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Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

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Title: Voluntary Human Extinction Movement  
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Subject: Antinatalism, Church of Euthanasia, Childfree, Human population control, Deep ecology
Collection: 1991 Establishments in Oregon, Antinatalism, Environmental Movements, Organizations Based in Portland, Oregon, Population Organizations
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Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
Motto May we live long and die out
Formation 1991
Type NGO
Les U. Knight
Website .orgvhemt

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT[upper-alpha 1]) is an environmental movement that calls for all people to abstain from reproduction to cause the gradual voluntary extinction of humankind. VHEMT supports human extinction primarily because, in the group's view, it would prevent environmental degradation. The group states that a decrease in the human population would prevent a significant amount of human-caused suffering. The extinctions of non-human species and the scarcity of resources required by humans are frequently cited by the group as evidence of the harm caused by human overpopulation.

VHEMT was founded in 1991 by Les U. Knight, an American activist who became involved in the environmental movement in the 1970s and thereafter concluded that human extinction was the best solution to the problems facing the Earth's biosphere and humanity. Knight publishes the group's newsletter and serves as its spokesman. Although the group is promoted by a website and represented at some environmental events, it relies heavily on coverage from outside media to spread its message. Many commentators view its platform as unacceptably extreme, though other writers have applauded VHEMT's perspective. In response to VHEMT, some journalists and academics have argued that humans can develop sustainable lifestyles or can reduce their population to sustainable levels. Others maintain that, whatever the merits of the idea, the human reproductive drive will prevent humankind from ever voluntarily seeking extinction.


  • History 1
  • Organization and promotion 2
  • Ideology 3
  • Reception 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement was founded by Les U. Knight,[2][3][upper-alpha 2] a high school substitute teacher who lives in

  • The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
  • Voluntary Human Extinction Movement blog (U.S.), (India)
  • Les U. Knight's profile at
  • Focus Earth: No More Children. Planet Green Videos. Discovery Communications.  (An interview with Les U. Knight)
  • Taking on the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. 

External links

  • Adams, Guy (April 19, 2007), "How to save the planet: According to some eco-extremists, the only way to really make a difference is to stop breeding and let the human race die out.",  
  • Hymas, Lisa (July 19, 2010), "Want to join the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement?",  
  • Anti-People Group Pushes for Man's Extinction,  

Further reading

  • Ellis, Richard J. (1998). The Dark Side of the Left: Illiberal Egalitarianism in America. University Press of Kansas.  
  • Ormrod, James S. (2011). "'Making room for the tigers and the polar bears': Biography, phantasy and ideology in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement". Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 16 (2): 142–61.  


  1. ^ Pesca, Mike (May 12, 2006). "All Choked Up". NPR. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Sui genocide". The Economist. December 17, 1998. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Jarvis, Stephen (April 24, 1994). "Live long and die out: Stephen Jarvis encounters the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement". The Independent. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Personal information about Les U. Knight". The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Retrieved March 23, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dicum, Gregory (November 16, 2005). "Maybe None". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  6. ^ Ormrod 2011, p. 142.
  7. ^ "Sites answer 300 million questions". Barre Montpelier Times Argus. October 22, 2006. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Ormrod 2011, p. 143.
  9. ^ a b c Weisman 2010, p. 310.
  10. ^ a b "Symbolism of the logo for the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement". Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Retrieved January 22, 2012. 
  11. ^ Ormrod 2011, pp. 142–3.
  12. ^ a b c d "Anti-People Group Pushes for Man's Extinction". July 29, 2001. Retrieved February 19, 2012. 
  13. ^ "About The Movement — When and how did VHEMT start?". The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Retrieved January 23, 2012. 
  14. ^ "How to join VHEMT". The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. Retrieved January 28, 2012. 
  15. ^ "SUCCESS". Voluntary Human Extinction Movement Website. 
  16. ^ a b c d Keck, Kristi (October 5, 2007). "Earth a gracious host to billions, but can she take many more?". CNN Technology. Retrieved January 27, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b Savory, Eve (September 4, 2008). "VHEMT: The case against humans". CBC News. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  18. ^ a b Buarque, Daniel (October 31, 2011). "Cada pessoa nova é um fardo para o planeta, diz movimento da extinção" [Every new person is a burden on the planet, says the extinction movement]. Organizações Globo (in Portuguese). Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c d Ormrod 2011, p. 158.
  20. ^ "Breeding to Death". New Scientist. May 15, 1999. p. 19.  (subscription required)
  21. ^ a b c d e Bethune, Brian (August 6, 2007). "Please refrain from procreating". Maclean's. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  22. ^ Weisman 2010, p. 312.
  23. ^ Ellis 1998, p. 267.
  24. ^ Ellis 1998, p. 382–3.
  25. ^ Dammann, Guy (December 28, 2008). "Am I fit to breed?". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  26. ^ O'Reilly, Abby (November 24, 2007). "No more babies, please". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  27. ^ Furedi, Frank (September 12, 2007). "Environmentalism". Spiked. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  28. ^ a b Appleton, Josie (July 20, 2007). "Unleashing nature’s terror". Spiked. Retrieved March 9, 2012. 
  29. ^ Mieszkowski, Katharine (November 16, 2005). "No need to breed?". Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  30. ^ Carmen Dell'Aversano (2010). "The Love Whose Name Cannot be Spoken: Queering the Human–Animal Bond" (PDF). Journal for Critical Animal Studies VIII (1/2): 73–126. Retrieved February 25, 2012. 
  31. ^ Burkeman, Oliver (February 12, 2010). "Climate change: calling planet birth". The Guardian. Retrieved January 7, 2012. 
  32. ^ Best & Kellner 2001, p. 268–9.


