In doing some casual research for my as yet titled and written novel, I came upon a most interesting movement called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT – pronounced vehement).
Now, it is no surprise that humankind has been instrumental in creating a lot of the problems we face today: extinction of certain animal species due to rapid urbanization or over-hunting, massive overuse of natural resources resulting in a change in Earth’s biosphere and its ability to repair itself, and a myriad of other activities causing climate change.
As our global population increases, so does our reliance on planetary resources. Everyday we are mining the world for resources. Resources that are finite. And depleting fast.
We have seen calls to explore a more sustainable approach in our daily lives, such as using renewable energy sources, and cutting down of unnecessary use of power. Every year, we observe Earth Hour by turning off our lights and power, and “celebrate” the sacrifice we’re making for Earth.
That’s 1 hour out of 8,765.81 hours in a year. What real difference does it make, if any? Sure, the concerts and ads drive awareness. But its a big leap from awareness to action.
VHEMT believes that the problems Earth is facing, is an overpopulation of destructive humans. And they believe that the only solution would be a gradual voluntary extinction of the human race by abstaining from reproduction.
Negative Population Growth, another organisation that’s advocating a gradual reduction of human population believes that an optimal world population stands at between 2 to 3 billion people. We are now at 7.
Q&A with Les U. Knight
Interested to know more, I reached out to Les U. Knight, founder of VHEMT for more insight via email. Below is the email exchange we had:
Qn 1) VHEMT started in 1991. Given the technological advancements over the years, and given Martian Rover Curiosity’s successful landing and a possible future scenario of inter-planetary human existence, does this change your beliefs somewhat, or has it strengthened your resolve to promote VHEMT’s beliefs? (One can argue that we can conceivably spread out the population over planets and maintain a healthy eco-system)
The first issue of These EXIT Times was published in 1991, beginning the spread of the VHEMT concept of not breeding until we’re extinct. I had arrived at this conclusion 20 years earlier, and I often hear from people around the planet who have independently done so as well. So, although the name was only attached to the philosophy in the late 1980s, the idea of a planet without humans dates back into antiquity.
The answer to the second part of your question may be found at: http://vhemt.org/scififantasy.htm#colonize
2) Having to push this concept of voluntary extinction over 20 odd years, would you say that the movement, or the concept in people, has in general grown? In other words, do you think you’re winning?
Each day, 367,400 potential VHEMT Volunteers are born, but The Movement isn’t increasing by that many so I have to admit we’re losing ground. However, the meme has spread and insinuated itself into many bodies of work. Awareness sometimes sweeps societies rapidly, shifting the paradigm radically. Communication has never been as easy as it is today, enabling new ideas a chance for acceptance or rejection in a greatly compressed time frame. Denial blocks consideration of conflicting ideas, impeding awareness growth.
3) At this point in time, with the global issues facing us, do you think Earth’s problems are still reversible, or have we gone past the point of any hope of helping Earth restore its resources?
This is a question every couple should ask themselves before creating a new human which will live in the future we are engineering. There are actually three questions. First, if we continue as we are, how likely is it that human existence will be adequately supported throughout their lifetime? Second, how likely is it that humanity will collectively make the changes needed to ensure that support? Finally, what odds of success would you require before gambling on a yet-to-be-conceived loved one’s future? If the first two are low and that last high, the choice should be obvious.
Species we’ve driven to extinction have certainly passed the point of no return, as have many ecosystems. Our overshoot of Earth’s carrying capacity is accelerating while that capacity is diminishing, primarily due to our redundant breeding. Human civilizations have always collapsed rather than stopping at a sustainable size, and this time it’s global. At this point, it’s a question of which will collapse first, civilization or Earth’s biosphere.
If our precarious global civilization collapses first, the biosphere will recover somewhat over thousands of years, while we rebuild on the ruins and have another try at the biosphere. If Earth’s biosphere collapses, our species, along with millions of others, will no longer exist.
Both of these horrific futures could be avoided if we would stop creating more ourselves and start undoing what we’ve done. A peaceful and bountiful world for all humanity could be achieved as we phase ourselves out. The chances of this happening are slim to none, which is all the more reason to avoid sentencing another of us to life.
4) If, in our lifetimes, we’re miraculously able to terraform Mars (or even the moon), and you’re given the opportunity to be among its first residents, would you?
No. Mental health is a challenge to maintain in those conditions. My modest backyard provides more pleasure than anything that could be created off planet.
What do you think of VHEMT’s ideals and philosophies? Do you think they are too extreme?
Either way, we have to admit, we’re seriously screwing with the Earth’s biosphere as it is, and something drastic has to be done, or we may be facing extinction as a species (or worse, as a planet) sooner than we think.
I’m a believer in course-correction. If we don’t take steps to return Earth to a level where we can all co-exist in a mutually beneficial way, Earth will take steps to return to that state. And I think we wouldn’t like Her way.
Still, not breeding us to extinction seems pretty impossible, as there’s just no way every human will approve of this concept. But cost of living may help a bit.
Right now, many developed nations are facing this issue (Singapore as well) of not replacing us fast enough. Isn’t that in a way what VHEMT wants as well? If the world governments were to set a decree that every couple sticks to having only 1 child (and over time, decreasing the world population), will it help solve the issue of overpopulation? (again a case of easier said than done)
Maybe it will, and hopefully, not too late to save the world.
Quick thought: If we do manage to inhabit and terra-form other planets, leaving Earth to die after ravishing it of resources, will we not become the monsters of our imaginations? Do we dare say “we come in peace” as we land on a new planet, ready to devour its resources?
Special thanks to Les, who replied my email very promptly. Check out VHEMT’s official site for more information on their ideals and beliefs.
Interesting read: The impact humans have on the world