So Soylent Green is based on a science fiction novel called Make Room! Make Room! in which… Soylent Green isn’t made of people. (I’d say it’s like Planet of the Apes without the Statue of Liberty, but.) Everyone’s desperate for “soylent steaks,” where “soylent” is soya and lentil. Veggie burgers, in other words.
I was reminded of this by Yglesias’s comment that limiting carbon emissions will lead to eating less meat and more plants, since raising animals is very carbon-intensive; and
That kind of thing is one reason why I think the cost of adjusting to a low-carbon future will actually prove much lower than people think. A lot of the changes in habit that a world of more expensive energy will incentive are things that there are sound unrelated reasons to do. Less meat-eating and more walking and biking would improve the health and long-term quality of life of the population.
The thing is that soylent products can be quite tasty. A New York where many people eat lots of soy and lentil products isn’t a dystopia of near-starvation, it’s our modern New York that’s full of vegetarians and people who don’t eat much meat. (And this vision is a lot more plausible than the movie version; if you think about it, reprocessing people into meat is an incredibly inefficient way of getting nutrients. Only works if the population is dropping drastically, so you’re eating more people than you’re feeding. This is not to deny that it’s much more effective artistically.)
Make Room! Make Room! also seems to have a Caves of Steel population estimation problem — apparently there are seven billion people worldwide in the book, which there almost are now and New York City isn’t a Malthusian hellhole (even if people do live in small spaces). Though admittedly the book has New York City’s population at 35 million, which might be a bit of a strain (though maybe not, if there was a lot more density in the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island; and if you didn’t have super-rich people taking up a lot of spacein Manhattan, which I’m guessing you don’t have in the book). Lots of people in underdeveloped countries are living the Malthusian nightmare, but I don’t think it’s due to population pressure, and I’m not sure that it’s worse than it was around 1966.