The Church of Euthanasia
We are witnessing a massive extinction of species. At least one species
dies off every hour. In the tropical rain forest we're probably losing
a species every fifteen minutes. I say "probably" because we're cutting
it down much too fast for anyone to figure out how many species it
actually contains. Rainforest species are incredibly specialized, and
may be confined to a very small area, as little as a square kilometer.
A single rainforest tree can contain more species than an entire boreal
forest. The rainforests are mostly being cut down to make packaging,
cheap furniture, and marginal farmland which quickly turns to desert.
By comparison, the "background" or pre-human rate of extinction has been
estimated as one species from any major group every million years.
There have been five major extinctions in geological history, including
one--the Permian--which wiped out 95 percent of all animal species.
Previous extinctions were probably caused by astronomical events, such
as a comet hitting the earth and filling the atmosphere with dust.
Eventually the dust settled, the ice melted, and life restored itself.
The current extinction is different: unlike a comet, the cause isn't
going away, because the cause is us. Instead the cause is getting
bigger, every day. The dust is not likely to settle for a very long
time, and when it does, the earth will be a different place, because we
are rapidly changing the chemical composition of the earth, its oceans,
and its atmosphere.
Humans don't yet have the power to completely destroy life on earth in
one stroke. Even if we set off all of our nuclear weapons at once, some
percentage of bacteria and viruses would survive. However we do have
the power to kill the earth slowly, by reducing its biological
diversity. Life creates diversity because diversity is an excellent
survival strategy. A diverse system can adapt to change. Imagine a
forest that contains ten thousand species. Now let's say the
temperature changes by a few degrees for some reason, and half the
species in that forest become extinct overnight. That's bad news, but
the forest still has five thousand species. Given enough time, it will
adapt to the new climate and eventually evolve new species to replace
the ones that died off. Now let's cut down this hypothetical forest,
and replace it with a single species, something useful to us, corn for
example. Once again the temperature changes by a few degrees. What are
the odds that our single species of genetically engineered corn will
survive the change? Not good. The corn dies, the topsoil turns to
dust and blows away, and what was once a forest becomes a man-made
desert, where nothing will grow, possibly for billions of years.
Multiply this example times every ecosystem. Are humans reducing the
probability that life will survive on earth? Yes.
The immediate consequence of reducing biological diversity is a "planet
of weeds." In biological terms, a weed is a generalized species that
can easily adapt to a wide range of circumstances. When more
specialized species are disrupted, the weeds move in, like scar tissue.
Scar tissue is better than nothing, but it tends to be ugly. A planet
of weeds will be unimaginably ugly. The main survivors will be
humans--the ultimate weeds--along with the species that are useful to
them, such as genetically modified cows, chickens, pigs, corn, etc. The
remaining survivors will be rats, roaches, pigeons, and other species
capable of adapting to the increasingly hostile man-made environment.
Wilderness, in the sense of land not used by humans, will cease to
It is pointless to argue that reducing biological diversity will make
the earth an uglier place. For every person who thinks that wild nature
is beautiful, there's another person who thinks it's boring and stupid.
For every person who thinks modern society is hideous, there are many
more who find it beautiful and exciting. Most people who live in "first
world" countries enjoy driving cars, shopping, eating at restaurants,
and dancing in discotheques. No one cares what people in poor countries
think, so long as they don't try to stop the rich countries from doing
whatever they want. In any case only the rich countries have the power
to stop raping the earth, so it's Americans and Europeans and Japanese
that have to be persuaded, not the starving masses in Africa. This
means that the arguments against reducing biological diversity have to
be logical, not aesthetic. Instead of arguing that destroying
wilderness is ugly and wasteful, we have to argue that it directly
reduces the odds that life--even human life--will survive on earth. Of
course, most people are too self-centered to care whether humans
survive, never mind animals and plants. Many people have been
brainwashed by science-fiction and imagine that future generations of
humans will turn themselves into robots, and escape into outer space.
So there's really not much hope.
The essential function of all modern propaganda--including newspapers,
magazines, books, television, movies, the internet, and any other medium
you can imagine--is to convince us, during every waking moment, that
there is only one right way for people to live. It takes considerable
effort to sustain this illusion, which explains why the information or
"content-creation" industry is now the largest and most profitable
industry in the world. Escapist dramas like "Star Trek" try to convince
us that thousands of years into the future, people will still live
comfortable lives, with hot showers and slaves cooking their meals for
them. Disney spends billions of dollars making "historical" movies in
which our ancestors wear funny clothes but act like us, and even talk
like us. In fact, there is little chance we could understand our
ancestors and their tribal ways, any more than they could understand us.
The American Indian tribes were tragically unable to understand the
European invaders, as Kurt Vonnegut describes acidly in his classic
"Breakfast of Champions":
"The chief weapon of the sea pirates was their capacity to astonish. No
one could believe, until it was much too late, just how heartless and
greedy they were."
When asked to sell his land, the great Shawnee chief Tecumseh replied,
"Sell a country? Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the great sea,
as well as the earth?" How could he imagine that future generations
would sell not only the land, the water, the air, and the
electromagnetic spectrum, but even the genetic structure of life itself?
The history of industrial society is the history of diversity--both
biological and social--yielding to monoculture. The Church of
Euthanasia is fighting for diversity, and is therefore opposing all
forms of human growth, including economic growth, technological growth,
and especially population growth. We want to see less people, using
less stuff and making less garbage. The average person considers these
goals deeply offensive and anti-social. They can't help being offended,
because their values are steeped in humanism. Humanism is the belief
that man is the measure of all things, and that without him the world
would have no meaning or value. This arrogant notion leads directly to
a hierarchical order of being, with man at the top. As God informs us
in the book of Genesis, we're supposed to "be fruitful and become many
and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection... every living
creature." We've done just that, with catastrophic results. Humanism
is the greatest heresy in the Church of Euthanasia, which may be the
world's first anti-human religion.
Humanism has been exported to every corner of the globe, and with it the
mechanical world-view. Kings kept tax records, built roads, sent mail,
established uniform codes of justice, turned forests into ships, and
sent armies to loot and pillage distant lands. Thanks to their efforts
we have Nike and Pizza Hut. The mechanical world-view has brought us
objectivity, standardization, predictability, division of labor, and
efficiency. Since there's no hope whatsoever of reversing these trends,
the Church of Euthanasia's position is purely symbolic. We can't stop
humans from killing the earth, but we can make them feel guilty about
it. And we can refuse to participate, by not having children, by
consuming as little as possible, and finally, by killing ourselves.