Monday, January 15, 2007

Yesterday I ran across this site, and would you believe, there are folks out there who think that a "Voluntary Human Extinction Movement" is the right way to go. And yes, they are serious. Just as the name implies, their basic philosophy is that human beings have such a negative impact on the "natural environment" of planet Earth, that we should voluntarily stop breeding and let the human race die out, so that the Earth can return to it's "natural state."

OK, I can sympathize with the notion that human civilization is overtaxing our environment to the point of disastrous consequence, but none-the-less, I find a few holes in their theory:

I've already addressed the notion that human beings are not so divorced from the "natural environment" as these folks seem to think. Nor would we be the first creatures to massively impact our environment to the point of causing other species, and even ourselves, to go extinct. So I won't dwell on that here.

I also find this idea more than just a little shortsighted. Sooner or later, this planet will become un-inhabitable through some very "natural" means. Near-Earth object, Gamma radiation, wandering black holes, or the end of our own sun, take your pick. Life on Earth is a limited engagement, even if we human beings do clean up our act. Human being actually represent the best chance for life on Earth being transplanted elsewhere in the Universe, and hence, averting that end to life as we know it. To let life simply be winked out would certainly be natural, but hardly desirable. I like being alive. So does my dog. So does that squirrel in my back yard.

If I had to choose between being tortured to death tomorrow, or never having been born, I'd take the torture. Better to live and die horribly, than not to live at all.

Thankfully, these folks do have a sense of humor. They realize the futility of trying to convince billions of human beings to stop breeding. But I can't help feeling that their effort might be better spent on another front. If human beings can come to dominate, irrevocably alter, and ultimately threaten the whole of the global environment without really trying to do so, what could we accomplish if we had our minds set on living sustainably within our environment? It's not as if the Environmental movement has been around long enough to really make an impact, either culturally, or environmentally. Both of those things take a great deal of time. And even if we are fumbling at this point, there are people working for change.

Al Gore's new book/movie "An Inconvenient Truth" may be bubbling with political overtones, but there’s also real substance there. The would-be president seems genuinely committed to educating people about the realities of climate change. And people are listening to him. If he changes the thinking of enough people, he may even swing enough votes to win in an electoral college.

At the same time, more and more hybrid and electric cars are reaching the market. There’ve been many to decry this as a false start. Hydrogen and electric power still use fossil fuels in their production, so these cars aren’t yet the cleanly fueled transport we hoped for. And yet, by purchasing these cars, consumers are sending a message to industry that consumers want ecologically sound products. Industry rarely misses a chance to exploit the fullest potential of a market.