Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

How Green Were My Values

If you don’t find a silver lining in the Chernobyl disaster or the Korean War, that can only mean that you are no more than a tepid environmentalist. Alan Weisman is more serious. His book, The World Without Us, reverently chronicles his visit to Chernobyl, where there are no human settlements within a 20-mile radius, “just forests that have begun reclaiming fields and towns, home to birds, deer, wild boar and moose,” according to Newsweek. Korea’s demilitarized zone, similarly free of homo sapiens for 53 years, is “now a mecca for Korean bird watchers.”

Reveries of a world without human beings show us an environmentalism that has the courage of its convictions. The busybodies hectoring us to recycle, drive hybrids and use fluorescent light bulbs are missing the point: Such minor modifications will only slow down the human destruction of the ecosphere. What people smugly and stupidly used to call “progress” necessarily means the degradation of the environment. The ultimate meaning of living lightly on the planet is not living on it at all.

Weisman goes down this road a long way, but not as far as he used to. Once partial to the idea that the world needs the cleansing of human extinction, his reflection on “some of the beautiful things human beings have accomplished,” such as poetry, led him to a “compromise position: a worldwide, voluntary agreement to limit each human couple to one child.” Weisman calculates that this neo-Malthusian solution would reduce the world’s population from 6 billion people today to 1.6 billion by 2100, the size of the human cohort in 1900.

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement is not so squishy. It believes that “the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens . . . us.” Accordingly, “When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth’s biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, evolve . . . and will perhaps pass away, as so many of Nature’s ‘experiments’ have done throughout the eons.” The VHEM website takes the trouble to distinguish its position from Hitler’s, Nazism being more of an involuntary human extinction movement.

The VHEM position is “realistic: We know we’ll never see the day there are no human beings on the planet. . . . The Movement may be considered a success each time one more of us volunteers to breed no more.” The VHEM approach demographically guarantees that its hard task will only get harder. Those non-breeding volunteers will have no children to catechize, while the people who do breed will have set an anti-VHEM example for their children simply by virtue of having them.

It’s hard not to despair. And yet, somewhat inconsistently, VHEM rejects suicide - “retroactive birth control” - because, “There’s no way we could convince enough people to kill themselves to make a difference, especially after we’re too dead to talk.” In this respect, VHEM is itself a little squishy, compared to the Finnish environmentalist who told the Wall Street Journal in 1994 that another world war would be "a happy occasion for the planet . . . If there were a button I could press, I would sacrifice myself without hesitating if it meant millions would die."

Discussions - 13 Comments

It's always easy to make fun of extremist crackpots. Yet, in this case it feels less like harmless fun and more like you're trying to paint with a broad brush. Conservatives have a bad record on the environment, but this is no way to make up for it. Humanity and biodiversity can coexist; humanity just has to be smart about it. The first thing to do is reduce our population, not to zero, but to under 2 billion. The planet cannot long sustain the current levels. Even if new technologies make the planet able to sustain 6 billion or so, something responsible still needs to be done to prevent overpopulation. The VHEM has a point, they're just being outlandish about it.

Buu, how would you reduce the population? People are rarely being "smart" about reproduction nor are thinking about biodiversity while conceiving their next generation. I do not see how your suggestion is viable without making the VHEM leap of faith. If we presume that what we have now is over-population and unsustainable, how, except by extreme means, do we rein in the numbers? What is "responsible"?

This tells me that we need to be killing a lot more Arabs. It's the eco-friendly thing to do.

I always though the motto of the VHEM should be, "You First."

It's not too difficult, Kate. Just impose limits on how many children a woman (or family) can have. It's more complicated with third world countries, but I'm sure they can be convinced for the right price.

Religion, especially Catholicism, is the big obstacle. I'm not sure how to solve that, short of a "nuke the papacy" attitude.

It's always the same crap with you America-haters. Why is it always the White Man's religion that's to blame? The Arabs are having a lot more kids than we are. Why not nuke Mecca?

More complicated with third world countries?

Let the civilized countries pass laws, and those that don't - we'll do it for 'em. Nuke 'em further back into the stone age.

Buu: Yes, of course, just like China, which has no problem enforcing a one-child policy and is such a lovely place to live that people flock there from all over the world. And Catholicism as the problem? Please.

If having children is not expensive enough already, especially in third-world countries, then the imposition of limits is going to be more than a matter of the right price. HOW would limits be enforced, here or anywhere and WHO would do the enforcing? You and other Utopians' "not too difficult" answers always resemble hangman's nooses, or carry the whiff of gas chambers and make re-education camps sound like good summer fun. Maybe we could just refine the neutron bomb and use it selectively, as Hal suggests.

Hal, the "white man's religion" (or, to be more accurate, his most recent fever dream) is the most vocal opponent of social progress in the west. The Muslims aren't necessarily better, but they are less powerful and I'm not aware of any strong opinions on their part about population growth. I suppose we could "nuke Mecca" is it came to that, but I'm simply not advocating anything that extreme. BTW, what makes you think I hate America?

Kate, you're assuming a false causation there. What does China's population policy have to do with its living conditions otherwise? Or with its immigration numbers? If you're skeptical about Catholicism's objections to population control, just read Human Vitae.

As for the logistics of population control, there are simple answers. Local governments do the enforcing, and they do it with penalties and abortions...

. . . and thus we can finally bring about a Paradise on Earth free from superstition and want; the only catch is you have to let the Super State control your reproduction. Very Huxley-esque. Thank you, Buu, for being honest and exposing the far Left's vision for Man.

Like the French Terror and the Soviet Gulag, it is indeed the ones who see religion as a stumbling block to human happiness who are most likely to accept human misery to further human "progress".

If reproductive freedom is the only thing holding us back from paradise...well, I think very few people would sacrifice paradise just to have as many children as they wanted.

As for the French Terror and the Soviet Gulag, you just need to do the math. Even if atheism has ten atrocities to its name that's nothing compared to the endless flow of blood that runs from the medieval era to the Reformation to the Enlightenment and even into the modern world. (You can, and should, try to seek a deeper understanding of history than just attributing everything to either religion or secularism, of course, but then your whole original point falls.)

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