Wednesday, January 24, 2018

VHEMT in Portugal

Happy Together

Les U. Knight’s adventures at the
Forum of the Future
4 - 11 November 2017
Porto, Portugal

Vânia Rodrigues first invited me to the conference in March 2017:
“We - as part of the curators team - are especially interested in bringing you to Portugal given the thematic start point for this year’s edition of the Forum of the Future: ‘Electric Earth’ and its obvious connections to the VHEMT. Since we first heard of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, we haven’t been able to stop thinking how powerful an idea that is to put in the context of a ‘festival of thought’, which annually gathers hundreds of people around big societal themes. We are confident that the ideas you put forward could account for a lively and very useful debate in the context of climate challenges.”
That sounds great, but like previous invitations from other countries, travel’s not in my budget. I didn’t read far enough or I would have seen, “appropriate travel and speaker’s fee apply.” She tried again twice April, and I finally realized I was being offered a free trip to Portugal and a chance to share the VHEMT concepts at an international conference. I gratefully accepted immediately. Looking at their past conferences, I saw I was way out of my league. Still, I couldn’t pass this up. One of the themes is “Happy Together,” which goes well with my name.
A Skype call with Vânia (vah-nuh), who would be the moderator of my talk, reassured her my accent wouldn’t keep me from being understood, unlike “someone from Manchester.” Jonathan da Costa patiently took over the many logistics over the next several months.

Wednesday November 5th, 2017
I landed in Porto where Mariana held a “Les U. Knight” sign. She would be an attentive and unflappable host, helping me buy a phone, walking me to and from events, and keeping me from getting lost in time and space.
On our way to the studio, she handed me a package of information about Porto and the conference, and my lanyard. “Here’s your per diem,” she said and handed me €50.
At the studio, Jonathan showed me to my large private apartment on the third floor. Sparse furnishings were perfect, especially the long table I could center my self at. Wifi!

Kitchen area, entrance, and bathroom.

A long table was set up with a view of the windows.
I soon met Vânia, and we went to a vegetarian buffet, where she told me how things are organized. We discussed natalist pressures to procreate, which she had experienced. I was aware of a couple at the next table with a young child, and assumed they could understand us, so I worded things sensitively.

Thursday November 6, 2017
In the morning, in the basement of Teatro Rivoli, I was interviewed by two journalists: one from the news agency, Lusa, but I don’t remember his name. Mundo, and at least a dozen others picked up the story the next day.
He must have written a long article for the agency, because those who picked it up chose different content. Photos varied as well, but the headline was used by most of the media outlets: “Extinction of Man would be ‘mutually beneficial’ for humans and Nature. Who says it is Les U. Knight, founder of the Movement for the Voluntary Extinction of the Human Species.” Probably sounded better in Portuguese. I couldn’t ask for a better introduction to VHEMT. Sure beats Vice’s “This man wants you dead.”
The other was with Rita Neves Costa from an online newspaper that used to be in print: The Observer. Comments are the same as in the USA.
Mariana walked me to “Rethinking the Anthropocene,” a presentation questioning the human-centered name and concept with a feminist and postcolonial critique. I think part of the objection is blaming all humans for actions of colonialist cultures.
I was, unfortunately, not able to hear well enough to understand what they were saying. Instead, I absorbed the energy of the two speakers, three moderators, and the audience. It was sadly serious. When questions from the audience were encouraged, only one was forthcoming. After polite applause, everyone left as quietly as they had sat, a half an hour early. I feared my presentation might go that way. I hope the speakers weren’t too disappointed. One came from Brazil and the other from Switzerland. They had prepared speeches on the stand in front of them which they read while looking up at the audience as much as they could. I guess that’s standard academic presentation, but people can just read it online if it’s not a spontaneous talk.
After the presentation, waiting for Mariana to show me the way back, I spied graffiti.

“My pussy is the power.”

Friday November 7, 2017
Late morning, I gave a video interview for an artistic project which includes “eco-visionairies” and will be shown in a Lisbon museum in April 2018. Afterwards, the videographer followed me as I talked with people who had been watching the interview. When I noticed him he said he was playing paparazzi. “Alright! I’ve never had a paparazzi.” When we reached the outside doors, I turned and told the story of Bill Nye being ambushed at an airport and asked if he thought humans would go extinct. He said, “I think there’s no doubt of it. Almost all species have gone extinct.” They posted the video with “Bill Nye predicts human extinction” as click bait.
That afternoon, several of us took a tour of the art installations in the studio. One piece was a postcard display stand with postcards of the Amazon rain forest in every holder, giving the appearance of a tree.
Amazon converted to postcards.

A five foot “car air freshener,” with a photo of the Amazon on one side and a description of presentations on the other, was suspended from the ceiling.
It didn’t stink up the studio.

In the next room, two artists created a display that was a greenhouse with a shelf of  plants about a meter off the floor There were holes in the shelf, so Keort van Mensvoort from Amsterdam and I climbed in through a low door and stuck our heads up. Our heads were in the plants. We could smell them and examine them up close.
The artists, and Keort’s head becoming the Amazon.

Through an interior courtyard open to the sky, we climbed the stairs to a room with images of the Amazon rain forest and its animals projected on the wall. The artist said she couldn’t afford to go to the Amazon. Her name, Sónia Baptista, is in Amasonia. Background music prevented me from hearing most of her short presentation.

Around 5:00, Jonathan, Vânia and I took a cab to the Museum of Biodiversity for the sound check and set up.
Museum entrance
I was grateful they were doing it so far in advance. We queued the two-minute “Not pregnant” video, just in case.
One of the quotes on the wall.

A mid-sized great blue whale skeleton was suspended above.
150 people would soon come to hear my talk:
“Voluntary Human Extinction: Fresh Hope for Planet and People.”

