by Harry Harrison
Both Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! and the 1973 film SOYLENT GREEN are predictors of the squalid future facing the people of Planet Earth through overpopulation, the exhaustion of natural resources, and pollution. The powerful film, starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in his terminal role, flows from the novel, yet the two works of art are the same and very different. Harrison is an effective writer and a master story teller although MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! is flawed by an artificially-written diatribe against opponents of birth control delivered by Sol, a relatively minor character in the novel and a central figure in the film. Harrison could have offered the same information gracefully instead of so awkwardly. In both book and film wise old, exhausted and cynical Sol tells us how beautiful and abundant the earth once was. Harrison plays the role of writer as seer in forecasting that by 1999 the earth will be on the edge of exhaustion in its ability to support humankind. We have managed to make our way past 1999, but now scientists are predicting just as dismal a near future because of global warming. The underlying message of the novel, the film, and the warning of Al Gore and modern scientists is that we are eating ourselves: in the book: through unrestrained birth rates; in modern times: through unrestricted emissions of carbon dioxide from cars, planes, and power plants burning oil and coal products; and in the film: literally by turning human corpses into soylent green, a protein for the masses. I waited in vain for that distasteful food soylent green to be introduced in MAKE ROOM! MAKE ROOM! The soylent green—not in the novel-- turned out to be a contrivance of the script writer, used to hammer home that frightening prophecy of self destruction.