Soylent, a powdered meal replacement, has a radically egalitarian core – but only in the right political context. http://t.co/8uMh9F8iQu
— Jacobin (@jacobinmag) May 12, 2014
While acknowledging the fears that many might have about food substitutes, Jacobin Magazine Editor Bhaskar Sunkara sees an egalitarian upside to products like Soylent.
Soylent itself, however, is a product with a radically egalitarian core. In a different context, it could facilitate human flourishing and freedom.
Major food trends — from urban farming to the organic food and farm-to-table movements — struggle with the problem of scale. A quick look through the Instagram accounts of self-described foodies alone reveals that these are largely movements of the privileged.
But we have more than 7 billion people to feed; 842 million of them don’t have enough to eat. Even among many of those who do, the food they consume often lacks essential nutrients. Malnutrition kills 3.1 million children every year and leaves millions more underdeveloped. Climate change will only make matters worse, with experts warning of a coming era of food insecurity.
Food today is more expensive and environmentally inefficient than it needs to be. Agricultural production saps 70 percent of our fresh water. Livestock generates around 20 percent of greenhouse gases from human sources. Combined, both sides of the food production system dominate 40 percent of the world’s land surface.
The proliferation of meal replacements can change that equation. “You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself,” Rhinehart told The New Yorker. “You need carbohydrates, not bread.” Soylent is already fairly cheap, but with economies of scale through more centralized, public-driven production, it could be made for pennies. This would not only free up land and resources to comfortably sustain more human life, but it could provide a way out of backbreaking farm work for the first time since the Neolithic revolution.
But do they have to call it Soylent?
Despite the unfortunate name, I am intrigued.
Would you welcome the end of food as we know it? Would the risks or negative outweigh the potential benefits?