Monday, July 8, 2013

You've got to tell them... Soylent is made from... FOOD!!

Hi everybody.  Still here; still intending to blog more; but reality is against us.  Our part of Minnesota is officially a "disaster area", because of the stuck jet streams; 20 inches of rain in May and June, much of it torrential.  We have secondary bridges and roads out in many places- and no idea when, or even if, they'll be repaired.  We're doing better than many of our neighbors, though.  If they took the risks and planted their crops very early, they may be ok; if they decided to wait- they may get no crop at all; too wet to work the fields for too long.

Besides being overwhelmed with regular work, which is always late and difficult, blogging requires some kind of enthusiasm on my part.  And it's not that there's a lack of things to talk about- it's that there are too many.  And too often, discussion of things like the situation in Egypt just seems futile.  Nothing we say here will have any useful point to it.  It seems.

What finally got me off my figurative fanny today was this stunning bit of insanity.  Watch the video first; and beware of the Golem-Sucks advertising:

Ok, got that?  The 24 year old software engineer has figured out a way to rid the food system of waste, and help out with hunger in the impoverished regions of the world.  It's easy!  Just put it all into powder with a 20 year shelf life!  Why didn't we think of this before??

The stunningly insane part is- how easily he has the entire world press going right along with him.  Not surprisingly, they have a nice, logical set of arguments in favor of powdered food; take a look at them here on their crowdfunding site (the project has ended- alas you can no longer contribute here; but they did raise just under $800,000...)  An end to waste!  No more shopping, or cooking, or washing dishes!  Cool- has to save tons of energy, right?

Well, no.  How did we get to a place were NONE of the journalists covering this (so far as I can see) are familiar with the concept of "embodied energy"?  You have powdered protein here?  Um- where did it come from?  The store, obviously!

This is typical of the "answers" to global problems offered by "young software engineers".  The mind boggles.  It's the kind of analysis any systems thinker - um - thinks about, instantly.  Doing some digging, it did not really take me too long to find a reliable list of Soylent ingredients.  (Incidentally- many of us already know the name, "soylent"- hm; is there a trademark/copyright/IP conflict here?  Already contentious.  You never know what the courts will say, but personally- I would bet that name is "occupied".)

Ok; the list of ingredients:

Maltodextrin (carbs) (made from - corn, or wheat!)
Oat Powder (carbs, fiber, protein, fat) (made from- oats!)
Whey Isolate (protein) (made from - milk!)
Grapeseed Oil (fat)  (made from - grapes!)
Potassium Gluconate  (made from - sugar!)
Salt (sodium)
Magnesium Gluconate  (made from - sugar!)
Monosodium Phosphate
Calcium Carbonate  (limestone!)
Methylsulfonylmethane (Sulfur)  (actually; sulfur added to - natural gas?)
Creatine  (made from - meat!)
Powdered Soy Lecithin  (made from - soybeans!)
Choline Bitartrate (made from - something like sugar!)
Ferrous Gluconate (Iron)  (made from - sugar!)
Various vitamin and mineral supplements

Do you begin to understand?  Leaving aside the glaring suppositions that a) we truly know all our nutritional requirements, and b) this is all of them; exactly where are the energy savings; if instead of humans directly consuming corn, wheat, oats, milk, meat, etc, etc, etc, - we still have to grow all those crops; then reduce the simple components to powder?  Powdering, I assure you, requires a great deal of energy input; as do all separation/ purification processes.  And- are we going to now grow grapes for their seed oils?  What do we do with the rest of the grape?  I'll bet they start using palm oil soon; much more available.

The kid is able to buy the powdered ingredients for cheap right now- because they are indeed all manufactured as part of industrial food processes, and "by products" of animal feed or brewing or cheese making.  So- ask yourself; how does it scale up?  Way, way, up: in order to make any difference to anything, according to their own arguments.  Demand for the powdered components would skyrocket- and so would the prices.

Soon - just as is the case right now with quinoa, the farmers growing the crops would be selling them to the wealthy for their powders, and be unable to afford, once again, to feed themselves from their own crops.

I have to say; this is obvious; and we know this.  And yet- the Polka Dot Gallows paths we're on continue to thrive.