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Forget about food. May 21, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. On May 12, 2014, The New Yorker published an article by Lizzie Widdicombe called “The End of Food.” The article was not, per se, talking about rampant overpopulation, climate change, drought and water shortages, or the exhaustion of the soil due to massive overfarming of monocultures (growing a single crop on the same plot every year) and chemical poisons. It was, instead, about Soylent Green.

Sci-Fi fans may recall the 1973 Charlton Heston movie of that name, where overpopulation and pollution have led to the end of food. Instead, people receive nourishment from wafers called Soylent Green. At the movie’s end, a horrified populace learns that Soylent Green is made, not from a combination of soybeans (“Soy-“) and lentils (“-lent”), but from the surplus human population. (Fast-forward to “The Matrix.”)

Today, in an almost inexpressible irony, a group of Silicon Valley tech-nerd types have created a beverage, Soylent, to replace food, and have raised millions of dollars from backers and online fundraising campaigns to kick-start their company. Unlike Soylent Green and the fluid tube-fed to inert humans in “The Matrix,” Soylent is not made from human beings. Instead, it’s made from a combination of chemical powders, vitamins, fats, and water (maltodextrin, oat flour, rice, fish oil, and canola oil, plus vitamins and minerals).

The resulting slurry has been described as resembling Cream of Wheat, pancake batter, “One step better than what you drink before getting a colonoscopy,” and “my grandpa’s Metamucil.” Its creator claims that you can just forget about food and live on Soylent, and you’ll feel great and save money on groceries—he went from spending $470 a month on food to $50 by switching to an all-Soylent diet.

The creator, 25-year-old Rob Rinehart, was working on tech startups when he decided that food cost too much and took too much of his precious time. Stocking up on corndogs, ramen, and frozen quesadillas at Costco just wasn’t cost-effective. Surely a chemical concoction could fill the bill for less and free up time for more research and innovation?

If you’re a normal person who loves your burgers and fries, pizzas and breadsticks, pasta and salads, giving up food and drinking unflavored beige sludge that’s supposed to provide all your daily nutrients may sound unspeakably gross. But, sadly, there’s a large percentage of the population that have been drinking the equivalent for decades—babies drinking formula, seniors drinking Ensure, dieters drinking Slimfast and Metrecal, muscle-builders drinking Muscle Milk and the endless other protein shakes that have muscled real health foods off health-food shelves. They’re already conditioned to replace food with a liquid slurry, and hey, Soylent’s chemically balanced, so go for it!

Why should we be concerned about things like taste, texture, temperature, cooking method, variety, and the endless micronutrients found in real food? Tech nerds, like the ones who created and marketed Soylent, have no clue. They embrace a life philosophy called “lifehacking.” The point of lifehacking is to get rid of every needless task in life to make more room for things that interest you. Apparently, eating is one of the things on the get-rid-of list. Lifehackers have embraced Soylent, and its well-heeled backers see the tech-world potential.

I love eating. I love food. I love cooking. I love organics. I love buying locally grown produce and eating at local restaurants. I love everything that, it appears, Soylent’s founders oppose. Here are some robotic quotes from the future from Soylent’s completely disconnected founder, Rob Rhinehart:

“The general ethos of natural, fresh, organic, bright—this [Soylent] is the opposite.”

Soylent is also the opposite of what the article’s writer refers to as “a growing nostalgia for a time before corporate food lobbies, genetically modified vegetables, industrial farming, and the weed killer Roundup.” (Thank you, Monsanto.) What does Rob Rhinehart have to say about that?

“Rhinehart is not a fan of farms, which he refers to as ‘very inefficient factories.’ He believes that farming should become more industrialized, not less.”

But for me, the best insight into Rhinehart was the part about his clothes, which he doesn’t wash: “In an effort to optimize the dressing process, he alternates between two pairs of jeans, and orders nylon or polyester T-shirts from Amazon, wearing them for a few weeks before donating them. When the clothes get smelly, he puts them in the freezer, to get rid of the odor. ‘Sometimes, during the day, a couple of hours will do it,’ he told me. ‘I’ll wear a towel.'”

Polyester. Nylon. Chemicals. Farms as factories. Beige goop instead of food. If this doesn’t show the growing gap between the techs and the non-techs, I don’t know what does. Who cares about using gasoline-produced clothing and never washing it, just tossing it when it stinks so much you simply can’t stand it any more? Who cares if you never eat a fruit or vegetable or grain or pulse or bean in your whole life, no matter how good they taste or how good they are for you?

Rob Rhinehart mocks those of us who try to live by respecting the land and our fellow creatures, growing and eating organic food and following a vegetarian lifestyle. He despises everyone who enjoys eating as opposed to drinking his glop so they don’t have to eat and can just keep playing computer games or whatever. He insists that water is the most popular drink in the world, despite its total lack of flavor, using this as the reason he refuses to flavor Soylent, and clueless that water is cheap and hydrating, not popular. He claims that his Soylent will feed the world. But you know, I think the world, rich or poor, in whatever nation, would rather eat food and drink flavorful beverages than slug down Soylent. Yuck!

Controlling overpopulation, not feeding people gooey glop, is the answer.

‘Til next time,

Silence

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