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2005-11-17 04:09:44.101836+00 by Diane Reese 5 comments

So what do you folks think of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement? I'd never heard of it until reading today's article in the SF Chronicle. I've been aware for years of the former ZPG (now "Population Connection", good grief) but this is taking the lessening of human impact on Earth to an entirely new level. At least they have a sense of humor and a mostly rational perspective on their stance.

[ related topics: Humor Invention and Design Bay Area ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2005-11-17 14:53:36.151191+00 by: sethg

I don't think their "economics" FAQ adequately answers the question of "Who will pay our social security when we're old?" If some fragment of the population is consuming more than it produces, then the rest of the population has to make up for that by producing more than it consumes. Even if you're selling off your investments rather than collecting Social Security, those investments can only be cashed in because there are other people willing to buy them from you. Even if you're redeeming corporate bonds rather than selling them to another investor, the only reason companies offer bonds is because they expect to be more productive in the future than in the present, and maintaining that productivity in a population that's going to zero is a difficult proposition, to say the least. I suppose you could stock your basement with a decade's worth of canned foods....

Do you really want to be an elderly retiree with failing health in a world where everyone around you is at least as old and decrepit as you are? Sure, maybe the robots will take care of you. Is the technology really going to advance to the point where you can put all your trust in that kind of care? And why should we expect the infrastructure that maintains those robots to be any less damaging to the environment than an infrastructure maintaining the next generation of humans?

#Comment Re: made: 2005-11-17 16:49:50.151458+00 by: ebradway

Seth: Do you really want to be an elderly retiree with failing health in a world with failing health because of human over-population? Take your basic premise of consumption exceeding production to the closed ecosystem:

What happens when one population (humans) consumes more oxygen than the rest of the ecosystem can produce? What happens when one population (humans) produces more waste than the rest of the ecosystem can absorb?

#Comment Re: made: 2005-11-17 18:21:33.98763+00 by: topspin [edit history]

What happens when one population consumes more oxygen than the rest of the ecosystem can produce? What happens when one population produces more waste than the rest of the ecosystem can absorb?

That's simple, the ecosystem begins to favor anaerobes over aerobes for awhile, and humanity.... uh... will probably shake hands with pterodactyls, but we're hardly that important to the ecosystem.

Like you perhaps, I am amused by the "we're destroying the planet" folks. We're not, of course, but we are trashing our comfy existence here. The planet will be fine without us, I'm sure.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-11-17 19:14:34.207729+00 by: Dan Lyke

Obviously I'm a supporter of the movement, but I also think it's fun to watch the discussion that VHEMT generate, and the reaction to reading the misunderstandings page gives a real fast "I get it", or "I don't".

The whole point, to my reading, is that they put a big stress on "voluntary", even start the name of their organization with it, but when the discussions come up the general tenor really starts to have a subtext of compulsory breeding. To argue against this message, you have to argue against the idea that people should have the option to not have children, thus they've managed to reframe the debates about abortion, about access to birth control, about sex for pleasure, in a manner that lets us look at them with fresh eyes.

I have, at times, made statements about not having children that sometimes garner email comments. Many of them are of the "study X says that 85% (or thereabouts) of people don't regret having children, so your comments are irresponsible!". Ignoring the validity of the studies or any of the rest, what is it about my comments that so tweaks people out that they not only want to convince me that I'm wrong and that I should procreate (ignoring that extremely unhappy 15% that seems to be much of my older childed social group), but that my publishing my observations, perspectives and remarks on the topic threatens them enough that they write me asking to retract my observations?

I think that's the root of the discussion that this should be bringing up. There's a point below which the best evolutionary strategy is to breed lots, and there's a point at which the best evolutionary strategy is to breed selectively, and the cultural mores which survive are the ones which reflect the dominant evolutionary strategy to a given point. As a culture becomes technologically advanced, birth rates go down because the strategy which best supports your offspring becoming most likely to reproduce again becomes nurturing one or two rather than shotgun blasting a bunch out into the environment and seeing which ones survive. To my reading, VHEMT is challenging the shotgun strategy and questioning beliefs that have evolved because of their evolutionary advantage, not because they make rational sense.

And that's what makes the resulting debate so interesting.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-11-17 20:39:37.427737+00 by: ebradway

Topspin: Good point. An ecosystem of some sort will exist no matter what we do. I guess I fall into the group that prefers an ecosystem somewhat similar to what we have now and more similar to what existed a few hundred years ago.