Interviews on Thursday and Friday had been good practice for my presentation. My last talk was in March and it didn’t go well. I wrote a good essay but a bad talk. This time I just had notes on three cards off to the side for reference if needed. There was no speaker’s stand, which is what I requested: I don’t like barriers between me and the audience. I’ve been presenting these ideas so long they just need a nudge to come out.
Vânia and I were ushered to the side room where we couldn’t be seen by the audience as they came in. We chatted in the dark and shared reassuring hugs. This was the time we’d been working toward for months. We came out to the stage to applause, which was very reassuring.
We sat in the chairs on a slightly raised platform to the side of a massive screen. Vânia explained why I was invited and how many might consider this an extreme solution, but she considered it radical in the Latin sense of the word: getting to the root.
I stood up and opened by explaining the two basic premises: voluntary non-procreation and ceasing perpetuation of our species. I assured them we weren’t blaming people who have already procreated, and that there were many people in the Movement with offspring.
“We’re concerned about both the biosphere and humanity. If there were fewer of us each day instead of more, conditions for both would improve.”
The Anthropocene controversy had to be addressed. “We have altered Earth’s ecosphere more drastically than any species we know of. This is a unique time. We are treating the biosphere the same way one culture will colonize another and displace it. We are converting wildlife habitat into human habitat. It’s domination and oppression, the same as exists within cultures, with patriarchy, classism, and racism. Maybe we can find a name that matches what we want this period to be — the liberation era, perhaps. But first we have to achieve that. Until then, we have to admit the name fits.”
I talked about the importance of gender equality and the reproductive freedom and education of girls that follows.
“The chances of all seven and a half billion of us deciding not to procreate aren’t likely, but neither are the chances we’ll provide for nine or ten billion of us in the future. We aren’t taking care of everyone today. Tens of thousands of children die each day of preventable causes. If there were fewer of us we might be able to provide for everyone.
“All cultures have evolved to be natalist, that is, considering procreation of be a good thing no matter what the circumstances. If you post on Facebook that you’re having a baby, you’ll lots of likes, but if you post that you’ve decided not to… not much.
“Congratulations!” And, as I mimed an aside, “Are you kidding? You can barely take care of yourself.”
If a couple goes to a doctor to see about surgical contraception, the doctor says, “You’re young, you might change your mind.”
“Are we old enough to have a baby?”
“Well, if you feel you’re ready, sure.”
“What if we change our minds?”
“Natalism is like patriarchy: it’s invisible, especially for us men. “There’s no patriarchy. I don’t know what those women are talking about.” Then when you see it, signs are everywhere.”
“I have a two-minute video which illustrates natalism.”
They appreciated the humor.
“Individuals and couples will jump for joy at not being pregnant, but that’s not the message from family and society.
“The UN declaration of Human Rights includes the right to marry and found a family, but it doesn’t include the right to not procreate. Forcing a couple to produce an offspring and raise it when they don’t want to is actually worse than denying them their right to procreate. They’re both violations of human rights.”
“We call procreation ‘having a baby’ but really we’re creating a new human who will go off and live as an adult for 60 years. No one says, ‘We’re having a middle-aged man.’”
When I said, “Human society would be greatly diminished if there were no children.” I sensed a subtle change in energy from the audience. “They keep us in touch with our sense of play and wonder, but do we have the right to bring them into existence just for our benefit? Maybe we need to find other ways to reconnect with that.”
“A study this summer examined ways to reduce our environmental impact and created a chart.” I shape it with my hands. “Eat low on the food chain, transportation choices… and when it came to having one less child, the scale had to be broken — it went off the chart.”
“We all have an ecological footprint, measuring how much biologically active land we need. It includes the ocean, so we don’t leave a footprint there, but it’s a convenient measurement. The average person in Portugal needs three hectares, and in the US we use seven. The world as a whole is into ecological overshoot. This year overshoot day was August second. That’s when we used up all the renewable resources Earth produces in a year. Now we’re into deficit.”
I said more, of course, but that’s what I remember.

The questions afterwards were so much fun. It was lively with a lot of energy from the audience. One of the first to take the mic said, “I disagree with your premise."
“You’re not alone,” I said with an exaggerated reassuring tone. That got a laugh. He agreed that over population is a problem, so I asked, “How many people do you think Earth can support? Three billion? Five billion?” He wasn’t interested in answering that one.
“We are a part of Nature.”
“OK, but what part of Nature are we? Exotic invader?” Murmmers of disagreement from the crowd. “No? Super predator?” A few heads nodding. We had to move to the next question before he was satisfied with my answers, but as the mic was being passed, I assured him we could find something we agreed on if we could talk more. Later I learned he’s a professor of Astrophysics at a local university.
“What about the loss of the only species that has consciousness?”
“As far as we know were the only ones.” More murmurs of disagreement arose. This spontaneous expression of engagement made it feel as if we were all involved in a conversation: exactly what I’d hoped. Then Marta, who I would meet the next day, said that the forest has consciousness. “There’s your answer,” I told him.
While I was saying something about the benefit to humans, someone called out, “But you don’t care about people.”
“I care about people. That’s why I’m here. I know it seems paradoxical…” Murmmers of amused agreement. “…but as we phase ourselves out, life will potentially improve for everyone. There will be no human problems when there are no humans.”
“How do we know the earth will recover after we’re gone?”
“Everywhere that humans have abandoned, like Chernobyl, wildlife has returned. They’re having problems with the radiation, but animals are returning after being gone 50 years.” I might have said, “I guess we’re more dangerous than plutonium.”
“What about going to space?”
“In order to keep our population where it is now, ships holding two thousand people would have to blast off every fifteen minutes. Condoms are cheaper.” At least one good laugh on that one.
“What good is biosphere with no one here to appreciate it?” Some snickers and looks back to see who asked that.
“Yeah, we leave and the biosphere is all recovered and there’s no one here to appreciate it. Well, it would be the same good as it was before we furless beach apes came along. I’m not sure we appreciate it anyway. If we did we wouldn’t be treating like we do.”
“Is this political, a religion? Philosophy?”
“I guess it would be a philosophy, though some have deep religious feelings about the biosphere.” *
“I heard about a philosophy about 15 years ago called Efilism, and I wonder what you think of that.”
“Sorry, what philosophy was that?” He repeated and I still didn’t get it. I was afraid of this. People in front relayed it. “Efilism!”
“Oh! Efilism! Life spelled backwards. It’s an extension of anti-natalism — the idea that we have no right to bring someone into existence where they will suffer when they aren’t where they are. Efilism applies that to all life. I don’t think it’s our call to make. We’re just one species out of millions.” I should have added that without humans, suffering would be greatly diminished. Our factory farms cause a lot of suffering and no species suffers like a human. We suffer in anticipation of suffering, while we’re suffering, and afterwards as well. But I didn’t.
Vânia had to end the question period due to a lack of time, and there were plenty more hands up for the mic.
People came up as the audience left. Someone from the Museum ceremoniously handed me their large guest book to sign. In it I thanked them for allowing me into their home to visit with so many wonderful people.
A young woman gushed, “You should take this to Mexico.”
“It is! There are active members there.” She said one of the reasons she came to Portugal was the pressure to have children in Mexico. “Several women have told me there’s a lot of pressure to have children here too.”
“Yes, but nothing like Mexico.”
Two men approached at the same time, though they weren’t together. “We’re a part of Nature,” one insisted. I said that we’ve worked hard to get away from it, and the other agreed. They were discussing as I moved to talk with someone else.
Two women, one with a recorder, approached. “We’re journalism students and we have one question for you. What if it’s too late to do anything to prevent a [collapse of the biosphere]?”
“If it’s too late, then the last thing we’ll want to do is bring someone into the world to live through it.” I thought there was another person waiting or I would have added that even if there’s only a five percent chance we can prevent a collapse, I think we still have to try. There’s too much at stake to just give up.
*On reflection, I don't think it's any of those. People agree with VHEMT for a variety of reasons, including political, religious and philosophical reasons. I see it as simply an expression of two truths: procreation can’t be justified and neither can perpetuation of our species. Reasons for supporting these truths come from all of those and more.
A cab took us to a restaurant in the center of town. I sat next to Koert, who had attended my presentation. Vânia sat across from me. She was upset about the negative response to opening night of “Amazonia” in Lisbon the night before. Apparently there was criticism for their use of humor about such a serious subject. I noted that it could be a good thing if handled right. She didn’t want to respond until she’d talked with others. She complained about political correctness driving the criticism. I didn’t get to see the play. Vânia said my name was on the program, credited for inspiration. Golly. We never know what influences we might have.
A man sitting on the other side of Koert lamented that humor couldn’t be used these days, for example, “There’s no way to make feminism funny.” I censored myself and didn’t ask how many feminists it takes to change a light bulb. He said, “What do you call a billion Chinese at the bottom of the ocean?”
I replied flatly, “Not a good start,”
“A good start to the solution.” No one was laughing, which was his point.

Saturday November 8, 2017
The streets were mostly empty in the morning. During the week they would be full of people by then. I was on the third floor with a view of a narrow street and cafes.

Louie Louie music store is just up the street. A fun connection to the Pacific Northwest of the US.

Menus have English descriptions. Ham and cheese is available in many forms. Their standard coffee is like espresso, though I saw “coffee americano” on a menu a couple of days ago. I’d go there if I remembered where. Porto is on a hillside, so walking includes a lot of ups and downs. I used the town center as my compass.

I had the day to myself until a presentation by Koert at 7:00. Lots of people smoke cigarettes. They drive quite fast on narrow streets: assertively but not aggressively, inches apart. I saw no obese people. Vânia tells me it’s a big tourist destination, an important part of their weak economy, which is part of why tourists come. Restaurant prices seem about the same as Portland. Everyone I’ve met so far speaks English. All the presentations are in English with simultaneous translations for some. Mine wasn’t, but the Anthropocene was: wireless receivers were offered at the door. Pretty cool. I didn’t see very many opt for them though. All older folks.
I wandered around, up and down in the sunshine and found a gourmet vegetarian restaurant with a buffet for €12.
Across the street were large cans for disposal and recycling. I saw several street cleaners.

Ireland’s Eighth Amendment criminalizes abortion.

Coffee wisdom. Parking on sidewalk and in crosswalk is tolerated.
About 4:30, Mariana called me on the phone she had helped me buy for that purpose and reminded me there was a talk in the studio downstairs.
As I entered, I recognized a woman who had asked a question at my talk. Marta recognized me and introduced herself and her nine-year-old son who isn’t confident in English yet or is just shy. I thanked her for answering the question about the loss of the only species that has consciousness. I gave her a VHEMT button and she translated it for her son, with the context. He pointed to the five-foot green tree "air freshener" with text in Portuguese, including the “Movimento para a Extinção Voluntária da Espécie Humana.” The image of the Amazon rainforest turned into a car air freshener was an integral element of the event. He took a seat near the front and I sat behind him, sharing a smile. Marta soon joined him. She had a lot to say about the tribal peoples of the Amazon who communicated with the forest. I asked If she’d heard of the Uwa people who promised to commit suicide en mass if the oil company went ahead with their plans to drill on their lands. She said there were others as well. She noted that maybe people should not talk so much and listen more. At that moment, she might have realized she was doing all the talking. The presentation was about to begin anyway.
The Pony Express is an artists’ group that installs experiential environments called ecosexual clubs where people can go and get very close to nature’s offerings. Their descriptions made me long to lie nude on a moss covered log in the woods. Ian Sinclair from Australia and Loren Kronmemyer from the EUA (Portuguese for USA) were inspired by Ecosexual Manefesto by Annie Sprinkle and Elizabeth Stephens. EO Wilson calls our ecodesires biophilia.
After the presentation, as I waited for Mariana, I talked with a couple who had been to my talk. He asked what I thought about leaving a warning to future intelligent beings who evolve after we’re gone.
“Yeah, like a Rosetta Stone,” I said. “People have created plaques to go over nuclear waste dumps that don’t use words, just images to show if you dig here you die.”
She asked if I’d heard “conspiracy theories about population — chemtrails and stuff...”
“It all goes together, huh? Some people think there’s an elite who want to depopulate the planet so they can have it to themselves. I don’t think they’re doing a very good job of it. Actually, the elite, or the people who have all the money, want lots of people.”
“Lower wages,” she said.
“Yes, that’s a big one, and we’re more easily controlled. People with children aren’t as likely to take chances.” I mentioned the depopulation conspiracy theory that Bill Gates wants to wipe out Africans using vaccinations. “He did say vaccinations would lower the population, but it was because parents would have fewer children if more survived.”
Walking to the theater, I saw the woman who interviewed me on camera Friday, so I thanked her for the rehearsal. “It was reassuring and got me warmed up for my talk.” She introduced me to a curator of the museum in Lisbon, walking with us.
The presentation at Teatro Rivoli, “Next Nature: how Technology becomes Nature,” was visionary. Koert envisions future possibilities, not what he thinks will be the future, and produces art works of the ideas. Lab grown meat was an exception: it’s already being produced. A meat patty costs €250,000, so they have to get the price down for a quarter pounder. A belt that charges phones using the heat from belly fat was another. He says we need to move forward to Nature, not go back to Nature. He determined that technology progresses like a pyramid, with each level including fewer examples: they get weeded out. It goes from Envisioned, to Operational, to Applied, to Accepted, to Vital, to Invisible. Agriculture and cooking are examples of invisible technology: we don’t even think of them as technology.
He asked how many of us don’t have a smart phone. My hand was the only one I saw go up, but there were a couple hundred and I could have missed them. He recommended that, before adding a piece of technology to our lives, we should ask one question: “Will this increase my humanity?”
Before the talk, a man about my age recognized me from my talk and wanted to discuss it, so we sat together and talked while waiting for Koert’s talk. I remembered seeing him in the audience, looking interested to the point of amazement. He’s been interested in human population for several decades and VHEMT sort of took it all the way for him. He was eager to talk about it with me, having found someone who goes even further than he has.
Guilherme’s card says he’s a doctor of public health, but he’s now a professor at a local university. I think there are two. We exchanged contact information, as he was insistent we stay in touch. We’ve exchanged emails since.
After the talk I waited in the foyer and a couple of young women who had been to my talk asked me if I thought there was a chance we could create a technology that continued on after we went extinct. I wondered if it could repair itself and evolve. One of them thought it was a possibility and one didn’t. As we were talking, Vânia, Koert, Jonathan, Vitol, and Mariana joined us, laughing that we were discussing that. They’d asked Koert after his question period ended and he wished they’d asked when the mic was being passed.
We walked several blocks to a restaurant for a reception for everyone involved in the event. On the way, Koert asked if I received different responses to VHEMT in different places. “People have the same concerns everywhere. At anarchist book fairs, environmental conferences, or street fairs. People wear different clothes but all have the same concerns.”
The mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, greeted people at the door, and later talked with Vânia, Koert, his moderator Vitol, and me. They talked about what a great event this has become in four years. Being free for attendees was a big draw. Vânia said how pleased she was to see such a wide age range attending. I think the City of Porto funds a lot of it. I savored the moment: sipping wine and chatting with the mayor of the second largest city in Portugal. I saw him squeeze a younger woman’s bicep as she passed by, and wondered if he was another one of those guys. When she returned, it was apparent they were together.
Walking back to the theater in a crowd, many from the reception, the woman behind me commented on how people were looking her up and down. I turned and said it was because she dresses so well. Then I recognized her as Loren, from the ecosexual presentation earlier.
“Yes! I really enjoyed your talk.”
“Oh, did you come?”
“Well, maybe later.”
“And again and again, right?”
“I think I’m ecosensual, maybe not ecosexual.”
I gave her a “Thank you for not breeding” bike sticker so she’d have the website url, then stepped into the street against the light. A car turning into the crosswalk had to stop for us. “I almost got us killed.”
“Well if I have to go, this would be a good time,” she joked.
“To die by your side…” I forgot the rest of The Smiths’ lyric.
We met up with her friends in front of the theater, where Vânia and I shared a long hug, our last before she and Koert went in for the last talk of the forum. We didn’t do the air kisses in each ear, though. We had spent important times together, like waiting a very long time to be called out for my presentation, pacing in the wings. Breathing.
I turned back to Loren and said I planned to hang back and leave when everyone went in. “Ghosting,” Loren said.
“An Irish good-bye,” I added.
“We call it the French good-bye,” another said.
After more joking around, I said an actual good-bye and went back to my apartment to process it all. What a day.
Around 11:00, after a glitch-filled Skype with Heather in Portland, I set my phone alarm for 4:00 so I’d have time for a shower and empty the trash and recycling before the taxi came at 5:30, and went sound asleep.
At 5:38, Mariana called to tell me, as calmly as ever, the taxi was down waiting for me. I made it in six minutes, forgetting my airplane snacks in the fridge. It seems speed limits aren’t enforced in Porto, and we made it to the airport by 6:00. The airline schedule from Madrid to Chicago said “American” but I was happy to find it was Iberia again. Free food, though this time both choices had meat. I’d brought a sandwich in anticipation. My phone alarm went off at 4:00 AM—Pacific time.
In Chicago, multiple lines kept me and my fellow livestock occupied for two and a half hours before my flight. Four hours later, I finished reading Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook I'd picked up in PDX on my way out, and my Portuguese adventure was over, except for happy memories, mainly of the wonderful people I met. I feel we were happy together.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Earth Day Portland 2014

