Les Knight wants you dead. Not right now though, he doesn’t want to bury you neck-high in a desert and cover you in honey, or lock you in a septic tank at the bottom of his farm, no, he’s more sociopassive than sociopathic. Les just wants to see you die out quietly and happily of old age; just please try not to leave any kids behind.
Les is the founding member of VHEMT (pronounced: vehement, backronym to: The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, motto of: "May we live long and die out"). Les and his gang believe that the level of the human population has reached dangerous levels. And let's be honest, he's right. I mean have you tried getting a bag of grain in Somalia recently? Or getting on the list for the Odd Future show in London this week? We're dangerously overrun people! Not only that, but in Les' mind we, as a species, have been pissing in Gaia's scented bath of life for too long, proving that we can't be trusted to exist. So, he says, let's STOP having babies and let the remaining humans live long, greedy lives before perishing and letting the planet recover. It's a tough sell, but I called him up to see if he could convince me to smoke and drink enough to barren my balls.
Vice: Hello, Les. When did the movement start officially? Were you there at its birth?
Les Knight: No. I was not there at its birth because it's been around since humans have been around. I just gave it a name in the late 80s.
I’m not sure I believe it has existed since the dawn of man…
Even before we became Homo sapiens we have had fatal conflicts over limited resources. As we exceeded the carrying capacity in our little tribes, we had to invade the other tribes to get the resources we needed. We would always choose killing over starvation. This has continued on throughout history where we breed more than can be accommodated and the only solution is to take somebody else's or move into an unoccupied area.
Isn’t that an example of people being so desperate to survive that they’ll even kill? That’s kind of the opposite of voluntary extinction.
Yes, it is to survive. In order to prevent war, we need to stop breeding so that we are not fighting over the scarce resources. Those who breed more will overtake those who don't and that's what's happened throughout history, which is why we have evolved into such a fecund species.
OK. What was your eureka moment? When did you realise that you wanted to see humanity perish?
I was beginning to see problems all over the world and was trying to figure out solutions. And, if you take each problem far enough you'll see that it's exacerbated by the fact there are more of us then can be accommodated. The main cause of each problem is human beings. When you see that simply eliminating one species from the biosphere will improve things so much, that's the start, and the best way to spread this is by voluntary movement. Involuntary methods have failed throughout time.
Do you reckon your philosophy has become more or less popular with breeders since the eighties?
Well it's impossible to say, there are seventy six million more potential VHEMT participants each year, because that's the population increase, but we certainly aren't growing at the same rate. Internet networking has been wonderful for getting all of us in touch with each other though. Yet, I am not sure if we have converted anyone into a hardcore non-breeder. People are resistant to change. Simply explaining that we're overshooting Earth's optimum capacity by fifty percent is not going to change a couple's mind if their heart is set on having a little baby.
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Well, have you noticed any increase or decrease in the media interest?
It goes in waves, probably since we're going to have the magical ''seven billion'' pretty soon, I'll get another wave of interest but I can't say that it's gone up or down. It’s just always in flux.
Well, don’t call it a comeback, but I’m interviewing you right now! Did you read Freedom by Jonathan Franzen? One of the main guys in that becomes obsessed with population control.
Oh no. I haven't.
Well you should, it's up your street. Do you find a lot of people who get aggressive when they hear your ideas, or do most people see it as a joke?
Well both, there are people who get very offended but I think they show a lot of promise because it means that they care and there's potential for them to become part of the movement. Quite a few people find it to be incompatible with their religious beliefs but I don't think it is. Most religions have a time in the future where humans are no longer on the planet.
Say we were able to build a huge spaceship and fly to other planets and populate them, would you be on board, or would you still be down on human existence?
Well, it wouldn’t be a good idea. We have a perfectly good planet right here; we just need to take care of it. We have areas like this at Sahara, where there’s already air and gravity, it just needs a little bit of water. Terraforming other planets won’t solve the problem of environmental destruction on Earth, any more than mass immigrations to the Americas solved the problems in Europe or Asia.
So, is the best possible existence on this planet with a small number of humans who have no effect on the ecology or with zero humans?
I think zero humans is the only safe number. As long as there's one breeding couple we could be right back where we are.
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It seems to me that you have kind of a great admiration for every type of existence – including theoretical planets – except for people.
If humanity didn't cause the extinction of other species, it'd been fine. I actually admire human species a lot, probably more so cause I am one of them, but that doesn't mean that we should continue to exist for eternity. We can live out our lives the best we can and die out. If there were fewer people every day, we would have more of everything and get along better.
Although, clearing the corpses would be an incremental pain in the arse. Do people mistake you for somebody who wants to go out and kill babies and sterilise everyone?
Of course, the first thing people think of our movement is mass suicide or killing people. But, non-breeding is our main goal. No country other than China has a policy coercing non-breeding. All around the world women are forced into breeding; they're denied their contraceptive services. I think gender equality is a prerequisite for everything. Without gender equality, the males won’t let the females use contraceptives. We need to stop encouraging breeding. In Australia, you have a thousand dollars off your taxes per child.
Does it drive you mad when you see the fetishisation of parenthood and especially motherhood in the West? It seems being a parent is the most important thing that outstrips political and philosophical ideals, you can say anything completely mad and paranoid, provided it’s from the perspective of ''a mother''. Motherhood has become a sort of conservative, ideological weapon it’s impossible to question.
Yes it's true; that seems to be the motivation for all the green movements too. They say it’s for our children's sake. They don’t see that the reason forests are going is because we keep increasing the number of people who need wood products. I’m saddened by the fact that people are conditioned to think that having children is all that there is to life.
Do you think that we're about to reach a critical stage where it's going to be undeniable that we have too many people in the planet and the rich and powerful will start enacting violent population control?
Well I certainly hope not. Now, it's encouraged to “stop at two” as the Population Matters Group in the UK say. Well it’s not enough, we need to stop at once. “Stop at two” is increasing our population. But to answer your question: yes, it could be that drastic measures curtailing reproductive freedom will be taken.
My friend reckons the New World Order put something in the tap water to turn our sperm into mash potato, what do you think?
It sounds unlikely.
How long will it be before it's obvious that people can't deny it?
Human capacity for denial seems limitless. It will take a paradigm shift for people to realise that food shortages are not politics that the water shortages are not because we can't drill deep enough. A collapse of civilisation is in the direction we are heading, I’m not saying that that will happen but this is what we are engineering.
So is there anything practical that I can do to help with this?
Well the single most significant thing a person can do is to refuse to create another of human being. In the UK you can preserve 6.1 hectares of potential wild life habitat just by not creating another human.
Well, thank you very much, you make a good case.
Thank you, goodbye.