Live long and die out: Stephen Jarvis encounters the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

THE Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (or VHEMT, pronounced Vehement) is the pressure group to end all pressure groups - literally. Organised around the slogan 'May we live long and die out', VHEMT, founded in 1991 by Les Knight, an American schoolteacher and ecological campaigner, is quite simply an organisation committed to the abolition of the human race.

In his movement's newsletter These Exit Times, Mr Knight, a resident of Portland, Oregon, provides a forum for likeminded readers sharing his desire for a world where animals can live without the threat of extinction - and where civilisation is finally silent. He says he came to this point of view in his early twenties: 'I looked at the world's problems and I traced them back to a primary source: homo sapiens. No matter how much we conserve, recycle, and eat low on the food chain, we have a huge and detrimental impact on nature.' He decided to have a vasectomy and then to embark upon his life's work: to persuade mankind to phase itself out.

Though Mr Knight is reticent about VHEMT's membership figures, he is convinced that his philosophy has a big potential following out there. He is encouraged by the letters received by These Exit Times (through which readers can also send off for VHEMT badges and 'Thank you for not breeding' bumper stickers.)

In a recent issue, one member writes: 'I've always felt more attuned to other species and somewhat uneasy about being a human.' Another claims:'As far as I'm concerned, the logic of VHEMT is airtight. A few years ago, I had a vision of mankind as a candle flame with the candle voluntarily slowly extinguishing itself and going out. I think this 'sacrifice' could be considered the greatest moral act that humanity could accomplish.'

The unconverted might see one or two problems here. There is, for example, the small matter of the basic human drive to reproduce. Mr Knight is sceptical. While he accepts the existence of sexual drive, he thinks the need for children is 'cultural conditioning', and that such desires could be channelled elsewhere: perhaps into gardening, adopting a stream, caring for old people, or by having a pet. (There is a strip cartoon in These Exit Times called Bonobo Baby: its heroine eschews motherhood, and decides to raise a bonobo, an endangered species of ape sharing 99 per cent of our genes.)

VHEMT members think that their goals can be achieved by a combination of universal contraception and will-power. 'But we know we'll never see the day ourselves when no human being lives on the planet - ours is a long-range goal.'

Mr Knight has a ready answer for questions most often asked by critics. Isn't there, for instance, something uniquely valuable and precious about the human race? 'We are certainly valuable to each other but the higher up the food chain, the less important the species.'

But if VHEMT is so concerned about preserving species, surely it should also be concerned about the preservation of man? 'It would be nice to preserve the human race, but we seem to be incompatible with the biosphere.'

What about the accomplishments of the human race? How about art and science? 'Yes, but with the human race gone, we wouldn't use them. And it bothers me more that with us around there will soon be no more large mammalian carnivores. The plays of Shakespeare and the work of Einstein can't hold a candle to a tiger.'

Mr Knight has got the answer to the billion-dollar question before you ask it. 'It has been suggested that there are only two chances of everyone volunteering to be VHEMT: slim and none. The odds may be against us, but the decision to live long and die out is still the morally correct one.'

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

    £21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent