November 9, 2015
By Daniel Geery
There are many reasons not to have kids... a few of my own: I don't want to put myself through the pain of pregnancy and childbirth; kids annoy me and I'm not very good with them; the world is a horrible place and I couldn't subject an innocent child to that; I'm very self-centered and kids would be a drain on my time and financial resources; I'd probably be a miserable failure as a parent anyway... [quote from Amanda Butler]
[I posted this some time back on OEN, but I've touched it up a bit, partially with comments from that piece and directed it to Planned Parenthood as well anyone contemplating bringing another human into the world today. Please note that I do avidly support Planned Parenthood, but urge them to press their clients on this most fundamental question, make them aware of the world we now live in, and speak loudly and clearly on the possibility of adoption.]
The Voluntary Movement for the Extinction of Humans, spelled VHEMT but pronounced "Vehement," lists many reasons why humans ought to not have children and, sooner rather than later, purposefully and mindfully go extinct:
- The alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals will come from the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens.
- Each time another one of us decides to not add another human to the burgeoning billions now squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom.
- When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth's biosphere will return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, and evolve, in the natural way they have been doing successfully for half a billion years. The health of the Earth will be restored.
- Returning Earth to its natural splendor and ending needless suffering of humanity are happy thoughts -- no sense moping around in gloom and doom.
- The decision to stop reproducing is morally correct, since we are presently engineering the massive die-off of humanity, and should thus not sentence another human to life.
- Allowing humanity to take its present course of destroying the planet is unconscionable. There is far too much at stake.
- Not all Vehement (as I'll henceforth spell it, for phonetic harmony) members are necessarily in favor of human extinction, but agree that no more of us should be created at this time. Vehement opposes the involuntary extinction of any species, including humans.
- Unfortunately, many concerted efforts support the horror of involuntary extinction: production and use of weapons; toxins everywhere; rampant destruction of natural resources and ecosystems; global warming; water and fossil fuel depletion; ozone breakdown; countless wars; the rise of fascism; fracking; and so on.
- A major goal of Vehement is to advance the population-awareness movement, which appears to be stalled, if not pushed back to where it was 40 years ago. Progressive population awareness groups advocate a one-child average and two maximum, but few, if any, dare to advocate zero procreation. Environmental groups often avoid the controversial topic, preferring to work on consequences of our excessive breeding.
- Vehement members want to preserve the future of life on earth. Humans have the potential for achieving the awareness needed to reverse civilization's direction and begin restoring Earth's biosphere.
Vehement's website gives more detailed explanations of why they believe that voluntary human extinction merits our consideration.
My first reaction upon contemplating the foregoing notions was: "Whoa! These folks are out to lunch! There are millions of people like myself who have been working hard to make sure the human race continues. I've spent a quarter century in education-pushing science and environmental education in particular-I've worked on several solar projects, built windmills, lived off the grid for fifteen years, talked at environmental and energy hearings ad infinitum, written countless letters to the editor regarding protecting life on earth, tried to vote and encourage others to vote properly, ran for U.S. Senate against Orrin Hatch [six children, 23 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren, last I read, and doing his best to leave a wasteland behind], and, among other things, made efforts to reduce my consumption of resources. My underlying assumption has always been that we humans SHOULD continue spreading and sprouting our seeds, and pass this beautiful blue-green planet on to future generations, hopefully educated and numerically limited ones. Why else am I and others putting so much energy into doing the things we do, other than to propagate our species?"
But Vehement's ideas rapidly sprouted roots in my brain and refused to let go. I considered: I have one biological son-the other I adopted-and I might well not have procreated that one time, if not for the fact that my wife had ovarian cancer. The doctor had informed us: "We need to operate, and if you plan to have a child, now is the time to do it."
That proclamation forced my hand, but there is a more than likely chance that had this not happened, I would have had no progeny of my own. After all, I worked with kids all day in elementary education, and didn't particularly think I needed to have another one waiting at home for me after a day of teaching. Even in 1975, the future of the planet and civilization looked incredibly grim. I was not excited about bringing another person into the mess, particularly one I imagined I would love and who would most likely outlive me.
Thus as it happened, I almost was a member of Vehement, without even thinking about it in such stark terms as human extinction.
I come from a family of seven, good Catholic that my mother was, and I can't even count how many families I've known who've have four or more children. My present very competent dentist has nine kids. One of my favorite authors has nine kids. A good friend of mine has five kids. There were nine kids in my mother's family. I have probably 100 or more first cousins. Here in Utah we breed kids like rabbits (though there has been some positive change in the past two decades or so, due to necessity and education).
