The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

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When I stumbled across this Wikipedia article I though this sounds like a brilliant idea! Who wants to join?

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT) is an environmental movement that calls for all people to abstain from reproduction in order to bring about the gradual voluntary extinction of humankind.

VHEMT was founded in 1991 by Les U. Knight, an American activist who became involved in the environmental movement of the 1970s and thereafter concluded that human extinction was the best solution to the problems facing the Earth’s biosphere and humanity.

After coming to this conclusion, he joined the Zero Population Growth organisation and chose to be vasectomised at age 25.

Knight believes that Earth’s non-human organisms have a higher overall value than humans and their accomplishments, such as art: “The plays of Shakespeare and the work of Einstein can’t hold a candle to a tiger”. He argues that species higher in the food chain are less important than lower species.

Followers of VHEMT see abstinence from reproduction as an altruistic choice – a way to prevent involuntary human suffering – and cite the deaths of children from preventable causes as an example of needless suffering. They claim that non-reproduction would eventually allow humans to lead idyllic lifestyles in an environment comparable to the Garden of Eden, and maintain that the last remaining humans would be proud of their accomplishment. Other benefits of ceasing human reproduction include the end of abortion, war, and starvation. Knight argues that “procreation today is de facto child abuse”. He maintains that the standard of human life will worsen if resources are consumed by a growing population rather than spent solving existing issues.




VHEMT promotes a more extreme ideology than Population Action International, a group that argues humanity should reduce—but not eliminate—its population to care for the Earth. However, the VHEMT platform is more moderate and serious than the Church of Euthanasia, which advocates population reduction by suicide and cannibalism.

At The Guardian’s website, Guy Dammann applauds the movement’s aim as “in many ways laudable”, but argues that it is absurd to believe that humans will voluntarily seek extinction. Freelance writer Abby O’Reilly writes that since having children is frequently viewed as a measure of success, VHEMT’s goal is difficult to attain. Knight contends in response to these arguments that though sexual desire is natural, human desire for children is a product of enculturation.

The Economist characterizes Knight’s claim that voluntary human extinction is advisable due to limited resources as “Malthusian bosh”. The paper further states that compassion for the planet does not necessarily require the pursuit of human extinction.

Brian Bethune writes in Maclean’s that Knight’s logic is “as absurd as it’s unassailable”. However, he doubts Knight’s claim that the last survivors of the human race would have pleasant lives and suspects that a “collective loss of the will to live” would prevail.



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In between dealing with all things technological in the Dabbler engine room, Worm writes the weekly Wikiworm column every Saturday and our monthly Book Club newsletters.

7 thoughts on “The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

    September 21, 2013 at 10:48

    … Knight’s logic is “as absurd as it’s unassailable”.

    Ironically, this can also be said about its incompatible counterpart–transhumanism. Proponents of both are often extremely bright and learned, but of course they are also out of their minds. They are poster children for the looniness that results when brilliant minds try to explain the human condition using their well-honed logic and rational materialism. One starts from from the metaphysical axiom that life sucks and the other that death does. As most people will fairly readily agree with both, they soon have you in the grip of their logical magical kingdoms and so gasping for air as you are showered with their clever deductions and syllogisms that you forget you also believe the opposite at the same time.

    I am grateful to them both for helping me understand just what the early Old Testament is and is not trying to say.

    September 21, 2013 at 11:31

    The clash of banners would be interesting.. “ban the bonk” versus “save the shag.” The Liberals would demand free erection-free zones for the unemployed, Mothercare shareholders and, oh, well, just everybody really. Scriptwriters working on the next series of The Wire would be lost for words.

    An intriguing idea, applied long ago we would be living in a world free of that Korean twerp, Kirsty Wark and Jeremy Vine, and us of course.

    How about selective VHEMT, we can breed, but not them, Onkel Addie had the idea first, sitting there in his little Hütte, looking down on Salzburg.

      September 21, 2013 at 12:34

      Indeed, malty. The appeal of the idea rises sharply as one moves from the general to the specific.

        September 21, 2013 at 13:48

        Ha! That’s brilliant Peter

        September 23, 2013 at 10:19

        Peter, you know not that with which you subject me to…school day’s of yore, headmaster a G&S fanatic, demanding professional grade singing, boots the young malty off the team and downgrades him “to produce that year’s commemorative stained glass window,” from tenor to Fensterscheibe fettler, from das Lied to das lead poisoning.

    September 21, 2013 at 22:55

    This looks like a spoof of David Attenborough’s Population Matters movement – yet more proof that satire is now futile.

    Jeff Guinn
    September 22, 2013 at 19:49

    On current trends, Japan’s population will drop by 85% in the next 90 years.

    Europe won’t be far behind, and the Earth’s total population will be down to 3.5 billion by 2150.

    PAI is composed of people who would worry about drowning in a desert.

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