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day Celebration in Portland

Portland’s Earth Day celebration is in a large park with a long, curving asphalt path running through it. Booths are lined up along either side of the 10-foot path, facing each other. As we’re setting up, I realize I’m directly across from a midwife’s booth. Twenty photos of freshly born humans grace the top of their canopy. In the same place on my canopy, the “Thank you for not breeding” banner normally hangs, but I placed it on the back side, so it can be seen from a wider area. Bumper stickers on my table with that slogan were enough of a contrast.

I talk with the midwives and we joke about our ironic placement. I find our common ground: if they’re going to breed, they may as well do it right.
“If I strike out, I’ll send them over to you.”

I explain VHEMT to a midwife and her husband, who had stopped by. They’d decided to not procreate and are delighted to receive the Meritorious Service Award. Two other midwives had also decided against breeding, one coming to that conclusion half way through midwife school. Another was wrestling with the decision: giving birth is something she really wants to experience, but she knows what the ecological implications are.
“Well, you’re thinking about it, that’s the main thing. If the only children who are born are wanted it would be a huge improvement.”

To get a photo of their booth with two midwives posing, one has to back up into my booth. I suggest holding the “Thank you for not breeding” bumper sticker in front of them.
“Oh, you’re bad for business,” she half-jokes.

Many visitors fully agree that there are too many of us, if not that we should go extinct. The idea of us not existing is troubling to a few, and they aren’t comforted by my suggesting that thousands of other species are going extinct because of us—we’re just one more.

People who had chosen to not procreate are happy to find someone they can tell their story to and be congratulated instead of the usual negative reactions. The 20 acres of potential wildlife habitat they saved for 78 years by not creating another US resident is useful information.

A man tells me that he’d come to the VHEMT booth on Earth Day in 2008 and our conversation prompted him to stop waffling about getting fixed. I ceremoniously present him with the Meritorious Service Award.

I usually get one really negative reaction and this time it’s also one of the strangest. A young man and woman with a child about nine, too old to be theirs and of mixed ethnicity, look quite seriously at the Why Breed? chart. By their expressions, I can tell they don’t like what they’re reading. Admittedly, it’s not the best introduction to the VHEMT concept for most people. I’m busy with others and don’t get a chance to engage them in conversation. They leave, and return later with controlled righteous anger and semi-prepared confrontation. The girl gives me a folded note and I thank her as I drop it into the cash box, assuming it’s meant to be read later. I still haven’t read it because I’m afraid it will reveal that she was erroneously made to feel badly about me and the VHEMT message—maybe that I think she shouldn’t have been born.