I have no doubt that you could rattle off many folks you know who have done their share to add to the seven billion plus humans on the planet. Religious leaders of all stripes encourage propagation of the faith through propagation of the species, causing untold environmental damage and human suffering around the globe. Politicians are loathe to even talk about the problem, much less attempt to do anything about it.
I grew up on Long Island, and in my lifetime witnessed the destruction of forests, fields, marshes, streams, productive farmlands, and coastlines, as they were converted into Levittowns, condominiums, industrial parks, shopping malls, parking lots, and freeways. I moved to South Salt Lake and saw the same thing all over again, in even less time.
I moved to southeast Idaho and watched monoculture farms creep up the mountainsides, out into riparian habitats, over sand dunes, through sage brush, over patches of trees, and not uncommonly, over bulldozed buildings. Rabbits, foxes, badgers, weasels, skunks, raccoons, countless birds of many varieties-pelicans, white herons, sand pipers, meadowlarks, ibises, golden and bald eagles, barn swallows-salamanders, frogs, snakes, small lizards, and who knows what other plants and animals were rapidly dwindling while my kids were growing up. Flood controlling marshes with eons old ecosystems were eliminated to straighten out the flow of the Snake River. Elk and deer populations diminished as four wheelers and hunters roamed and wreaked havoc in the hills.
When noisy dust cropper planes flew overhead dumping insecticides and herbicides that blew with the wind across and into our house, I imagined I was in Vietnam. Farm chemicals were undoubtedly leaching into our 60 foot well. Farmers were complaining of wells running dry, even as they continued enlarging their farms (a common joke among them was, "I ain't greedy! I just want the land that's next to mine!).
When the fine-grained blow sand, caused by reckless farming practices in the delicate, ancient soil, went aloft in 40 to 60 mile an hour winds, I imagined I was on the Planet Dune. That blow sand found its way into houses and car engines and even your ears and clothing, if you happened to be outside. Families of six, seven, eight, and nine kids were not uncommon. One guy I worked with had 11 kids. So much for country living.
Clearly, there's too damn many of us, and study after study confirms the obvious: We're ravishing the planet, tearing asunder the web of life, collapsing entire ecosystems, and doing our best to make Earth look like Mars. Not to mention that we're being maximum pricks to each other in the process-who needs terrorists from afar when we do such a good job of terrorizing each other here?
Aside from parasite bankers who treat me like pond scum, I've had many drivers aim for me while rollerblading down the sides of streets. Bicyclers are an endangered species here.
Billions of people around the world live on less than two dollars a day. Human misery abounds wherever you look. This once Garden of Eden is rapidly transforming into the Bowels of Hell. Go visit the once Fertile Crescent, the cradle of civilization, now called Iraq, if you have the slightest doubt.
So why have kids? Do you want to punish them and put them through a worse hell than we're in? Is that your idea of fun?
I took a class several years back, in a school where I worked, from a psychologist I greatly respected, on childrearing. The first day of class, he posed the question to us: "Why do you want to have kids?"
We spent an hour or so arguing and debating and discussing what might be a good, logical reason for having children.
"That's what people do."
"So? Does that make it a good reason?"
"It's just natural."
"Perhaps" replied our instructor, "but does that make it a good reason for you personally?"
"We want to carry on the family name."
"Is there some compelling reason for doing that?"
"I like kids."
"Why not adopt some? There are countless kids who need adoption."
"My parents want me to."
The instructor winced.
"My spouse wants his/ her own kids."
"Fine. But does that urge really make it a good reason to bring another human into the world?"
"Kids are our reason for living."
"Plenty of people find reason for living without having kids."
"I think they're funny and fun to be around."
"I notice that everyone here is a teacher. So it's good if you think that way. But why have your own kids when you can volunteer or get paid to work with them?"
"I just want to."
"Ok, but that's an emotional reason, not a logical one."
On and on we went, straining our brains for an answer to this seemingly simple question.
Dr. Gary DeVries was the instructor's name, one of the funnier, more intelligent and personable people I've ever met.
I admit that the above quotes are squeezed from the depths of my highly imperfect memory, but I believe they do justice to the tenor of the discussion.
The answer to what began to seem like a Zen koan, was, "We have kids so that we can have friends in our old age, and hopefully while we're growing old." Or at least that was the most logical answer, as espoused by the good doctor.
And I have to admit that over the years, that has come to win out over any other any other answers I've thought of. Ten years ago when I was in the hospital for six weeks, getting a heart transplant, the regular visits from my two sons made me fight to hold back tears. "Friends for when we get old." Indeed! And for the most part, I have likewise greatly enjoyed my sons as friends growing up. Additionally, I do my best to be a friend to my own father, who now at 93, and greatly appreciates my friendship, to say the least.
