Swedish scientist advocates eating humans to combat climate change

A scientist in Sweden makes a controversial presentation at a future of food conference.

  • A behavioral scientist from Sweden thinks cannibalism of corpses will become necessary due to effects of climate change.
  • He made the controversial presentation to Swedish TV during a "Future of Food" conference in Stockholm.
  • The scientist acknowledges the many taboos this idea would have to overcome.


Is it Halloween already? A Swedish scientist has caused a stir by advocating that in order to stem the ill effects of climate changes, humans need to start eating each other. Of course, he's not calling for all-out cannibalism like it used to be practiced throughout history. Rather he thinks that if we just get over some very obvious taboos, we might consider eating human corpses.

While talking about the Gastro Summit focused on "food on the future" on Swedish TV, the behavioral scientist and marketing strategist Magnus Söderlund from the Stockholm School of Economics proposed that in order to truly take on the effects of climate change, we must "awake the idea" that eating human flesh should be discussed as an option in the future.

Söderlund used his tv interview on the State Swedish Television channel TV4 to give a powerpoint presentation entitled "Can you Imagine Eating Human Flesh?" It included such topics as "Is Cannibalism the solution to food sustainability in the future?" and "Are we humans too selfish to live sustainably?"

Depiction of cannibalism in the Medieval ages.

Public Domain

The scientist acknowledged the "conservative" taboos that exist from ancient times against consuming human flesh and sees that as the main impediment to the spread of this idea. On the other hand, Söderlund argued our future food sources would likely be getting more and more scarce. So people would have to think outside the box to get their sustenance, considering pets, insects like grasshoppers and worms. That's also where humans come in. The scientist thinks that if people were introduced to human flesh little by little, there'd be enough takers.

The resistance that humans have to overcome in order to consider other humans food is linked to selfishness, according to the scientist. But as an expert in behaviors, he thinks that people can ultimately be "tricked" into "making the right decisions".

Indeed, after Söderlund's presentation, 8% of the audience raised their hands when asked if they would be willing to try human flesh. The scientist himself is also open to "at least tasting it."

And if you're still not squeamish enough about this whole enterprise, there is a term to take out of this article, called "mannisko-kötts branschen". That means "the human flesh industry". Let's hope it's not really coming.

In the meantime, Söderlund plans to hold more seminars on his idea.

Check out this trailer for the Charlton Heston-starring classic "Soylent Green" (1973) for a Hollywood take on this gruesome subject:

Soylent Green (1973) Official Trailer - Charlton Heston, Edward G Robinson Movie HD

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Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
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It looks like a busy hurricane season ahead. Probably.

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Surprising Science
  • Before the hurricane season even started in 2020, Arthur and Bertha had already blown through, and Cristobal may be brewing right now.
  • Weather forecasters see signs of a rough season ahead, with just a couple of reasons why maybe not.
  • Where's an El Niño when you need one?

Welcome to Hurricane Season 2020. 2020, of course, scoffs at this calendric event much as it has everything else that's normal — meteorologists have already used up the year's A and B storm names before we even got here. And while early storms don't necessarily mean a bruising season ahead, forecasters expect an active season this year. Maybe storms will blow away the murder hornets and 13-year locusts we had planned.

NOAA expects a busy season

According to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, an agency of the National Weather Service, there's a 60 percent chance that we're embarking upon a season with more storms than normal. There does, however, remain a 30 percent it'll be normal. Better than usual? Unlikely: Just a 10 percent chance.

Where a normal hurricane season has an average of 12 named storms, 6 of which become hurricanes and 3 of which are major hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center reckons we're on track for 13 to 29 storms, 6 to 10 of which will become hurricanes, and 3 to 6 of these will be category 3, 4, or 5, packing winds of 111 mph or higher.

What has forecasters concerned are two factors in particular.

This year's El Niño ("Little Boy") looks to be more of a La Niña ("Little Girl"). The two conditions are part of what's called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which describes temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific. With an El Niño, waters in the Pacific are unusually warm, whereas a La Niña means unusually cool waters. NOAA says that an El Niño can suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic, and this year that mitigating effect is unlikely to be present.

Second, current conditions in the Atlantic and Caribbean suggest a fertile hurricane environment:

  • The ocean there is warmer than usual.
  • There's reduced vertical wind shear.
  • Atlantic tropical trade winds are weak.
  • There have been strong West African monsoons this year.

Here's NOAA's video laying out their forecast:

But wait.

ArsTechnica spoke to hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, who agrees generally with NOAA, saying, "All in all, signs are certainly pointing towards an active season." Still, he notes a couple of signals that contradict that worrying outlook.

First off, Klotzbach notes that the surest sign of a rough hurricane season is when its earliest storms form in the deep tropics south of 25°N and east of the Lesser Antilles. "When you get storm formations here prior to June 1, it's typically a harbinger of an extremely active season." Fortunately, this year's hurricanes Arthur and Bertha, as well as the maybe-imminent Cristobal, formed outside this region. So there's that.

Second, Klotzbach notes that the correlation between early storm activity and a season's number of storms and intensities, is actually slightly negative. So while statistical connections aren't strongly predictive, there's at least some reason to think these early storms may augur an easy season ahead.

Image source: NOAA

Batten down the hatches early

If 2020's taught us anything, it's how to juggle multiple crises at once, and layering an active hurricane season on top of SARS-CoV-2 — not to mention everything else — poses a special challenge. Warns Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross, "As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season." If, as many medical experts expect, we're forced back into quarantine by additional coronavirus waves, the oceanic waves slamming against our shores will best be met by storm preparations put in place in a less last-minute fashion than usual.

Ross adds, "Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe."

Let's hope this, at least, can be counted on in this crazy year.

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