According to projections from the United Nations in 2007, human population by 2050 could be at around 8, 9, or 11 billion worldwide depending on low, median, or high birth rates, respectively. But if fertility continues at a “Constant” pace, then the number would be closer to 12 billion of us by mid-century.1
So instead of saying humans are breeding like rabbits, we might as well just say that humans are breeding like humans! And you thought traffic was bad now!
Mother Earth is working so hard to support us along with all her other children. Some people have decided to address our bunny-like birth rate through other measures than simply hoping Mom will get another job. Some people are getting vehement about population control.
One cohort of such folks is the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, or VHEMT, founded by Les U. Knight. Its mission, if not obvious enough in the movement’s name, comes across pretty clearly in its motto: “May we live long and die out.”2
VHEMT’s basic perspective on human population and sustainability is that Earth would be better off without so many of us…indeed, without any of us. “Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed,” the website states, “will allow Earth’s biosphere to return to good health. Crowded conditions and resource shortages will improve as we become less dense.”
Now, I know you may be frowning, scowling, laughing, or scrunching your brow in confusion at this point. At the very least, you may be skeptical about the seriousness or the intent of VHEMT and its idea of “human extinction.”
But VHEMT is not a suicide cult, nor does it advocate actually killing human beings–either on a small or a large scale; Charles Manson, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin are not VHEMT icons or anything. VHEMT does not celebrate (human) death as a problem solver for the planet’s woes. Nor is it a bunch of old Scrooges who hate babies.
VHEMT shows itself to be quite sensible and sensitive, not extremist or monomaniacal, in its extensive question-and-answer style discussion of issues such as child birth, ecology, economics, politics, religion, and even science fiction, to name a few. The gist is that participants “vehemently” volunteer not to have any children. They choose to live sustainably by not adding to the number of humans living on planet Earth, now and into the future.
At the highest level of involvement, a VHEMT “Volunteer” lives by the following motto: “All of us should voluntarily refrain from reproducing further, bringing about the eventual extinction of Homo sapiens.”3 For the Volunteer, then, the ultimate goal is gradually getting human population to zero.
If utter extinction seems a bit much for you, then you might choose instead to be a VHEMT “Supporter” and adopt the following perspective: “Intentional creation of one more of us by any of us is unjustifiable at this time, but extinction of our species goes too far.” As a Supporter, you would agree to nix the baby making but without wanting to nix humanity completely.
Whatever the movement’s greater merit, at least VHEMT helps to bring ever more awareness to the very serious issue of human population growth and what we can do to address it. Even if you decide not to take part (in spirit or as a vehement VHEMT member), you might choose to limit your family to only one child and no more. Or maybe you could give the gift of a family to a needy child through adoption rather than reproduction.
Personally, I am not convinced that humanity should be extinct. For better and for worse, even we often problematic children are still children of Mother Earth; we are part of the biosphere and contribute to the biodiversity of life (planetary and universal). We do have a right to live…but also to let live.
Still, unless we take serious action, in developing and developed countries alike, our numbers will keep growing, and growing, and growing, and growing…. And in our case the more is not always the merrier for planet Earth.
Image credit: Nina Paley, colored by Aaron Hackmann.
See also: The Case of the Missing Humans: Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us.
1. United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population
Division. “World Population Prospects: The 2006 Revision, Highlights.” Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP.202. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2007. 1. 20 August 2008 <http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/wpp2006/WPP2006_Highlights_rev.pdf>.
2. The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. 1996-2007. 20 August 2008 <www.vhemt.org>.
3. “How to Join VHEMT.” The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. 1996-2007. 20 August 2008 <www.vhemt.org/join.htm>.
What do you think about VHEMT and the idea of “human extinction.” Is it just a sick joke, or might there be some merit in the movement? Does human extinction seem to extreme for you? Do you even agree at all with the basic belief that human population is getting out of control…or that it matters for the environment? Have you thought of some other ways to address population issues and the environment?