A blamer recently reminded me of the Voluntary Human Extinctionist Movement, and boy am I glad she did. Since discovering it a few years ago, it’s been one of my very favorite human extinctionist movements! Because I suffer from chemo-brain, my obstreperal lobe had temporarily misplaced it, but its impact on the Twisty Weltanschauung is undeniable; I crib ideas from it constantly, without even blinking. I am, in fact, a Voluntary Human Extinctionist myself. Maybe you are, too! The Voluntary Human Extinctionist Movement (VHEMT) isn’t even an organization, which is a great part of its appeal to us non-joiners. It’s a “state of mind.” All you have to do to get in on the action is not procreate.
In light of a remark I made in a recent post (in a smallish diatribe exhorting women to examine the patriarchal origins of motherhood, I blurted, almost as an afterthought, that women should just quit having babies), which remark sparked a bit of a culturally-conditioned flare-up, I thought it might be fun to revisit the Voluntary Human Extinctionist Movement (see an earlier post on this topic here).
The VHEMT manifesto is contained in a delightful website maintained since the late 90’s by an Oregon high school teacher named Les Knight. The gist of Les Knight’s argument is this: that the biosphere, for reasons of which we are all only too painfully aware but usually prefer not to dwell on too much, simply cannot sustain human beings in any way, shape or form; the only responsible action is to gracefully admit this and bail out now, through attrition, before we’ve completely obliterated what was once a pretty nice planet. As long as there remains a single breeding pair of humans, Knight avers, the danger of a destructo-human flare-up exists, so the only acceptable number of human inhabitants is zero.
The VHEMT site is chock full of A material. Among voluntary human extinctionist critiques of religion, culture, and politics, Knight lists every possible excuse a person might give for breeding, briefly exposes the flaws in their reasoning, and genially offers eco-friendly alternatives (adoption, therapy to address host of unresolved issues, environmental activism, hanging with existing kids, critical thinking, “be nice so that people will come to visit you in the home,” etc). Check this out:
Think there’s a biological imperative to reproduce? Think again! The biological imperative is actually to boink. Take a swig of your latte and reflect a moment. “If sex,” says Knight, “is an urge to procreate, then hunger’s an urge to defecate.” He then invokes bonobos, the dear man. And coyly points out that “institutions await those who cannot control their biological urges.”
Some of the other common breeding excuses Knight adroitly addresses:
Want to give our parents grandchildren.
I just love children.
I just love babies.
Pregnancy and childbirth are life experiences.
We want to create a life which embodies our love for each other.
I just want to.
Being a mother is a woman’s highest calling.
In response to that last one, Knight delightfully suggests that holding such a view means you’ve been “beguiled into believing compliance is noble free choice.” The exposure of which exact bogosity is pretty much the thrust of this entire blog. He actually gets it that reproductive freedom means the freedom not to reproduce (as opposed to the “freedom” to “choose” to reproduce, or, as it is more accurately described, state-sponsored coercion to reproduce). I just love this guy.
The most sobering aspect of Knight’s views is this: we’re going extinct, all righty, by hook or by crook. By not volunteering to “live long and die out,” the inevitable result will be our involuntary extinction.* The unthinkable suffering and despair that will obtain via the latter contingency makes the former much more appealing, unless you are a bloodless sociopath.
Knight’s position centers on the notion that there is inherent value — to, say, the millions of species that will not be destroyed by us, not to mention the 40,000 children under the age of 5 who won’t die every day from starvation and disease — in preserving the earth in a human-free state.** Certainly this is an idea we can all (except the bloodless sociopaths) get behind. We’re all romantics. We all dig nature. We appreciate rain forests and bonobos and sunsets on the beach. Does our “right” to reproduce trump all of nature’s right to exist? I mean, come on. We’ve had our shot, and we blew it. Next!
Of course, there are no guarantees that, once we’ve graciously stepped aside, some other, even more scourgeous, monomaniacal species won’t spring up in the vacuum and plunge the planet into a nuclear winter. Or that a comet won’t smash down on New Jersey and initiate a whole nother die-off. Or that a bunch of aliens won’t show up proffering deadly-pathogen-infected sexbots.
But at least then it wouldn’t be our fault.
And there’s always the possibility, remote though it may seem, that there might evolve some species whose constituents just sit around all day, contentedly pulsating, absorbing sunshine, not killing or raping or oppressing anybody at all.
Wait a second! That species already exists!
* This is more or less indisputable .
** Clearly, this whole preserve-the-earth thing is a justifiable and rewarding pursuit only if you assume there is some inherent value in life, period. But I think I’m not dangling too far out on a limb when I proceed on that assumption, since love of life is the implied penultimate interest of those who procreate.
I make no claims for the attitude of the cosmos generally toward life, but, based on personal experience, am inclined to believe that it is one of cool indifference.