a marked energy loss. Between 1945 and 1994, energy input to agriculture increased 4-fold while crop yields only increased 3-fold.

Since then, energy input has continued to increase without a corresponding increase in crop yield. We have reached the point of marginal returns. Yet, due to soil degradation, increased demands of pest management and increasing energy costs for irrigation (all of which is examined below), modern agriculture must continue increasing its energy expenditures simply to maintain current crop yields. The Green Revolution is becoming bankrupt. "

I have a modest proposal.

Let's quit sucking the air out of our real problems,

and let's get down to work.

For the Earthfamily.

Before we are all eating little green wafers.

Green won't be near so groovy then.

Earthfamilyalpha Content



Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to persih twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

5:39 AM  
Blogger Charlie Loving said...

The unaccepted:
Planets have life spans like organisms, have life spans. James Lovelock said, "Earht is a living organism, just as the shell is part of the snail, so the rocks, the air and oceans are part of Gaia. Gaia, has continuity with the past back to the origons of life, and in the future as long as life persists..." You may find it hard to swallow this notion that anything as large an apparently inanimate as the Earth is alive. It doesn't reproduce, metabolize or evolve; it recycles the already present materials. The earth is almost all rock and incandescent heat. But think of a tree. The tree is alive, yet 99% of it is dead. The tree is a spire of dead wood, made of living cellulose by ancestors of the thin living layer. Like earth, and more like earth when you realize when we recognize that many of the atoms of the rocks down into the magma were part of the ancestral life of which we come.

What makes Earth so remarkable in the universe is the stability of the temperature. The sun is now 30% hotter and brighter than it was at the time earth was created, The planet's thermostat is set on three things; plate tectonics, the carbon cycle and the carbonate silicate cycle or weathering of stone.

And that is all the astrobiology i have for today, that was inspired by Soylent Green. Habitable worlds can end through natural evolution of aging.

7:17 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

Robert Frost's reading of the above ice poem is so nice. I'll find it and put it soon.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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I love the stories though.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:41 PM  

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