The trio fronts the table and the guy begins his speech while the girl and young woman glare at me.
“As an identified white male, I have to ask, how can you... I mean, this comes from a position of privilege. What about all the minorities who don’t... who are struggling every day just to by? I’m just asking the question.”
This is taking a lot of courage on his part and his voice wavers slightly. He’s shaking barely perceptibly and I’m trying not to internalize his feelings. I can tell he’s not ready for an answer, so I nod and don’t interrupt.
“What about the woman who gets raped and now has a baby, or the trans woman?”
He goes on a little while defending the defenseless against the tyranny he perceives I represent. Whatever they had read at the table triggered some deep feelings, perhaps reinforced in group-think while they were gone.
“I’m just putting the question out there.”
“Yes, but your question comes out of misconceptions.”
“I’m just asking what makes you think you have the right to present this information?”
“I have an obligation to present this information.”
He allows me to explain that we’re voluntary and stand for reproductive freedom. That when there are fewer of us we can take better care of everyone who’s already here.
It’s the woman’s turn, and the girl’s glare is holding strong. I feel sorry for her more than the adults, who seem to have acquired a heavy dose of honky guilt for their white privilege.
“There are people who are aware and intelligent, good people who should be having kids.”
“Eugenics? Are you saying that some people have more right to breed than others?” I try to not sound judgmental.
“No...” I don’t think she had thought of it in those terms.
I speak calmly, presenting VHEMT in social justice terms, and rejecting thoughts like, “It’s ’cuz I’m white, isn’t it?” I allow breaks for them to talk but I may have defused their hostility and they’re quiet. They don’t decide to become VHEMT Volunteers, but at least they aren’t angry as they leave.
It’s true that we’re privileged and the two billion humans who are barely scraping by aren’t likely to think about Homo sapiens ceasing procreation to go extinct for the good of Earth’s biosphere.

People capture images with their phones of the “Visualize human extinction” cartoon, the stack of books, and footprint information on the “Preserve Wildlife Habitat” board. Fast way to share information.

One of the bumper stickers on display is “Vasectomy prevents Abortion,” which generates conversations. A boy about 10 asks what it means.
“A vasectomy is an operation a man gets so he won’t get a woman pregnant. An abortion is an operation a woman gets if she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be.”

A man with a huge white beard tells me he decided not to get a vasectomy when he saw what it did to the guys he knew who got it. I asked what happened to them.
“They lost all their desire to compete.”
“Wow, I’m going to promote it even more now—side benefit!”
As he moves on, he looks back at me with a puzzled expression.

While talking with a guy in agreement, another man walks up and the conversation turns to vasectomies.
New guy says, “Vasectomies should be given where they’re needed the most.”
“Like, in the balls—that’s best,” I say with as much seriousness as I can feign.
First guy agrees, nodding with a sly smile.
“No, I mean India and South America.”
“We’re the most overpopulated. Our impact is a lot bigger than people living there, so this is where it’s needed the most.”

A middle-aged woman tells me “One of the first things I want to know when I start dating someone new is if they’ve had a vasectomy. So many guys won’t do it.”
“Why should I? She can just take the pill.”
“Yeah, really, isn’t that awful?”
She recounts being told she’s selfish for not having children.
“I’ll be so glad when I stop bleeding.” The change they are a timing.

A Swedish-American woman is surprised by the idea of us going extinct voluntarily.
“It’s so much nicer than the involuntary human extinction we’re working so hard to bring about, don’t you think?”
She’s open to the idea, and introduces her adopted son, who’s about 10. Later she brings her husband, a native Hawai’ian, who understands the concept right off. He tells of the extinctions which befell Hawai’i after Europeans arrived, nearly including the native people. She’s shivering as the temperature drops ahead of the rain, so I offer the propane heater behind the table. While she’s warming, he jokes, “She’s a Viking and she’s cold.”

I’m one of the last ones to break down and load up. Everything is just about ready for me to load when a man and a woman come up, and he tells me “I just got a vasectomy, what do I get?”
“Congratulations! I wish you all the happiness in the world for the rest of your life!”
I bring my car up and as I’m loading, I realize he was expecting the Meritorious Service Award. Word gets around. Too late now. Maybe in 2015 he’ll be back to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement booth.

Okay, I finally feel ready to read the note:

Dear Mr. mean man. I just wanted to say that me and my best friends do not agree with your idiotic idea. What we should do is go on with our normal lives and the earth will survive. You made me feel like it’s a crime that I want to have a kid when I grow up. I have many more things to say but I don’t want to. Thanks for reading.
9 year old.

That’s not as bad as I was prepared for: she wasn’t made to feel badly for her existence, just for her culturally induced desire to follow the default life. In some ways it is a crime to create another of us today, or more than ten years from today in her case. It’s a crime against Nature, against the existing children who need care, and a case could be made that it’s de facto child abuse to sentence someone to life in the world we’re leaving for them. I would have presented it less harshly, of course. I hope she takes a different path with her intelligence and writing ability as she grows older.

Monday, September 10, 2012

“There’s No Tomorrow”

Animated video explaining peak everything, how it came about, and what we should do about it.

After 31 minutes patiently detailing why none of our available alternatives are adequate, the video concludes:

The issues of energy sources, resource depletion, top soil loss, and pollution are all symptoms of a single larger problem: growth.

Exactly! Unfortunately, this is where a natalist blind spot prevents an obvious conclusion.

As long as our financial system demands endless growth, reform is unlikely to succeed.
Reform? What reform? We just spent half an hour learning how no reforms can succeed. Our dire situation is caused by the way we count our money? Financial systems are artificial—life support systems are based on reality. Blaming economics for our overshoot of carrying capacity ignores the root cause, perhaps because the subsequent solution is unthinkable.

What then will the future look like? Optimists believe growth will continue forever without limits. Pessimists think that we’re headed toward a new stone age or extinction. The truth may lie between these extremes.
Is it possible that society might fall back to a simpler state, one in which energy use is a lot less? This would mean a harder life for most, more manual labor, more farm work, and local production of goods, food, and services.

It could also mean a massive dieoff, but never mind what those pessimists think.

What should a person do to prepare for such a possible future? Expect a decrease in supplies of food and goods from far away places. Start walking or cycling. Get used to using less electricity. Get out of debt. Try to avoid banks. Instead of shopping at big box stores, support a local business. Buy food grown locally at farmers’ markets. Instead of a lawn, consider gardening to grow your own food. Learn how to preserve it. Consider the use of local currencies, should the larger economy cease to function, and develop greater self-sufficiency. None of these steps will prevent collapse, but they might improve your chances in a low energy future, one in which we will have to be more self-reliant, as our ancestors once were.

How quaint. Seven billion of us will roll up our sleeves and live as one billion did back in our ancestors’ day. In keeping with the moderate, even euphemistic tone of the video, they could have concluded, “Because none of these steps will prevent collapse, consider carefully before increasing your family size.”

Instead, we are given a few good-but-admittedly-inadequate steps from one of the popular “100 easy things you can do” lists.