  1. ^ VHEMT is pronounced "vehement",[1] because, according to Knight, that is what they are.[2]
  2. ^ Knight denies that he is the founder, saying that "I’m not the founder of VHEMT, I just gave it a name."[4]
  3. ^ VHEMT states that the inverted Earth represents the radical shift in human direction the movement seeks, and notes that upside down emblems are often used as symbols of distress.[10]
  4. ^ On its website, VHEMT characterizes the participants in its movement as "volunteer", "supporter", or "undecided", each of whom share an interest in a reduction in the rate of human births.[14]


See also

Although Knight's organization has been featured in a book titled Kooks: A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief,[2] The Guardian journalist Oliver Burkeman notes that in a phone conversation Knight seems "rather sane and self-deprecating".[31] Weisman echoes this sentiment, characterizing Knight as "thoughtful, soft-spoken, articulate, and quite serious".[28] Philosophers Steven Best and Douglas Kellner view VHEMT's stance as extreme, but they note that the movement formed in response to extreme stances found in "modern humanism".[32]

Katharine Mieszkowski of recommends that childless people adopt VHEMT's arguments when facing "probing questions" about their childlessness.[29] Writing in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies, Carmen Dell'Aversano notes that VHEMT seeks to renounce children as a symbol of perpetual human progress. She casts the movement as a form of "queer oppositional politics" because it rejects perpetual reproduction as a form of motivation. She argues that the movement seeks to come to a new definition of "civil order", as Lee Edelman suggested that queer theory should. Dell'Aversano believes that VHEMT fulfills Edelman's mandate because they embody the death drive rather than ideas that focus on the reproduction of the past.[30]

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.[21] In response to Knight's platform, journalist Sheldon Richman argues that humans are "active agents" and can change their behavior. He contends that people are capable of solving the problems facing Earth.[16] Alan Weisman, author of The World Without Us, suggests a limit of one child per family as a preferable alternative to abstinence from reproduction.[21]

The [27] Writing in Spiked, Josie Appleton argues that the group is indifferent to humanity, rather than "anti-human".[28]

Reception of Knight's idea in the mainstream media has been mixed. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gregory Dicum states that there is an "undeniable logic" to VHEMT's arguments, but he doubts whether Knight's ideas can succeed, arguing that many people desire to have children and cannot be dissuaded.[5] Stephen Jarvis echoes this skepticism in The Independent, noting that VHEMT faces great difficulty owing to the basic human reproductive drive.[3] 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.[25] 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.[26] Knight contends in response to these arguments that though sexual desire is natural, human desire for children is a product of enculturation.[3]

