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By Robert A. Vella

Soylent Green is a 1973 science fiction film set in a dystopian New York City in the year 2022.  Climate change and overpopulation have ruined ecosystems, depleted natural resources, and caused widespread food shortages.  As a consequence, the corporatist government has devolved into an authoritarian police state in order to maintain law and order.

The general populace is kept barely alive through a food rationing program provided by the Soylent Corporation.  Its products – known as “Red” and “Yellow Soylent” – are unpalatable, poorly nutritious cakes of unknown (to the public) substances.  When the people become restive and start demanding better food, the provider begins to distribute a new product – called “Soylent Green” – which it claims to be made from a superior high-energy oceanic plankton.

While investigating a murder, police detective Frank Thorn (actor Charlton Heston) uncovers a grand corporate-government conspiracy where he ultimately learns Soylent Green’s true composition.  In the climactic scene, Thorn yells-out in warning, “Soylent Green is people!” – meaning that it’s made from human corpses.

That was art.  Now for real life…

From Yahoo FinanceA corporate watchdog says Soylent contains unsafe levels of lead and cadmium:

Bad news for time-crunched techies seeking to avoid the “friction” of preparing meals for themselves: Soylent Super Food is facing a lawsuit.

As You Sow, a nonprofit that promotes corporate, environmental, and social responsibility, filed a notice of legal action against the makers of Silicon Valley’s favorite meal replacement drink on Aug. 13. The notice alleges that the company has violated California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, also known as proposition 65, failing to sufficiently warn consumers of the lead and cadmium levels in the new Soylent 1.5 drink.

As You Sow says its testing found that just one serving of the new drink exposes the consumer to a concentration of lead that is 12 to 25 times California’s “safe harbor” level for reproductive health, and up to four times the concentration of cadmium. Even at low levels, chronic exposure to lead is associated with neurological impairment, and exposure to cadmium is linked to kidney, liver, and bone damage.

With reports of Silicon Valley coders consuming up to three servings of Soylent per day, “this is of very high concern to the health of these tech workers,” said the CEO of As You Sow, Andrew Behar.

The article includes a general description of what Soylent 1.5 is made of as well as an official response from Soylent Super Food.  However, the irony here is inescapable.  That a business would name itself and its products after a fictional dystopian vision in pop culture seems perplexing at the very least.  Also, that these tech workers would allow themselves to be so time-stressed as to forego good nutrition in favor of quick, substitute “meals” is even more puzzling.

I worked over two decades in the tech industry and never felt the need to sacrifice my dignity nor my individuality by behaving like an automaton.  But, that was thirty years ago.  Today, life is considerably different and more like art than many of us realize.

Further reading:  Soylent (drink)

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