Either the evidence failed to convince its own makers, or they had to pander to natalist misconceptions to get it approved by the producers. Imagine ending with, “And so, creating even one more of us can’t be justified at this time. Let’s take care of everyone who’s already here, and make the most of our unfortunate future together.”

Perhaps the video would have been rejected by most as anti-baby and anti-human, but there’s too much at stake for us to continue ignoring the effects of our redundant breeding. The luxury of time for incremental advancements in awareness is running out with the rest of our resources.

My advice for the coming weird times

Advice for benefit of individuals and their community:
Don’t create more offspring.
Downsize possessions, but increase storage of long-lasting necessities.
Develop a support community—especially among your neighbors if possible.
Increase alternative transportation choices and use motor vehicles efficiently if at all.
Gain useful skills and the tools for them, specializing in personal aptitudes.
Retrofit dwelling unit for conservation and efficiency—perhaps for security
Grow and preserve food.
Reduce throughput of money. Avoid debt.
Have fun and enjoy life.

Advice for the benefit of society and biosphere:
Don’t create more offspring.
Reduce consumption and environmental impact in whatever ways seem best for your situation.
Mitigate negative human impacts in whatever way your situation allows and inclination leads.
Move toward a plant-based diet.
Avoid acquiring more companion animals.

I welcome your additions to the above advice, as well as feedback on my analysis of this outstanding video’s conclusions.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why do so many deny that human population density is a critical issue for Earth’s biosphere?

In TED Conversations, Hans Rosling, professor of International Health and co-founder of the outstanding interactive website Gapminder, asks, “Why do so many think that population growth is an important issue for the environment? Don’t they know the facts of demographics?” He partially answers his questions:

We face many environmental challenges, but the foremost is the risk for a severe climate change due to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

I meet so many that think population growth is a major problem in regard to climate change. But the number of children born per year in the world has stopped growing since 1990. The total number of children below 15 years of age in the world are now relatively stable around 2 billion. The populations with an increasing amount of children born are fully compensated by other populations with a decreasing number of children born. A final increase of 2 billion people is expected until the world population peaks at about 9 billion in 2050. But the increase with 2 billion is comprised by already existing persons growing up to become adults, and old people like me (+60 years). So when I hear people saying that population growth has to be stopped before reaching 9 billion, I get really scared, because the only way to achieve that is by killing.

So the addition of another 2 billion in number constitutes a final increase of less than 30%, and it is inevitable. Beyond 2050 the world population may start to decrease if women across the world will have, on average, less than 2 children. But that decrease will be slow.

So the fact is that we have to plan for a common life on Earth with 7-9 billion fellow human beings, and the environmental challenge must be met by a more effective use of energy and a much more green production of energy.

The only thing that can change this is if the last 1-2 poorest billion do not get access to school, electricity, basic health services and family planning. Only if the horror of poverty remains will we become more than 9 billion.

So my question is: Are these facts known? If not, why?

It is important because placing emphasis on population diverts attention from what has to be done to limit the climate crisis.

Rosling’s perspective above is shared by others and, considering his stature, is likely to be accepted at face value. It deserves deconstruction:
We face many environmental challenges, but the foremost is the risk for a severe climate change due to CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.
It might be, though one could argue that toxins and habitat loss may be equally challenging. Regardless of which man-made problem(s) we choose as foremost, population growth is indeed a major driver: the more of us there are the greater our total impact.
I meet so many that think population growth is a major problem in regard to climate change. But the number of children born per year in the world has stopped growing since 1990.
The fact that our natural increase peaked in 1989 at 87 million doesn’t mean that the 76 million more of us born than die each year have no significant impact.
The total number of children below 15 years of age in the world are now relatively stable around 2 billion.
And they will be creating more of us over the next 15 years, many against their wishes or unintentionally. Our goal shouldn’t be to maintain a stable number of people under 15—we need a steadily decreasing number. A relatively stable number of children are dying each day, but stability in this situation is likewise less than ideal.
The populations with an increasing amount of children born are fully compensated by other populations with a decreasing number of children born. A final increase of 2 billion people is expected until the world population peaks at about 9 billion in 2050.
One might ask how we will increase by 2 billion if populations with “increasing amounts of children born are fully compensated by other populations with a decreasing number of children born.” This incongruity is caused by using “increasing” and “decreasing” as determinant factors without quantifying them: how much?

Like most attempts to show that we have nothing to fear about human population density, demographic facts that birth rates are decreasing, our growth rate is decreasing, and the sheer number of humans added each year is decreasing are presented. There’s one fact which negates all three of those decreasing rates, and it’s usually left out: our population density is steadily increasing. World population charts.
But the increase with 2 billion is comprised by already existing persons growing up to become adults, and old people like me (+60 years).
No, the increase of 2 billion will come from the excess of births over deaths, same as it always has. Humans of all ages are included in the global census, so the increase doesn’t come from existing persons, rather from those who don’t yet exist. They won’t exist in the future if their conceptions are prevented.
So when I hear people saying that population growth has to be stopped before reaching 9 billion, I get really scared, because the only way to achieve that is by killing.

What’s even scarier is hearing prominent people whose opinions are well-respected saying that the only way we can improve our population density is by killing. Many people understandably forget that breeding adds to our population: it’s a mental blind spot. But we would expect a statistician and professor of international health to be aware of both factors determining population increase or decrease, as well as the significant ecological impact each new human will add.

So the addition of another 2 billion in number constitutes a final increase of less than 30%, and it is inevitable.

Twenty-nine percent more of us when we’re already into overshoot by 50% isn’t inevitable because both our birth and death rates are uncertain.

We’ve exploited Earth’s resources to the breaking point. Wringing out an additional 29% isn’t likely, and that would be needed just to maintain our dreadful status quo: a billion hungry and two billion without potable water. Continuing to increase demands on exhausted supplies, whether due to more people, increased standards of living, or both, is likely to increase death rates—possibly massively. We may not succeed in preventing increased deaths due to famines and conflicts over resources, but we have a moral obligation to try.

Birth rates may be voluntarily improved in many ways, so an increase of two billion isn’t inevitable. Further lowering birth rates among wealthy populations will conserve resources, with the potential for improving standards of living among the poorest in our human family. Lowering birth rates among the poor will help them live better on what they have.

Beyond 2050 the world population may start to decrease if women across the world will have, on average, less than 2 children. But that decrease will be slow.

Quite slow, and also delayed: even with a global fertility rate of 2.0 starting now, our numbers would continue to increase for decades due to momentum. China’s TFR has been well below 2.0 for over 20 years and they’re still growing by 6.6 million a year.