Knight states his group's ideology runs counter to contemporary society's natalism. He believes this pressure has stopped many people from supporting, or even discussing, population control.[5] He admits that his group is unlikely to succeed, but contends that attempting to reduce the Earth's population is the only moral option.[3]


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.[12][21] The 1995 survey found that 36% considered themselves members of Earth First! or had donated to the group in the previous five years.[24]

VHEMT rejects government-mandated human population control programs in favor of voluntary population reduction,[2] supporting only the use of birth control and willpower to prevent pregnancies.[3] Knight states that coercive tactics are unlikely to permanently lower the human population, citing the fact that humanity has survived catastrophic wars, famines, and viruses.[9] Though their newsletter's name recalls the suicide manual Final Exit,[17] the idea of mass suicide is rejected,[18] and they have adopted the slogan "May we live long and die out".[5] A 1995 survey of VHEMT members found that a majority of them felt a strong moral obligation to protect the earth, distrusted the ability of political processes to prevent harm to the environment, and were willing to surrender some of their rights for their cause. VHEMT members who strongly believed that "Civilization [is] headed for collapse" were most likely to embrace these views.[23] However, VHEMT does not take any overt political stances.[8]

Knight sees abstinence from reproduction as an altruistic choice[5] – a way to prevent involuntary human suffering[20] – and cites the deaths of children from preventable causes as an example of needless suffering.[5] Knight claims that non-reproduction would eventually allow humans to lead idyllic lifestyles in an environment comparable to the Garden of Eden,[21] and maintains that the last remaining humans would be proud of their accomplishment.[22] Other benefits of ceasing human reproduction that he cites include the end of abortion, war, and starvation.[21] Knight argues that "procreation today is de facto child abuse".[19] He maintains that the standard of human life will worsen if resources are consumed by a growing population rather than spent solving existing issues.[19] He speculates that if people ceased to reproduce, they would use their energy for other pursuits,[3] and suggests adoption and foster care as outlets for people who desire children.[5]

[8] He argues that species higher in the [3] 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".

James Ormrod, a psychologist who profiled the group in the journal Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, notes that the "most fundamental belief" of VHEMT is that "human beings should stop reproducing", and that some people consider themselves members of the group but do not actually support human extinction.[8] Knight, however, believes that even if humans become more environmentally friendly, they could still return to environmentally destructive lifestyles and hence should eliminate themselves.[5] Residents of First World countries bear the most responsibility to change, according to Knight, as they consume the largest proportion of resources.[18]

[16][12][2]; Knight points out that many species are threatened by the increasing human population.extinction of other species Voluntary human extinction is promoted on the grounds that it will prevent human suffering and the [3] Knight argues that the

We’re the only species evolved enough to consciously go extinct for the good of all life, or which needs to.

VHEMT Website[15]


Knight serves as the spokesman for VHEMT.[2] He attends environmental conferences and events, where he publicizes information about population growth.[9] VHEMT's message has, however, primarily been spread through coverage by media outlets, rather than events and its newsletter.[8] VHEMT sells buttons and T-shirts,[8] as well as bumper stickers that read "Thank you for not breeding".[3]

VHEMT functions as a loose network rather than a formal organization,[11] and does not compile a list of members. Daniel Metz of Willamette University stated in 1995 that VHEMT's mailing list had just under 400 subscribers.[2] Six years later, Fox News said the list had only 230 subscribers.[12] Knight says that anyone who agrees with his ideology is a member of the movement;[2] and that this includes "millions of people".[13][upper-alpha 4]

Organization and promotion

In 1991, Knight began publishing VHEMT's newsletter,[2] known as These Exit Times.[3] In the newsletter, he asked readers to further human extinction by not procreating.[2] VHEMT has also published cartoons,[7] including a comic strip titled "Bonobo Baby", featuring a woman who forgoes childbearing in favor of adopting a bonobo.[3] In 1996, Knight created a website for VHEMT;[8] it was available in 11 languages by 2010.[9] VHEMT's logo features the letter "V" (for voluntary) and an inverted Earth (i.e., with north at the bottom).[10][upper-alpha 3]

[6] He believes that this idea has also been held by some people throughout human history.[2] He later concluded that the extinction of humanity would be the best solution to the Earth's environmental problems.[5] at age 25.vasectomised and chose to be [2]

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