Chapter 2

Synthetica, the utopian dream

The Twentieth Century Dawns 1900

‘Synthetica’ a fictional map from Fortune mag 1940, captures the excitement of a new era,  a hi-tech plastic world, a modernity forged at the cutting edge of industrial chemistry.  The world will never look the same again. This chapter explore the idea that plastic could herald the end of poverty and bring an era of true democracy through making consumable items more affordable. The time of relying on materials derived from animals is over and natures larder will be left untouched.


Libretto (extended version)

Arise Synthetica, our fourth Kingdom. On this broad continent of plastics, the countries march right out of the natural worlds – that wild area of firs and rubber plantations – into the illimitable world of the molecule.  It's a world boxed only by the cardinal points of the chemical compass - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, ... It floats upon the Sea of Glass, one of the oldest plastics known to man. New countries, like Melamine, constantly bulge from its coastline.  The Alkyd country, a great swamp of bright impervious plastic paints, great chemical river systems like Acetylene, ...  Rayon is a plastic island off the cellulose coast, with a glittering night life. The state of Urea, more frivolous, colour loving. The Crystal Mountains of Acrylic run down into the Crystal Hills of Styrene.  Phenolic fed by the Formaldehyde River: Capital; Bakelite ruled by Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation.  

In this, our fourth Kingdom, we will walk the streets at night illuminated to the brightness of daylight, flooded with changing colours, to the accompaniment of symphonic music, synthetically produced by the blending of electronic waves. Arise Synthetica


'You the poor shall also consume

Abundance beyond your wildest dreams’

In our Fourth Kingdom all the colours of the rainbow

Will be spread across the world.

Light in the dark street,


And music, symphonic music, ever in the air

The Fourth Kingdom is a victory of synthesis over extraction

A city of curves and streamlines

Of sweep and rounded beauty

A permanence uncorrupted by rot or corrosion

Pressed, squeezed, rolled, drawn out, cast and carved

All things Bright and Beautiful

We will no longer pilfer and pillage, ransack the earth but produce

Nature’s larder will be left untouched

Grained ivory, turtle shell, amber, horn,

mother of pearl, coral, the lac beetle

ebony, mahogany and oak,

the whale swims in the blue ocean

the elephant runs free

the leatherback turtle saved

Beyond vegetable, animal or mineral...

From the great carbon river of life

Our fourth kingdom


Whose boundaries are unlimited.