So the fact is that we have to plan for a common life on Earth with 7-9 billion fellow human beings, and the environmental challenge must be met by a more effective use of energy and a much more green production of energy.
Energy is a significant resource feeding our industrial civilization and oil companies forecast we’ll use 40 percent more energy by 2030 . But let’s imagine we somehow pull off that technological feat—what about our more basic needs: food and the water needed to grow it? Our present agricultural land use is the size of South America and we’ve already put most farms on performance enhancing drugs. Consider depleted fish stocks and aquifers, desertification and top soil loss—the list goes on and is ignored at our peril.
The only thing that can change this is if the last 1-2 poorest billion do not get access to school, electricity, basic health services and family planning. Only if the horror of poverty remains will we become more than 9 billion.
Ameliorating the horror of poverty by increasing living standards will be easier if there are fewer people in poverty. Don’t be scared, killing isn’t necessary. In fact, that’s already happening on a large scale and it’s not reducing the number of poor people. Gender equality and the reproductive freedom which follows will greatly reduce unwanted pregnancies and subsequent deaths from malnutrition and maternity. The basic human right to not breed is being denied with tragic consequences.
So my question is: Are these facts known? If not, why?
As Rosling demonstrates, facts alone are not enough. Even among those of us with the data at hand and the intelligence to apply it, our emotionally-embedded worldviews can overrule logic.
It is important because placing emphasis on population diverts attention from what has to be done to limit the climate crisis.
Accepting that increasing overshoot is inevitable, and pretending it doesn’t matter much anyway, diverts attention away from the human suffering that those born today are likely to experience. It also ignores the environmental degradation each of us, particularly in over-industrialized regions, is responsible for when we choose to create another human being.

The TED “conversation has closed,” so my analysis can’t be added there. A few comments countered Rosling’s dismissal of population growth and his human-centered concerns, but most agreed and many found his perspective reassuring:
With all the misguided talk of world population explosion even my own children are embarrassed by the fact that I had five kids.

Well, the data is there. Its been there for a while now. The interpretation of this data has really sucked till now! But thanks to you, we have a much better understanding of what’s really happening.

Thanks Hans, before I read your question I thought population was a very big problem, but seeing as your a world expert and reading the statements you have read. Why do so many people think this?... The important thing here is that you as an expert on this can enlighten people on what aspects of the worlds problems are most important, and help eradicate any environmental dogma. It is amazing how easily the meme of the “Malthusian Catastrophe” spreads... I wonder what instinctive fears it is touching that makes people believe it, almost religiously, so very quickly. In any case, it seem to take an inordinate amount of time and work to dislodge it!!
One shares my opinion:
I think, the reason for this false perception about population growth may also be linked to psychological factors and not merely to the facts.
However, the “false perception about population growth” they refer to is that it’s a problem. While there’s renewed awareness of the consequences of our excessive breeding, there’s also considerable opposition voiced by influential people. The idea that creating more of us, commonly called “having children,” could be detrimental to people and planet is naturally resisted by those who have already done so and especially by those who plan to.

The single most effective way we as individuals can conserve resources and benefit Earth’s biosphere is to forego creating another of ourselves. In the USA, each new human we don’t create preserves 22 acres (9 ha) of potential wildlife habitat and avoids adding 9,441 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Thank you for not breeding.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Top 10 Myths about Sustainability"

"Even advocates for more responsible, environmentally benign ways of life harbor misunderstandings of what 'sustainability' is all about," writes Michael D. Lemonick in Scientific American's March 2009 issue.

Naturally, the myth of population caught my eye.

"Myth 9: Sustainability is ultimately a population problem.
This is not a myth, but it represents a false solution. Every environmental problem is ultimately a population problem. If the world’s population were only 100 million people, we would be hard-pressed to generate enough waste to overwhelm nature’s cleanup systems. We could dump all our trash in a landfill in some remote area, and nobody would notice."

Pretty hard to disagree with that, although we were able to cause many extinctions with smaller populations. We could live sustainably at 100 million if we were conscious of our actions: no fair setting fire to the forests to make it easier to hunt. We would also have to somehow keep from increasing in number as our food supplies increased.

Lemonick continues: "Population experts agree that the best way to limit population is to educate women and raise the standard of living generally in developing countries. But that strategy cannot possibly happen quickly enough to put a dent in the population on any useful timescale. The U.N. projects that the planet will have to sustain another 2.6 billion people by 2050. But even at the current population level of 6.5 billion, we’re using up resources at an unsustainable rate. There is no way to reduce the population significantly without trampling egregiously on individual rights (as China has done with its one-child policy), encouraging mass suicide or worse. None of those proposals seems preferable to focusing directly on less wasteful use of resources."

Short version: The only two acceptable ways to improve population density are too slow, so let's ignore population and "focus directly on less wasteful use of resources."

First inadequate method: "educate women." This has been repeated so many times I doubt people think about what it means -- just nod in agreement.

It could mean that women are ignorant about ways to avoid pregnancy and need to be educated, which would be condescending and untrue in the vast majority of regions.

It could also be a remnant of the mentality generated by a historically male-dominated field: "Those baby-making machines -- women -- need to be controlled, or at least tinkered with, for desired demographic results." "Educating women" contains an element of control: it's something done to them.

Alternately, it could mean that because statistics show that the higher a woman's level of education, the smaller her family, education will improve birth rates. However, correlation doesn't prove causation.

If it were that easy, the UN could confer an honorary college degree on every woman on earth. Better yet, make it a doctorate because women with doctorates often don't have any offspring. Of course it wouldn't work because a degree is useless without opportunities to use it. Higher education can't lift all people out of poverty: it actually helps keep societies economically stratified.

Rather than education causing lower birth rates, they're both results of the same social improvement: increased status of women in a society. Gender equality allows opportunities for life choices beyond wife and mother, and subsequently brings the contraceptive services essential for taking advantage of those opportunities. When women's basic human right to determine how many offspring they produce is respected, they usually produce fewer.

Second inadequate method: "raise the standard of living generally in developing countries." It's reasoned that because regions with higher standards of living have lower birth rates than regions with lower standards of living, it must mean that higher standards of living, by our standards, automatically lead to lower birth rates. However, this Demographic Transition Theory doesn't hold true within a country -- just the opposite. Birth rates go up and down as couples' perception of their economic future goes up and down, relative to existing standards.

A couple billion people desperately need to raise their standards of living just to be on the level of livable. Another couple billion seek to improve theirs to a level that's merely modest by wealthy regions' standards. The rest of us simply want more even if we don't really need it. How many people want less than they have?