Both my sons told me that they don't plan to have kids of their own (though one did, and my love for my grandson cannot possibly be "reduced to words"). My kids' reasons were similar to why I nearly neglected to procreate. I have many friends who have no kids and don't plan to have any. My neighbor doctor was telling me just last evening how kids give him headaches. And his pediatrician wife has no interest in having her own kids either, though she loves her profession. I sympathized and told them what Groucho Marx said, when asked how he liked kids. "Parboiled," he replied.
If you aren't of a similar persuasion yourself, I'm sure you know many folks who are. In other words, it appears that a large number of people, often highly intelligent people, have involuntarily joined the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.
My thinking continues: Ok, I'm busting my butt trying to bring sanity into the world, working to replace violence with kindness, putting kids ahead of our own petty agendas, encouraging respect of nature and the sustainable living which that entails, encouraging empathy and understanding, doing what I can to help turn swords into plowshares. And also praying to the Universe (if I dare to call my meditations that), primarily to "help me not be too big of an a**hole." I try to release the hatred I feel toward those who would trade our mysterious, beautiful, precious, irreplaceable Earth for a fatter portfolio or more pixels in their bank account.
And now I begin to wonder why I bother. My genes appear ready to end in one nanosecond blink of the geologic eye. Why not just let those who want to go on having kids deal with their own bag of sh*t? They will put themselves and their progeny into an ever-deepening, hotter hell of their own making by failing to do the most rudimentary intellectual homework; by avoiding reading, thinking, and reflection; by not trusting the very brains they were born with; by bowing low and kissing the feet of demagogues, whilst bowing and praying to "that neon God they made," the Almighty Dollar; possibly anxiously awaiting "The Rapture" or some nebulous, unspecified Apocalypse; devoting their sorry lives to larger, fancier cars, not to mention resource consuming mansions of solitary confinement; growing emotionally and moronically ballistic from watching Fox News; worrying about what celebrity has the latest boob job; and the list goes on (without looking, I can safely add check out today's Drudge Report for a never-ending list of furthered lunacy).
I hate to be crass, but why not say, "F'm all! I'll just bow out with the most dignity and grace I can muster, which may well be holding up a middle finger, when the ignorant fascists throw that last shovel of dirt on me. But why should I fight to save these a**holes?" I mean really"
So the Vehement folks got my attention, and certainly made a pin-prick in my balloon of assumptions. This is not really despair, which I've read "is a sin," but rather a realistic and almost cheerful acceptance that, "Hey! This ain't my problem! I'll soon be out of here and hopefully before long others will catch on and the Earth will get to heal itself. And even if humans hang on long enough to involuntarily bring the curtains down on themselves and a few hundred thousand other species, the Earth will go on spinning, orbiting, capturing and utilizing sunlight, while whatever species do remain will go on evolving, branching, multiplying, recycling the mess we've made, and the Beauty of Nature will ultimately prevail, unimpeded by this fruitcake species imposing insane ideas upon it.
Well now, all this makes me feel a little better. It's certainly been cathartic and helped to purge some internalized poison. Which reminds me of what a friend recently asked me, "You know what this Earth needs?" "No," I replied. "An enema," he retorted. I laughed, but pointed out that an asteroid would work equally well.
At this point, I encourage you to consider the question raised in the title of this article for yourself: Why have kids?
Addendum: Lastly, I present three responses to my original article, which I wrote nine years ago. First, Les Knight, founder of Vehement: "'Why have kids?' is indeed a good question. It's not exactly the same as 'Why breed?' though that's usually what people mean. Adoption and foster care are options for couples who feel they are ready to commit to parenthood. Madonna, for example, just adopted an orphan from South Africa." Les strongly emphasizes that Vehement is not about killing. Their motto is "May we live long and die out." They suggest that people refrain from reproducing, not that we kill ourselves or anyone else. In fact, avoiding the massive die off, which typically follows a population's overshoot of the carrying capacity of its life support systems, is a major goal of Vehement. Fewer deaths IS the goal. There's much more to the Vehement website, and it's well worth a visit.
These paragraphs from the thoughtful and articulate Amanda Butler, of Salt Lake: "There are many reasons not to have kids... a few of my own: I don't want to put myself through the pain of pregnancy and childbirth; kids annoy me and I'm not very good with them; the world is a horrible place and I couldn't subject an innocent child to that; I'm very self-centered and kids would be a drain on my time and financial resources; I'd probably be a miserable failure as a parent anyway...
