Have you been reading all these stories from our Universal Sadness issue? Shit's bleak. All over. Good thing genius Les Knight has single-handedly discovered a solution to humans turning the earth into a giant floating, dried-up booger. And it’s a very easy solution, so easy and simple it’s surprising no one had thought of it before. He started the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), an organization whose primary tenet is to not have any offspring. That’s it. That’s the key to our planet’s survival. Because having babies is basically the same thing as pumping an oil well directly into the Pacific. Sure babies can be cute and funny and rewarding sometimes, but have you ever tried putting one of these fuckers to bed or making them shut up in public when they don’t want to? Kids can kind of suck. Anyways, we got Les to give some specifics on why nobody should be conceiving another human ever again.
Vice: You claim the idea of voluntary extinction has been around for hundreds of years. How did you funnel it into VHEMT?
Les Knight:I formulated my key set of beliefs around the late 80s. I had just moved to Portland and had been thinking about it for a long time. In the early 90s I put out a zine called These Exit Times. Only three issues were printed before I decided to move the operation over to the web. My entire mailing list for the print version was smaller than one day’s visitors to the site. I realized that a lot of people out there have come up with the same ideas independently and they started to use my site as a forum.
What do you do for a living?
I’m a substitute teacher for a public high school. I have the summers off, which gives me time to focus on VHEMT.
How do you feel about kids?
A lot of times kids are more interesting than adults, especially after they start speaking. I can’t really relate to “goo-goo-ga-ga” baby talk. I like kids a lot, and that is one of the reasons I think we shouldn’t make more of them. So many go uncared for. A lot of people in the movement had kids before they realized that continuing to do so was not a good idea. That’s perfectly acceptable. They can influence their children by discouraging them from having grandkids.
Do you ever sit around with other VHEMT members and make fun of “breeders” like a bunch of bitter homos?
In discussion among any in-group you’re going to hear things that aren’t as polite as what people might say in public. Even though some people do use the term “breeders” it’s selective. There are people who seem to want the term applied to them.
The Duggars in Arkansas. They just gave birth to their 18th. If the term breeder applies to anybody it’s them. They may even embrace it. We are brainwashed and indoctrinated from a very early age that we all should have children. We are told that it’s how all societies operate. I don’t believe in that.
If a bill was proposed to allow the hunting of humans in overpopulated areas, would you support it?
No, I think reintroducing our natural predators would be a better move, such as the grizzly bear. The only place it still exists in California is on their flag. We’ve killed all the predators. There are still some things like mountain lions and we’ve got quite a few black bears. They will definitely eat a human, or at least kill one.
The whole point of your movement is that you believe other species should reclaim the earth. I assume you’re a vegetarian. When was the last time you ate meat?
Yes I am, but there are some meat-eaters in the movement. Yesterday I accidentally ate meat for the first time in years because they mixed up my order. I got my “veggie” burrito home and it tasted weird. Turns out there was a piece of chicken in there. I didn’t finish it.
Is recreational sex OK in the movement’s eyes?
Oh yeah. Isn’t that why we all do it? Procreation is one of the rarest reasons people have sex anymore. When you consider how many times people have sex around the world on a daily basis, trying to create a baby is not the primary goal. I think it’s a great idea and if more people had recreational sex our attitudes about each other might improve. I wonder if things would be better in this world if our leaders were having more. If Bush and Cheney had more sex they might not be so mean.
How about the gays? No chance of having a baby there. Do you view them as sexually evolved?
I think it is a wonderful thing. It has to be consciously considered. Gay men aren’t going to procreate, but there is something of a baby boom going on with lesbian couples, in regards to artificial insemination. In Oregon there are no restrictions on adoption by gays and lesbians. So they could go that route. There may be some obstacles there, but of course there are obstacles and risks in breeding your own from scratch too.
How do you imagine the earth sans humans?
Well, it’s more about what leads up to our extinction. We are putting perpetually more stress on the web of life and pulling strands from it at the same time. Eventually we are going to reach a tipping point where the biosphere starts to collapse. There’s a book called A World Without Us that details what might happen if humans suddenly disappeared. He starts off with NYC, which is really fascinating. Within days the subways would flood and in a short time the streets would collapse and the rivers would run through them. Unseen workers constantly maintain the city. Just look at areas humans have abandoned, such as Chernobyl. Of course we have some radiation there that is causing mutations and cancers but not as much as we expected. It’s become a de facto wildlife preserve. The other place is the DMZ between North and South Korea. There are landmines there so storks have to be careful when they touch down. I think they may have even evolved to some extent in that they are able land lighter without tripping the mines.
Do you foresee some sort of massive die-off in the near future?
I think there is a very good chance. Any species that overshoots its carrying capacity is likely to suffer this fate. That is just how biology works. A collapse of civilization is not impossible and it appears we are heading in that direction. That definitely would cause widespread death. We want to avoid that. We can avoid it if we get control of our fertility and be responsible as individuals.