Humans can best help planet Earth by going extinct, according to the founder of a movement that says people should quit having children.
"Look what we did to this planet," Les Knight, the 75-year-old founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction movement, told The New York Times. "We're not a good species."
Knight founded the movement decades ago, adding the word "voluntary" to make it clear that people who follow the group's thoughts don't support suicide, forced birth control measures, or mass murder, but say people can best help the planet by not having children.
"May we live long and die out," the group's motto says, while another slogan, put on signs Knight hangs up at conventions and street fairs, says, "Thank you for not breeding."
As for Knight, he said he had a vasectomy when he was 25 so that he wouldn't add to the Earth's population, which is forecast to peak at 10.4 billion in upcoming decades. Birthrates are on the decline, but life expectancy and decreased child mortality are keeping the population high.
Overpopulation, Knight and the group's adherents believe, is a major factor in the Earth's climate crisis, but John Wilmoth, the director of the United Nations population division, said the real issue is that consumption is "spiraling out of control."
Focusing on limits to the population to fix the climate, he said, is diverting attention from the issues behind fossil fuels.
"We have to transform the economic incentives that make it possible to profit off of polluting the environment," said Wilmoth.
Stephanie Feldstein, director of population and sustainability at the Center for Biological Diversity said it's good that people are living longer, healthier lives, but that it has come at a great price to the planet.
"The loss of biodiversity can be just as devastating as it unravels the ecosystems we need to survive," Feldstein said. "We're already using nearly twice as many resources as the Earth can replenish in a year."
The human population on Earth has doubled, she said, but wildlife populations have declined by 70%.
Lowering the birthrate won't change emissions immediately, said Feldstein, but the growing population will put more pressure on natural resources needed to sustain wildlife.
Climate activists and overpopulation opponents say improved access for the world's girls may help curb the growth of humans, as well as better access to birth control and family planning.
It's not clear how many people are in Knight's group or how far it reaches, but it started to grow when he created a website in 1996. Since then, the website has been translated into 30 languages. It contains arguments against procreation and encourages adoption.
Knight, meanwhile, has been regarded by many as a kind person, even though he does not want more people to be born. His students are said to regard him kindly. He volunteers on Sundays to pick up litter from nearby roads, The Times reported.
"He doesn't have a giant ego that he struts around with, he doesn't try to argue with people," said Marv Ross, Knight's longtime friend, and former college roommate. "He was always about humor, to make it as fun as possible to get his message across, and I saw him do it many times. He'd deflect people getting upset with a joke or a smile."
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