originally published March 27, 2014
You know what’s wrong with the world today?
I’m not talking about their slimy little running noses, their unmitigated X-box apathy or the horrific Beiberfication of what was once a proud, noble, Huey-Lewis-worthy pop culture. No, it’s their very existence that’s dragging us down, the fact that two people bumped groin-toys and spurted yet another savage, eco-thrashing soul upon our poor beleaguered planet.
Such is the philosophy of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, also known as VHEMT (the ‘T’ at the end only exists so they can call themselves ‘vehement’, which apparently they are). Where other environmentalist organizations seek to reduce pollution, VHEMT aims to reduce polluters. Where Greenpeace strives to protect endangered species, VHEMT wants us to become endangered. Voluntarily.
Don’t confuse these folks with those pansy-ass moderates who merely seek to lower the planet’s population through families having fewer kids or some other half-measure. Humans are the scourge of the earth, and this group feels that our best bet is to wipe ourselves out completely. Not through war or disease or a collective sprint off the crusty cliffs of the Grand Canyon, but rather via a (sort of) natural extinction.
This is Les U. Knight. Les was a part of the environmentalist movement a couple decades before it was trendy and corporate-sponsored. After watching the relative disinterest in planet-saving throughout the 70’s and 80’s, Les launched VHEMT in 1991, deciding a more completist solution was necessary. He’s not asking for a massive genocide or for government-mandated sterilization. Les simply hopes we can all agree to sheath our testicular might and stop having babies.
He’s not a hypocrite; Les put his vas deferens where his mouth is. Well, not literally – the guy is no contortionist – but Les underwent a vasectomy when he was 25. On the VHEMT website (which boasts the proud retro look of a Geocities-era manifesto), Les offers a counterargument to any reason you might want to have a kid. Want to give your parents some grandkids? You’ve got approval-seeking issues. Want someone to carry on your family name? Make a piece of art. Want to see a miniature version of yourself? Get an anatomically correct RealDoll and lose your damn ego.
Les can’t be swayed by the great artistic, architectural or intellectual accomplishments by humankind. Part of his philosophy stems from the notion of deep ecology, in which the value of any organism is judged not by its value to humanity but rather by its overall interaction with the planet’s ecosystems. Needless to say, humans don’t score too highly on that scale. With so many species threatened by our very existence, how could we not offer to step aside and let nature take its course? Well, the rest of nature anyway.
Les’s vision for a non-reproductive future concludes with a pastoral, Garden of Eden-type scenario in which the youth of today – the saggy old people of tomorrow – can peacefully bid adieu to our species as a glorious and triumphant nature takes over. There would be no more war, no more starvation, and those last few folks would be proud of our final accomplishment. It all sounds quite lovely, at least until you pull a tiny thread of doubt and marvel at how magnificently the Les’s entire argument unravels.
Humankind’s last few days would be less than idyllic. Let’s put aside the obvious bias here – as Les and his contemporary VHEMT’ers grow old, the youngest of the population would still be able to maintain hospital facilities, produce medicines and operate our modern sanitation and water treatment systems. The anti-breeders would scootch into the afterlife without witnessing the true catastrophic nature of society’s collapse. I’ve seen how people react when a nearby Starbucks closes down – I can only imagine how billions of people will respond to having to hunt and gather their own food once the framework of society falls apart. I can also imagine that some of nature’s hungrier carnivores would be happy to swoop in and conquer once the numbers were in their favor.
Let’s not forget that the non-interventionist efforts of the VHEMT would rely on the honor system. On everyone on the planet holding to that honor system and utilizing birth control or abstinence to keep any little mini-thems from popping out. We can’t even be relied upon to use our turn signals properly to change lanes or replace an empty toilet paper roll. There’s simply no way we will collectively agree to not have kids. This means either adjusting one’s stance to the more moderate shrink-the-populace position, or to haphazardly leap in the other direction.
Needless to say, I’m more interested in that other direction.
Welcome to the Church of Euthanasia. Launched near Boston by techno musician Chris Korda, this organization favors a more immediate response. Rather than reduce via not producing, the Church of Euthanasia believes we can achieve that optimum balance between humankind and our mother planet if a bunch of us would just hurry along the dying process. “Thou shalt not procreate” may be the church’s lone commandment, but they also stress four pillars of behavior: suicide, abortion, cannibalism and sodomy.
Let’s break this down. Much like the VHEMT, the Church of Euthanasia will not support murder, forced sterilization or any other bureaucratically-mandated measure. But if enough of us would graciously and courteously commit suicide, we could hit that natural balance easily. Abortion obviously jives with their people-eliminating perspective. Cannibalism is a bit odd, but Chris Korda is a strict vegetarian, so for him cannibalism would be an efficient way for meat-hungry folk to satisfy their needs, as long as their meal had already died of their own accord. “Sodomy” is Chris’s way of advocating any sex that is not intended for procreation, so this would include oral sex, anal sex, and presumably sex with inflatable furniture.
The church has drawn some significant opposition from Christian groups, given that all four of its pillars run afoul of traditional Christian values. That’s fine – let the Christians spend their energy fighting a wonky group like this and maybe they’ll shut up about how Modern Family is destroying America by depicting a pair of gay parents who aren’t spending the bulk of each episode being consumed by hell-fire.
I’m not going to throw my support behind the Church of Euthanasia – not because their fundamental beliefs are insane, and not because of their odd slogans (“Eat A Queer Fetus For Jesus” has an idiosyncratic ring of poetry to it). For a while their website had a how-to guide for killing yourself by inhaling helium, a guide that a St. Louis woman followed to the very end in 2003. But even that’s not the reason I want nothing to do with these crazy bastards. Shortly after 9/11, Korda uploaded a music video that combined images of the World Trade Center attacks with hardcore pornography, calling it “I Like To Watch”. Fuck these guys, that’s just classless.
That said, in honor of VHEMT, I will not be having any more children. I swear, it has nothing to do with not wanting to share my Xbox with another tiny person. Truly.