Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

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A bunch of tree-huggers


Save the rainforests!
Watch that carbon footprint!
Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a... plague. And we... are the cure.
—Agent Smith, The Matrix

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is an "extinctionist" movement which advocates the self-extinction of humankind. This movement argues that humankind is responsible for ecological unbalance and the destruction of the global environment,[1] and believes that our planet's environment would be better off without humans.

So far, there is no indication that the movement is going to be very successful.[2]


[edit] Method Statement

The VHEM wants to get rid of humans to allow other species the chance to evolve to sentience and fuck things up in their own unique way.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement does not advocate murder or suicide: Instead it advocates non-reproduction (not birth control, no births whatsoever) so that human beings will eventually disappear. Once humanity has been and gone, the world will then return to a balanced state and evolve more peacefully and naturally.

[edit] Initial problems

While an interesting, though odd idea — see this very article's talk page for some idea of how controversial it is — it requires one important commitment: everybody would have to agree to it. That's not just everyone in a town, or everyone in your school (like a recycling program) or everyone in your country but everyone. All 7 billion people on the planet need to stop having babies.[3]

Other than the extreme improbability and questionable desirability of this occurring, another obvious drawback to this is that the population would age rapidly and clearly not be able to take care of itself. If you think socialism won't work when 25% of the population are pensioners, try any economics system when 90% of the population are pensioners... Rather than drifting off into a peaceful slumber to leave the world be, the human race would likely die a rather undignified death as its people fight and squabble their way into non-existence (this may or may not happen anyway).

There is also the problem that the most vociferous supporters of the philosophy would presumably disappear in one generation. In evolutionary terms they would be out-competed by the descendants of those who wanted to continue reproducing, which would rather seem to make the process a little pointless.

[edit] Primary assumptions

In order for human extinction to be beneficial to the planet in a long term sense, several assumptions must be made. If most or all of these turn out to be true, then indeed human extinction will be a benefit to the earth. These assumptions are:

  • That the human race is the primary, and possibly only, negative factor affecting the planet.
  • That the planet will return to "ecological balance" after humanity has disappeared.
  • That there's even such a thing as "ecological balance," and hence a genuine positive or negative way of describing environmental change. This is particularly important as the climate over the whole of geological time is in constant flux and what is "natural" and "normal" is a subjective opinion. Just ask the dinosaurs.
  • That the existence of humanity (or our actions) are somehow "unnatural." Or that any given state of the Earth can objectively be said to be better than any other given state.
  • Some ecological disaster independent of humans wouldn't wreck the planet anyway after our absence. It's kind of pointless for people to become voluntarily extinct if some big-ass meteor on a collision course with Earth appears in the next ten thousand years anyway. What if the ecological disaster can only be stopped by humans? Would you rather have the surface of the planet look like the area surrounding a swamp-parked meth lab in a rusty trailer (that still sucks) or like Venus? The dinosaurs could not be reached for comment on this.
  • This is a remarkably Earth-centric view of the environment; it may be possible in the next few hundred years for colonization and land cultivation to reach a point where we can build environments on places that didn't previously have them such as Mars. If the goal is really to boost the environment as opposed to the Earth it may be better in the long term (like the meteor example) to have some sapient species around to spread the green gospel so to speak, even at the cost of short-term damage.
  • That human beings or a portion of human beings can't just leave the planet or migrate to somewhere where there is no environment (i.e. the mantle of the earth) before the plan will yield results. If it will take 75 years for the human race to die off in enough numbers to 'heal' the planet but only 60 years to rush everyone off of the traditional biospheres in whiz-bang spaceships, what's the rush?
  • That another species won't evolve to intelligence and do the same to the planet at a later, post-human, date.
  • That humans will be the only sapient beings on the planet when the plan is adopted; for example, the creation of artificial intelligence. What good does it do if humans voluntarily go extinct but our petrol-consuming robot buddies decide to stick around?
  • That it is necessary to eliminate the entire human race to achieve their goals. Homo sapiens have been around for quite a while, but it's relatively recently that we've had such a big impact. Besides which, it seems to assume that primal, non-technological peoples (e.g. the Yanomami) are just as baleful as industrial civilizations; is it because modern civilization ultimately came from hunting-gathering in some way?

And fairly importantly:

  • That human extinction is the only solution of environmental problems. The possibility remains that the technology and inventiveness of homo sapiens may just yet save the day.

[edit] Conclusions

So far, it's not abundantly clear that these assumptions hold well enough to justify the extinction of the human species, even if it is voluntary and the practical considerations already discussed can be ironed out. Certainly the final factor - that voluntary extinction is the only solution of the issue - is far from proven. While so-called "magic bullet" technologies may not deliver, the changes that need to be made to human attitudes and actions to help the environment are well inside the realms of possibility. And if they're not, the human race will go extinct anyway so there is little point in coaxing it too early.

Other main factors are very subjective, the idea of human civilization as being "unnatural" or whether the Earth in a "natural" state is in fact better aren't easy questions to answer, and there may not even be a way to logically define a correct answer. Mass extinctions happen all the time by "natural" means, and if a "natural" extinction is defined as a species not being able to adapt quick enough to its surroundings via natural selection, then human impact on the planet is no more out of the ordinary than any asteroid impact. Similarly, the assumption that another species will arrive and build up a high level of environmentally-damaging technology is equally up in the air as an argument, you just cannot create a definitive and logically coherent answer.

In short, VHE is a very extreme solution and is by no means a practical or palatable one - it can easily be envisaged that more people would choose not to have children for their own, personal reasons than reasons of achieving VHE. If it was achieved, however, it would take thousands (if not millions) of years for human activity to be wiped completely away by the ravages of time and for the world to revert to the "natural" state claimed by supporters of human extinction. However, following human extinction, no sapient beings would be around to judge whether the planet is a barren wasteland or a dense jungle.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. Which is sorta correct, although large asteroids hurtling through the atmosphere and hitting the ground at 12 times the speed of sound aren't completely innocent.
  2. See the Homo sapiens entry on the IUCN Red List - yes, they bothered to make this page. Humans are officially "least concern" on the endangered species list.
  3. Well, to be fair, the threshold of win (whatever "win" means in this context) is somewhat lower than this argument suggests: reduction of the global human birth rate to below the replacement level of 2.1 offspring per mother, producing a gradual reduction in human population. A complete halt to reproduction is necessary only for termination of the human experiment in one generation, and we don't even need unanimous cooperation for that — the global nuclear arsenal will do just fine.
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