But I also can't help but think how great it would be to teach my child how to read, to help them learn about nature, music, art, other cultures and all of the beautiful things the world has to offer; how cool it would be to take them hiking or on their first trip out of the US; and how I'd want to challenge them to form their own opinions, and be tolerant and kind towards others, even when no one else is; and to be the ones who are bringing a little bit of what's good and right to the world when the majority either doesn't care or is doing wrong."
And Jack Alpert, via email: "Maybe there is a way for the human species to be present on earth and not be destructive. For example, very rapid human population decline (RPD), the kind that would result from everyone having only one child -- not for ever -- but for the next three centuries with an option to renew." [I recommend Jack's video and related thinking: click here]
(Article changed on November 9, 2015 at 00:29)
In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly want: www.voteutah.us. I thank those who sent such wonderful comments, even though it forced me to go buy a few larger hats, which were among my top campaign expenses (just kidding).
My forever-to-write novel (now my favorite book for some unfathomable reason), A Summer with Freeman, finally got out the door, via Kindle and CreateSpace. Readers of this site, and anyone else with two or more brain cells who want some "serious humorous relief" may want to check it out: http://www.opednews.com/articles/A-Summer-with-Freeman-nov-by-Daniel-Geery-130528-385.html
My family and I lived off the grid in an earth-sheltered, solar powered underground house for 15 years, starting in the early '80s, proving, at least to myself, the feasibility of solar power. Such a feat would be much infinitely easier with off-the-shelf materials available now, though the bureaucracy holding us back is probably worse. http://www.opednews.com/articles/Living-on-Sunshine-Underg-by-Daniel-Geery-110318-547.html
I wrote a book on earth-sheltered solar greenhouses that has many good ideas, but should be condensed from 400 down to 50 pages, with new info from living off the grid. It's on my "to do" list, but you can find used copies kicking around online. Just don't get the one I see for $250, being hawked by some capitalist... well, some capitalist.
I'm 68 with what is now a 26 year old heart--literally, as it was transplanted in 2005 (a virus, they think). This is why I strongly encourage you and everyone else to be an organ donor--and get a heart transplant if you're over 50, unless your name is Dick Cheney.
I may be the only tenured teacher you'll meet who got fired with a perfect teaching record. I spent seven years in court fighting that, only to find out that little guys always lose (http://www.opednews.com/articles/Letter-to-NEA-Leadership--by-Daniel-Geery-101027-833.html; recommended reading if you happen to be a parent, teacher, or concerned citizen).
I managed to get another teaching job, working in a multi-cultural elementary school for ten years (we had well over 20 native tongues when I left, proving to me that we don't need war to get along--no one even got killed there!). http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_daniel_g_060716_alternatives_to_exti.htm
I spent a few thousand hours working on upward-gliding airships, after reading The Deltoid Pumpkin Seed by John McPhee. But I did my modelling in the water, so it took only two years and 5,000 models to get a shape that worked. You can Google "aquaglider" to learn more about these. As far as I know, this invention represents the first alteration of Archimedes'principle, spelled out 2,500 years ago.
"Airside," the water toys evolved into more of a cigar shape, as this was easier to engineer. Also, solar panels now come as thin as half a manila folder, making it possible for airships to be solar powered. You can see one of the four I made in action by Googling "hyperblimp"(along with many related, advanced versions).
Along with others, I was honored to receive a Charles Lindbergh Foundation Award, to use my airships to study right whales off Argentina. Now we just have to make it happen and are long overdue, for reasons that would probably not fit on the internet.
In 2010 I married a beautiful woman who is an excellent writer and editor, in addition to being a gourmet cook, gardener, kind, gentle, warm, funny, spiritual, and extremely loving. We met via "Plenty-of-Fish" and a number of seemingly cosmic connections. Christine wrote Heart Full of Hope, which many readers have raved about, as you may note on Amazon.
I get blitzed reading the news damn near every day, and wonder why I do it, especially when it's the same old shit recycled, just more of it. In spite of Barbara Ehrenreich and reality, I'm a sucker for positive thinking and have read many books on it. I find many many of them insane and the source of much negativity on my part. My favorites these days are by Alan Cohen, who seems to speak my language, and likewise thinks a bit like Albert Einstein did (as do I on this note). Albert: "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent, in fact, I am religious."
Though I rapidly note that I've kept alive my deceased and "devout atheist" friend's book, http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Foundation-of-Religion-by-Daniel-Geery-110510-382.html
Lastly, kudos to Rob Kall and those who make OEN the site that it is: one of the last bastions of free speech.