Nonetheless, according to Lemonick, it's preferable to reduce consumption than to reduce population density, and this can be achieved with "less wasteful use of resources."

This brings us to Lemonick's Myth 6: "Sustainability means lowering our standard of living. Not at all true. It does mean that we have to do more with less, but as Hawken argues, 'Once we start to organize ourselves and innovate within that mind-set, the breakthroughs are extraordinary. They will allow us to achieve greatly superior rates of resource productivity, which in turn allow us to be prosperous, fed, clad, secure.'"

All we have to do is start innovating ways to do more with less and we'll have "superior rates of resource productivity." I assume he's trying to say, "more efficient resource use." Then all seven billion humans will live well without increasing resource extraction. Make that eight billion. Oops, better innovate faster -- got another billion coming.

Actually, we're already 25% into overshoot of resource usage, so to be sustainable we have to figure out how to do much more with 75% of what we're using now. I propose sustainability myth number 11: We can raise everyone's standard of living without increasing resource use.

"Moreover, [Hawken] and others maintain that the innovation at the heart of sustainable living will be a powerful economic engine. 'Addressing climate change,' he says, 'is the biggest job creation program there is.'"

There's no shortage of work that needs to be done, but if it doesn't earn a profit, it's not going to happen significantly. "Addressing climate change" through alternative energy development could be the next "bubble" which investors work their pyramid scheme on, and that will create jobs with its "powerful economic engine," temporarily. We are to assume the people made prosperous by those jobs will breed less, and that this economic growth will be ecologically sustainable, unlike past growth.

This is the same cornucopian fantasy future promulgated by The Enlightenment which prompted Malthus to write An Essay on the Principle of Population. Thinkers of the day envisioned a world of plenty based on advances in technology and society. Not so fast, the Rev. cautioned. When life is good, people breed more and pretty soon we're right back where we started. His gloomy prediction has held true, although the scale is way beyond what he could have imagined. Today there are twice as many people living in poverty than the total world population in Malthus' time. We're always up against the limits of Earth's carrying capacity, though we've been able to temporarily increase it and even exceed it. This is not sustainable.

Times have changed since Malthus. We now have a wide-range of contraceptives potentially available, which allow couples to avoid creating more offspring than they want. Women's rights are more respected now in most regions, though progress has stalled in some. But, as Lemonick's article demonstrates, an obsolete mindset remains from Malthus' day: not much can be done about population growth.

Further, not much should be done about population growth: "There is no way to reduce the population significantly without trampling egregiously on individual rights (as China has done with its one-child policy), encouraging mass suicide or worse," Lemonick writes.

We are already "trampling egregiously on individual rights" by denying hundreds of millions of couples their right to not conceive. It's far worse to force couples to breed than to deny them their right to create as many offspring as they wish. By failing to address our unsustainable overshoot of carrying capacity, we are not just "encouraging mass suicide or worse," we are making it inevitable.

It's true that "every environmental problem is ultimately a population problem," so rather than shy away from that sacred cow, let's grab it by the horns. Reproductive freedom, increased status of women, and encouragement to refrain from procreation would go a long way toward achieving that mythical sustainability of human existence.

Friday, March 20, 2009

VHEMT on Italian TV show Tatami

On March 19th, 2009, I was a remote guest via satellite link with a TV program in Rome. The show is edited to give the impression that it's live in real time: air date 22 March 11:30 PM Italian time on on RAITRE channel. It's called Tatami, and is hosted by Camilla Raznovich.
Camilla was about eight months pregnant and she joked about going into labor on the show. The stage had a semicircle of guests sitting facing a runway that made it look like a fashion show set. The runway was for the host to walk in high heels and low-cut maternity dress. I think I heard an audience but the monitor didn't show that, and it wasn't part of my audio. Four rectangular screens for remote guests forming a box hung over the set.
After some technical problems and a false start, the first guest in the studio made his pitch: we have the greatest level of technology ever attained and it will save us. Disaster isn't going to happen. Nature is the biggest polluter because of all the CO2 produced by plants, and so on.
An environmentalist guest on a remote in Milan followed, and they asked what he thought of that. He said he didn't hear a word because all he could hear was the English translation and he doesn't speak English. While stage crew swarmed on and under the set, Camilla recapped his speech so he'd know what to comment on.
It was another half hour before the glitches and crossed wires were adequately straightened out. That won't be on the show, because they'll edit, and viewers won't know that Techno guy was proved wrong mere seconds after praising technology. I wasn't able to hear the Milan guest because it took a little longer to get the translator back in my ear. I could barely hear him due to a louder feed from the show itself. He could see me but not hear me, so I had to nod for yes.
A guest in the Tatami studio grew up in New York and then went to California to sit in a tree to prevent it from being cut down. The host explained to him that she would ask questions in English and then he should wait a moment to answer so they can edit. He was likely receiving the same translation in his ear that I was.
Techno guy said that a tree in the Redwoods had been saved by an actress tree-sitting (Julia Butterfly Hill?) and it blew down the next year. Reforestation replaces more trees than are cut... blah, blah.
Another guest in the studio psychoanalyzed people's motivation for thinking that we aren't treating the environment as we should: we actually feel badly about ourselves.
They showed a scene in Northern Italy of a sustainable homestead making cob houses with solar panels on the roof.
Techno guy said there were too many people for all of us to live that way, a point I returned to when my turn finally came -- an hour later than expected.
Camilla asked about my vasectomy, if it was out of concern for the environment or just to practice free love. I disregarded the latter and said that it was the best way to keep from getting someone pregnant. Regrets, she asked? No, and I still had the opportunity to be a parent. We don't have to reproduce to become parents.
Asked if I had a religion or a belief in a higher power. I said no but others do and that VHEMT is compatible with all religions -- most have a time when humans are not on the planet.
I might have said that, for extinct species, disaster has already happened.
Phycho guy said there must be something in my past that made me take this radical view. I said that I was trying to find a reason for breeding that wasn't pathological. He said something aboout giving love. I said there are nearly seven billion of us already here to love we don't need to make any more of us to love.
Camilla said some things related to her decision to be pregnant, I think, but I couldn't hear the translation well enough. Fortunately, she asked if I had any last thing to add, giving me the opportunity to wish her and her new daughter the best.
I think it went well though I can't remember all of what was said: I wasn't dedicating any brain power to memory functions as circuits were overloaded coping with immediate demands. This was a challenging situation, but at least I had a monitor to watch when I wasn't on camera, which helped a lot.
I hope some Italian VHEMTers will comment on the show, correct any mis-remembering, and let us know what other guests said.