Sabrina Großkopp

Eat Future no 4. Review

Would cannibalism make us more sustainable?

“Soylent Green … is people!” – After watching the American sci-fi thriller about pollution and overpopulation last Tuesday, we discussed whether it is a valid thought to associate sustainable lifestyles with cannibalism.


Cannibalism&Sustainability - Anisa Xhomaqi



Humankind developed multiple ways to ensure the satisfaction of the basic need for food. These developments are nowadays backfiring on us for example in the form of widespread diseases caused by processed food. Within our series we take a closer look at sci-fi-movies to answer the question: What comes next?

The discussion

The dystopia from the year 1973 presented a way to deal with a lack of food resources in order to nourish the masses. Can dead people be a legitimate energy source for living people in times we are facing overpopulation? To start our discussion we have been asking our guests what ‘sustainable food consumption’ means. This question obviously was a tough one. The first opinion that popped up supported the idea of not consuming too much. But too much of what and who decides the amount of what we are allowed to eat? It seemed more fruitful to have a look at the quality of the food rather than the quantity. So maybe a sustainable way to consume food is the opposite of consuming commercially produced food. But what makes a commercial way of producing food non-sustainable? One potential solution to that problem could be adaptation, especially concerning the effects of the climate change. When the South European climate “moves” north, then people in Central Europe should adapt to it in a way that they start to grow oranges for instance. But what happens to the knowledge of growing certain plants? Maybe it would stay in the certain region since it might need more than just a how-to Youtube video to start a flourishing orange farm. In order to pre-empt poverty in a less fertile future environment, people from wine-growing regions could already invest in expensive wines because it will go up in value when less of the good stuff is going to be produced. “You could always import products from regions that are capable of growing what you are longing for”, some of our guests were arguing now when others already had the CO2-emission problem in mind, that is in this case caused by long-distance transports. So if we want to avoid fanning the flames of climate change in order to sustain the climate features we are used to, we may try to fall in love with the offered regional and seasonal food variety. But isn’t the change of climatic conditions a very natural process? Haven’t there always been naturally occurring periods of ice ages? And aren’t stories of these times telling us that people have always been able to adapt somehow? Maybe, but history also tells us, that this kind of adaption happened gradually and these big changes were always accompanied by some uncomfortable side effects like spreading diseases and social unrest. By the accelerating population growth and the unstoppable habit of emitting CO2 to the atmosphere we are also accelerating the natural climatic changes. Will our adapting mechanisms be able to keep up with this development? Coming back to our first conclusion we agreed that one of the most important ingredients to master times of adaption is the possession of knowledge. During good times in which we are lacked for nothing we have every reason to divide tasks, to let the scientist be a scientist instead of a farmer in order to refine his own task and to generate knowledge the whole society benefits from. But the division of tasks also creates dependencies. And not knowing about how to supply your own most basic wants in less paradisiac times may cost you dearly.

So what about the idea of making use of the biomass of our own species? Is the only reason human beings are not included in our concepts of a circular economy because of ethical beliefs? Our discussants were trying to come up with the most sustainable ways of passing away now. Wasn’t there a religious ritual that dictates the reuse of the dead body as bird food to be placed on a mountain peak? Compared to the ways dead bodies are prepared for their final performances in industrialized societies, by using chemicals like formaldehyde, this ritual suddenly seems less inappropriate. But less conservative and ritual based societies obviously also managed to introduce less polluting and still acceptable methods to say farewell by composting the dead bodies in order to produce a nice soil: Urban Death Project & Infinity Burial Suit. “So far, so good,”, we said and added: “but what if we could make use of our decedents in a more direct way by, let’s say, eating them?”. For our guests this kind of sustainability would go way too far. And couldn’t this food chain shortcut also cause some serious sicknesses?

To come back to a more general perspective again, we asked whether adaption might be the only way to deal with changing conditions of our environment. Do we not start to apply sustainable ways of living collectively before there is no other way, before we actually face a catastrophic situation? Does it always have to be purest fear that is fueling our actions? Our guests even included current political topics into the discussion, stating that the newly elected president of the USA is successfully using people’s biggest fears to win their attention. If this is the way we work, a scenario shown in the film Soylent Green might not even be too unlikely. Maybe we already even live under these kinds of conditions, never really knowing what we eat warming up a highly processed convenience product in the microwave. Who wouldn’t be at least a little bit concerned by the 30 pages long table of contents of this text book for food chemistry?


Are we going to find an answer about how our future of eating might look like next Tuesday? Watch and discuss together with us about how your digestive system can help optimizing yourself during EAT FUTURE no. 5!