Thursday, April 19, 2007

thank you for not breeding

A glut of book-related posts recently, for which I apologise. Anyone who's not as quite lidderally bonkers about lidderature as I am might have found the whole thing a bit trying.

Here's something different, then. You're a concerned environmentalist. You recycle. You use low-energy light bulbs. Maybe you even knit your own tofu. But unless you're prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice it's all for nothing. And that ultimate sacrifice Oh, and all your descendants. Or so the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement would have you believe. That's VHEMT for short, pronounced "vehement" because, and I quote, "that's what we are". Well, that's one word for it.

Their website has a handy FAQ section with some great questions on it, all answered in an endearingly deadpan way, from the starter category like "Are some people opposed to the VHEMT concept?" to the slightly more Zen ones like "How do I gauge the depth of my ecology?" to the no-punches-pulled approach of "Why don't you just kill yourself?".

It's easy to mock, of course, as well as being right and proper and essential to do so. The funny thing is, though, that among all the barking lunacy (and I'm not totally convinced the whole thing isn't an elaborate wind-up) they talk more sense on a number of topics than those who are, in a very real sense, running the world. Let me offer you a couple of examples.

  • Population growth. Just to start with the obvious one. There are too many of us for the available resources (unless we all fancy going back to subsistence farming and perhaps owning the odd goat. Not keen? Thought not. Me neither), even if there aren't there soon will be at current rates of population increase. Global warming doesn't help either, in fact of course the two phenomena are inextricably linked; more people means more pollution, greenhouse gases, etc., and also more people living in areas vulnerable to the effects of global warming, like rising sea levels. None of which leads unavoidably to the conclusion that we should voluntarily wipe ourselves out, but just because their conclusion is bonkers doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the starting premise.

  • Contraception. Clearly if you're advocating the gradual phasing out of the human race you're going to have to advocate either mass suicide (not really a vote-winner), total abstention from sex (ditto) or contraceptive use. Hardly surprisingly, this is the approach they've plumped for. Contrast this, if you will, with the approach advocated by the Catholic Church, which continues to adhere to the position that contraception is inherently sinful, and, as if this wasn't enough, in some African countries to spread the eye-poppingly evil notion that condoms promote the spread of HIV/AIDS. Now who are the nutters?

  • Abortion. No method of contraception, however conscientiously used, is 100% reliable. VHEMT take what could be viewed as a commendably pragmatic view of this problem - equally it could be viewed as a view cynically in line with their ultimate aim - the end of the human race! (Insert dramatic orchestral stab here). Either way it's a lot more sane than the current goings-on in the US Supreme Court. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg is being paranoid in seeing this as the first step on the right-wing religious conservative road to getting Roe v Wade repealed; I'm not so sure she is, though. I say: get Hillary in the White House pronto; she'll sort 'em out.

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