Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
|A buncha 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 or VHEMT, pronounced "vehement", is a loosely knit movement that, as its name suggests, calls for a stop to human reproduction, which will eventually lead to human extinction. This movement argues, correctly, that humankind is responsible for causing tremendous environmental and ecological carnage. Their official motto is, "May we live long and die out."
It was founded in 1991 by Les U. Knight.
So far, there is no indication that the movement is going to be very successful.
VHEMT's base principle
It is no doubt that humans have had an impact on the environment and its living creatures especially within the last 200 years. With the coming of more environmentally conscious generations we are trying to amend what we have fucked up. However, according to VHEM, that is not enough as we need to allow earth to return to its non-human state by slowly stopping more humans to be created. Somehow this is seen as a 'natural' state despite the fact that human beings still evolved through natural processes on earth.
They also point out that we are currently the cause of a extinction level event which is true, however there are other groups that are encouraging more proactive ways of stopping this via trying to make the government pass tighter legislation in regards to both climate and preserving biodiversity. They claim that continuing to develop our societies and industries can result in more negative externalities, such as pollution and the continued consumption of animals. Although it seems that society is slowly heading in a greener direction, VHEM argues that at some point we could go back to environmentally destructive ways, they don't really give a reason how or why that would happen but the whole ideology is based on a pessimistic world view.
It could be argued that not reproducing is actually an altruistic choice as it will prevent future human suffering for people that didn't have a choice to come to into this world. This negates the possibility that the hypothetical future humans could have fulfilling and overall happy life or even the possibility that one of the hypothetical humans finds a magic solution for all world's problems. Very far fetched but it's a similar principle as the claim of this act being altruistic, either way no one knows whether the future people would have blissful or terrible lives so the claim itself is just a subjective hypothetical.
VHEMT Supporters and VHEMT Volunteers
The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement separates its followers into two groups, VHEMT Supporters and VHEMT Volunteers.
VHEMT Supporters agree that we need to stop breeding as humans are overpopulated, but do not agree we need to go as far as extinction. They believe we should all cease breeding until humans have reached a "sustainable" population. Meanwhile, VHEMT Volunteers see extinction as the only sure way to avoid breeding ourselves back to today’s density.
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 is gone, the world will apparently return to a "balanced state" and evolve more peacefully and naturally (because humans are the only mean animals).
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. Or the trilobites
- 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 asteroid 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.
- Moreover, why should only earthling humans go extinct? With the estimated billions of Earth-like planets in the Milky Way alone, there are doubtless millions of civilizations in various stages of development that are experiencing the same environmental challenges that humans are undergoing. Some sapient intelligence will need to stick around and spread this philosophy. It needn't be humans nor human-derived intelligences, but in absence of knowledge of other civilizations with space travel there's no reason why earthlings shouldn't spread their philosophy. Imagine if some Earth astronauts were able to catch a few pre-industrial civilizations making the transition and convince them to go voluntarily extinct. What's wrong with sacrificing with biosphere of the Earth (or the biosphere of some other planet if they develop the means to spread the tenets of the movement first) if it leads to hundreds of other saved planets? Is it okay to allow similar depredation of other Earth-like planets as long as the Earth gets theirs? Again, it's Earth-chauvinism.
- 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.
- Since the evolution of intelligence seems to have happened over hundreds of thousands of years (with several non-human species to this day close to or even exceeding the intelligence levels of proto-hominids humans came from), it would seem prudent for human beings to arrange for the elimination of several species on the cusp of intelligence, otherwise the planet will be in the same state in shockingly little geological time. Unfortunately, it raises the question of how much time the planet is buying. Rendering extinct all of the, say, dolphins, corvids, primates, etc. may only buy the planet an extra hundred thousand years, but eliminating any form of terrestrial life along with the smarter sea creatures may buy the planet a few ten million years.
- 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 that 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?
- That humans have been the only organisms to cause mass extinction. The first mass extinction on Earth was the Great Oxidation Event, which was caused by (overpopulation of) cyanobacteria 2-2.4 billion years ago when the cyanobacteria created oxygen as a waste product in such large amounts that no process could take the oxygen out of the atmosphere. The process likely eventually gave rise to the evolution of eukaryotes.
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.
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. Furthermore, human civilization 1.0 has already depleted the planet of quite a few useful resources, most crucially fossil fuels. These recover extremely slowly if at all, and if another civilization is formed as a result of the great apes evolving another intelligent being in a few million years, not at all unlikely, this new civilization would likely be stuck in the early industrial era for a long time, and would probably drive sperm whales extinct to steal their oil, since the only oil in the ground would be unusable or buried at inaccessible depths, and the likely result is that civilization 2.0 would be even more ecologically devastating than ours.
In essence, this is just the Christian idea of a fallen world, with humans cast as the Satan figure who must be vanquished before there can be a return to paradise. It's quite an apt comparison especially considering that Knight himself compared the then 'natural' state of earth to the Garden of Eden. The minor 'Sun is going to explode eventually' issue kind of torpedoes the whole thing.
Efilism (life spelled backwards) is an offshoot of the VHEMT which not only argues that humans should not only bring about their own extinction by not reproducing, but that the last humans left alive should deliberately cause a mass extinction event that would result in the extinction of all sentient life, in order to prevent the suffering that inevitably affects all sentient animals, whether from hunger, being eaten alive or otherwise attacked by other animals, cold, thirst, disease or any other cause.
- Voluntary Human Extinction Movement's official website.
- "RationalWiki of VHEMT" - The official response to our article, circa May, 2012.
- How about a day to celebrate people who choose not to reproduce? (Video link.)
- Homo sapiens entry on the IUCN Red List
- 35 Environmental Organizations and Nonprofits For a Sustainable Future (List and Ways You Can Get Involved)
- "As long as there's one breeding couple," he says cheerfully, "we're in danger of being right back here again. Wherever humans live, not much else lives. It isn't that we're evil and want to kill everything -- it's just how we live. - GREEN Maybe None / Is having a child -- even one -- environmentally destructive?"
- "The last humans could enjoy their final sunsets peacefully, knowing they have returned the planet as close as possible to the Garden of Eden." - Please refrain from procreating (archived)