“The intentional creation of any one more human cannot be justified,” says Les Knight, founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

The mission of the VHEMT (pronounced vehement) movement is simple: convince mankind to stop breeding so the Earth can be brought back to its former glory. Its motto: “May we live long and die out.”

image - VHEMT sticker

The concept seems simultaneously novel and timeless. Plenty of people have come to the conclusion that the Earth would be better off without humans. Plenty of people already have zero intention of continuing to overcrowd this dumpster fire of a planet by pooping out a couple more kids.

That’s why Knight doesn’t necessarily consider himself a “founder.”  “I just gave the idea a name,” he told us.

Since its founding over 20 years ago, both the name and the idea it represents has resonated with tons of supporters. Death metal bands have written songs about VHEMT. VHEMT members have gotten tattoos.

photo - VHEMT tattoo

Almost all of us have found ourselves some time suffocating in a sea of humans, wishing for the blessings of a plague or nuclear war. Knight’s movement isn’t those misanthropic thoughts come to life. It’s a peaceful, totally voluntary answer to the biggest threat on Earth — we’re having too many damn children.

According to Knight, the havoc humans have been wreaking on Earth can only be stopped if we slowly phase ourselves out. The wildlife we destroy, the world hunger we can’t fix, the countless children that die each day of preventable causes, should be enough evidence to convince anyone to light up the "no" on the vacancy sign.

“Our advances are not keeping up with our increased population,” Knight says. He wonders, wouldn’t we be better suited taking care of all the humans who are already here, rather than creating new ones?

“Procreation today is the ultimate act of denial about the state of the world and the direction we’re going,” he says.

Of course, the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement has plenty of opponents. The barrage of arguments against VHEMT almost never ends: “People are going to have sex, you can’t stop that;” “It’s a human instinct to breed;” “Some of us should reproduce because we’re better than others;” “Humans are a part of Nature;” and so on. Knight has shot down every assertion.

He’s even gotten hate mail and death threats. “Probably the most frequent question I’m asked is, ‘If you think humans are so bad, why don’t you kill yourself?’” he says. But death is not the solution.

“Before I’d even hit the ground, 2.5 people would replace me. It’d be like trying to bail out a sinking boat without plugging the leak,” he insists. People are flooding in twice as fast as they’re bailing out.

logo - VHEMT

Rather than retroactive birth control, we’ll have to plug the leak at its source — your genitals. The biggest obstacle to actually doing that, Knight says, is natalism, our societal infatuation with child-bearing and parenthood.

“People have to overcome some really serious cultural conditioning to accept the idea that they don’t want children,” he says. “Natalism is really powerful. We embrace the concept that procreation is good without qualification. We don’t even need to ask why.”

Knight points out, if you say you’re not going to have a baby, people say, “Oh no, why not?!” If you say you are going to have a baby, they say “Congratulations!!”

Women who decide not to have babies are belittled, considered selfish or called "shallow" and "self-absorbed cat ladies,” when ironically, the self-obsessed choice is actually having children.

All too often, people just want to see their features on the face of a little human. They want a mirror image to admire themselves in. So they give birth to a hybrid of themselves and their partner, despite all the overcrowding and disease and depleted resources we’re already facing, and somehow call themselves selfless.

It’s also a bit short-sighted, Knight points out, “we’re not just having children … We’re having adults.”

Knight doesn’t mean to villainize people with kids, of course. “They’re just victims of natalist propaganda,” he says.

If you can rise above the natalist narrative and resist the egotistical need to spread your seed,  the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is simple to join, because being VHEMT is a state of mind.

“If you agree that we should stop procreating to save planet Earth, you’re already a member,” Knight says. He estimates VHEMT has millions of members — although they’ve never heard of VHEMT, so they just don’t know it yet.

illustration - Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

[originally published March 14, 2018]