If you were to write a piece for The New York Times suggesting that perhaps our nation would be better off without illegal immigrants, you couldn’t get it published in a thousand years. But if you write an op-ed musing over the notion that, perhaps, the planet would be better off if humanity itself went extinct, why they’ll give it a feature spot in the paper, toast you with a martini and promise big things ahead for your career. We suppose that makes a certain amount of sense. Liberalism is always in search of the lowest common denominator, after all, and there’s nothing lower than the fact that we’re all alive.
Oh, and of course: This is about climate change, in case you had any doubt.
In a piece titled, “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” Clemson professor Todd May warns that humans “are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it.” We doubt the animals themselves are spending any of their time fretting over this “suffering,” but May, as a human, has plenty of time for this kind of navel-gazing.
This is happening through at least three means,” he writes. “First, human contribution to climate change is devastating ecosystems, as the recent article on Yellowstone Park in The Times exemplifies. Second, increasing human population is encroaching on ecosystems that would otherwise be intact. Third, factory farming fosters the creation of millions upon millions of animals for whom it offers nothing but suffering and misery before slaughtering them in often barbaric ways. There is no reason to think that those practices are going to diminish any time soon. Quite the opposite. Humanity, then, is the source of devastation of the lives of conscious animals on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.”
May then appears to go even further than the original question, wondering not only if it would be a “good thing” for the world if humans were gone, but suggesting that it might be worth pondering a global mass suicide of some kind.
“One might ask here whether, given this view, it would also be a good thing for those of us who are currently here to end our lives in order to prevent further animal suffering,” he writes. “Although I do not have a final answer to this question, we should recognize that the case of future humans is very different from the case of currently existing humans. To demand of currently existing humans that they should end their lives would introduce significant suffering among those who have much to lose by dying. In contrast, preventing future humans from existing does not introduce such suffering, since those human beings will not exist and therefore not have lives to sacrifice. The two situations, then, are not analogous.”
So the answer is: Maybe. But we should definitely start thinking about winding it down.
The core of all liberalism is personal misery. We’ve just never seen it laid so terrifyingly bare on the pages of a major newspaper.