No fewer than five stories recently made news headlines, one after another.
The remote Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is melting at a faster rate than even the most pessimistic scientific projections suggested it would.
Another pipeline leak, this one in a remote northwestern corner of the Canadian province Alberta, proves Big Oil still hasn’t mastered the technology of constructing a pipeline that won’t leak — despite the oil lobby’s defensive, relentless and increasingly shrill claims to the contrary.
The self-explanatory “Garbage Patch” floating and bobbing in the north-central Pacific is now the size of France. The country, that is, not the town in Kansas.
The United Nations reports that, in Asia, there will be “no exploitable fish stocks” — no wild fish, in other words — by 2048. With the world's already overstretched population growing every day and food insecurity a growing concern, many marine biologists warn we could run out of wild fish in our lifetimes.
But wait, you say, surely “sustainable seafood farms” will make up the difference.
Well, they would — if only, as the salmon farming fishery off Canada’s west coast keeps showing, they weren’t constantly leaking biotoxins into already threatened coastal waters.
Piscine reovirus, aka PRV, causes heart and skeletal muscular inflammation, aka HSMI; recent research suggests that PRV cause the disease HSMI, as evidenced by mortality rates of up to 20% in salmon farms in Norway. PRV in turn affects migrating wild salmon, owing to the effluent from processing plants and farm hatcheries. This is not rocket science, as Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) senior veterinarian Dr. Ian Keith told a colleague in an email, as reported earlier this year by the Canadian news site The Tyee.ca: “This is 19th century thinking.” https://thetyee.ca/News/2018/01/11/DFO-Gut-Rules-Protecting-Wild-Salmon/
Melting glaciers, leaking pipelines, a growing garbage problem, drained fish stocks and a worrying over-reliance on artificially processed food naturally made me think of Soylent Green.
Soylent Green was a 1973 post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson (in his final film role) set in an overcrowded, smog-choked cityscape in the not-too-distant future, where people are reduced to eating tasteless, protein crackers — ostensibly made from “high-energy plankton” — are doled out in tightly controlled rations by an all-powerful conglomerate called the Soylent Corporation. Soylent Green was loosely adapted from futurist Harry Harrison’s 1968 novel Make Room! Make Room! that posited a world in which overcrowding, pollution, global warming and rampant industrialization have created a society in which homeless people fill the streets and those with jobs are barely scraping by.
Soylent Green was no Star Wars. It won a smattering of boutique, sci-fi film awards, but it wasn’t exactly a hit with audiences, not in a year when The Sting, American Graffiti and The Way We Were topped the box-office charts. Critics’ reviews were mixed. Time’s Jay Cocks called it “intermittently interesting,” adding that the film, will be most remembered for the last appearance of Edward G. Robinson.” The New York Times’s A.H. Weller found that Soylent Green “projects essentially simple, muscular melodrama a good deal more effectively than it does the potential of man’s seemingly witless destruction of the Earth’s resources.”
Some 45 years later, Soylent Green is not remembered as a great movie — truthfully, it was never that — or as Edward G. Robinson’s farewell performance, but rather as an eerily prescient vision of a hellish future that now seems more like cautionary news documentary than science-fiction.
It’s hard not to respect a film that, in 1973, had Robinson’s angry, aging character Sol Roth rage against the dying of the light, saying things like, “You know, 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 could buy meat anywhere. Eggs, they had, Real butter. Fresh lettuce.”
And fresh salmon. Not the farmed kind.
“There was a world once, you punk,” Sol Roth told Charlton Heston’s detective character, Frank Thorn.
“Yes,” Thorn replied, “so you keep telling me.”
“I was there,” Roth said. “I can prove it.”
“I know, I know. When you were young, people were better.”
“No. People were always rotten. But the world was beautiful.”
It was. It still is. Time to wake up.