Man Campaigning For Human Extinction ‘Concerned For Every Baby He Sees’

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 13 Feb 2020 09:26
Guy Thinks Human Race Should 'Die Out'Guy Thinks Human Race Should 'Die Out'Pexels/Heather Stallman

It’s not new information that climate change is slowly but surely destroying our planet.


However, as most of us frantically start recycling everything in sight, one person thinks he knows the best way to potentially fix the problem.

That person is American substitute teacher, Les Knight. Les is part of a group called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEM) and, well, it is exactly what it says on the tin.

Les KnightLes KnightHeather Stallman

The group describes itself as:


A movement advanced by people who care about life on planet Earth.

We’re not just a bunch of misanthropes and anti-social, Malthusian misfits, taking morbid delight whenever disaster strikes humans. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Voluntary human extinction is the humanitarian alternative to human disasters.

The main human disaster they’re referring to is, you guessed it, climate change.

NASA has found it to be ‘extremely likely’ that the cause of climate change is down to human activity – our current carbon dioxide concentration levels stand at 412 parts per million which is an increase of over 45% on pre-industrial levels.

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Due to this, Les believes the best thing we can do for the planet is ‘live long and die out’, which is the movement’s motto.

Les has had this theory for decades, first starting to promote it in the 1970s while he was at university.

When it first started, it was referred to as the ‘Human Extinction Movement’ but Les later added ‘voluntary’ at the start, as people questioned the movement’s motives and presumed it meant a mass suicide – which isn’t the case.

Speaking to UNILAD, Les said: 


I’m often referred to as the founder [of VHEM], but I’m really the finder. The idea was here all along, just got lost in natalist cultural conditioning. I gave it a name so it might not get lost again.

I started promoting human extinction in the early 70s when I was at university – eventually I realised I had to put a ‘V’ in for voluntary because people always presumed when I said ‘human extinction’ their mind jumps to death.

They would think ‘oh, you want everyone to kill themselves?’ or ‘oh, you want to kill everybody?’ – once we get over that misconception, they realised the idea is that we need to stop procreating.

It’s evident humans are the leading cause of climate change, there’s no arguing that. However, Les believes it would take the Earth 3-10 million years to recover from our actions – a belief backed by one study by the University of Bristol.

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Because of this, Les feels humans should die out so the earth can begin to restore itself, and to do that, we need to stop procreating.

He said: 

Wherever we go, extinctions occur and we [humans] are causing the sixth mass extinction. We may not be able to stop that from happening, but the sooner we go extinct and the more species that are left – the pasture and the biosphere can return to biodiversity.

We’re pulling strands from the web of life and putting more pressure on it, so as we phase ourselves out we can clean up our messes.

If we were growing smaller every year instead of increasing by 80 million, we might be able to stop destroying ecosystems in seconds and start restoring them instead.

Les himself has followed by his own theory and doesn’t have any children. To ensure he didn’t reproduce, Les had a vasectomy at the age of 25, something which – 47 years on – he says he doesn’t regret. The vasectomy was at a discounted cost because a student doctor performed the procedure.

Pregnant womanPregnant womanPexels

Les said:

I would have gotten the snip earlier if I’d have known about the cut-rate fee at the med school. There were two doctors: the teacher doctor and the student doctor.

I had to talk him [the student] into it as I laid all prepped on the table; he was reluctant because of my age and lack of offspring.

I knew how simple the procedure is so I wasn’t worried about him doing it. I’ve never regretted my ability to avoid impregnating anyone.

While awareness of climate change wasn’t as prominent in the 70s as it is nowadays, Les says he could already see what humans were doing to the Earth’s biosphere 50 years ago, when a lot of deforestation was taking place in the US.


In more recent times though, Les has become increasingly worried about humans themselves, as well as the environment.

He said:

I think for me it was the environment was my main impetus [for starting the VHEM ‘state of mind’], but lately I’ve been becoming more concerned about humans. When a new person is created we’re going to live through the next 80 years – if they can live that long – and the future isn’t what it used to be.

When I hear of a birth or see an infant, I’m really concerned about their future. I just don’t think the direction that we’re headed is going to produce a world or ecosystem that is as pleasant as the one we’ve had.

If we continue as we are, what is the world going to be like?

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Earth’s future climate, Les believes we shouldn’t be having children for the benefit of both the environment and future generations.

Kid in fieldsKid in fieldsPexels

There’s an anti-natalist philosophy – which Les claims not to necessarily subscribe to – that suggests people have no right to bring somebody into existence when they are not suffering where they are in non-existence.

Arguably, if climate change continues to escalate at the rate that it is, those brought into the world in the future may suffer from it.

Les added:

Rising temperatures, rising water levels and sea levels rising might not be that bad, but when the crops fail, that’s when it becomes more unfortunate.

Even though back in the 1970s and so on the future looked better, it still (for those who were paying attention) was not looking as good.

While it’s unlikely people are going to stop reproducing anytime soon – one thing we can think about is the size of the families we’re having.


This is what some organisations campaign for: while they don’t go to the extreme that Les’s theory does, they recognise the fact that having lots of children does affect climate change negatively.

The United Nations has predicted that if the average family had half a child more than they have now, the world’s population would grow to 16.5 billion by 2100. Meanwhile, if the average family started to have half a child less, the world’s population would be at a more manageable 7.3 billion.

Currently in most countries people can’t be forced to have fewer or no children – if anything, many societies encourage people to start a family.

Les added: 

The biggest problem we have globally with reproductive freedom is the lack of the freedom to not procreate. Everyone has the right to not be impregnated when they don’t want to be but that right is being severely restricted all over the planet.

We need a phase out rather than ‘poof’ everybody going extinct – that would be terrible. We’ve got a lot of messes to clean up.

If having fewer (or no) children isn’t for you, there are several other ways you can help the environment.

Climate changeClimate changePexels

These include things such as using your car less, not leaving your appliances on ‘standby’, planting trees, recycling, and reducing your meat consumption. Did you know that you can save over 730 kilos of CO2 each year just by recycling half of the rubbish produced at home?

In November, thousands of scientists dubbed our current situation a ‘global climate change emergency’, while this month, Antarctica hit its highest temperatures of 18.3°C proving global warming is most definitely happening.

Along with NASA’s findings that climate change is largely down to human activity and the ongoing ‘global climate change emergency’, Les’ theory – though extreme – does have a few valid points.

Science has shown that having less people on the planet will help it; so if we’re having no children or fewer children, it should hopefully make a difference.

Whether we decide to have no children, or simply decide to recycle more – we must keep doing what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Featured, Climate Change, Global Warming, human race, Les Knight, Population Matters, Voluntary Human Extinction Movement


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