Clemson Prof in NYT: Human Extinction ‘Might Just Be a Good Thing,’ Because Global Warming

Still from Warner Bros' "I Am Legend" (2007). Inset: profile picture of Clemson professor
Warner Bros.,

An opinion piece published in the New York Times Monday argues the extinction of human beings could be a “good thing” due to humanity’s contribution to climate change, among other reasons.

Under a headline reading, “Would Human Extinction Be a Tragedy?” Clemson professor Todd May (pictured) writes, “Human beings are destroying large parts of the inhabitable earth and causing unimaginable suffering to many of the animals that inhabit it.”

He continues:

This is happening through at least three means. 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. [emphasis added]

However, May does concede that there is “more to the story,” praising the human race for “an advanced level of reason that can experience wonder at the world in a way that is foreign to most if not all other animals.”

“We create art of various kinds: literature, music and painting among them. We engage in sciences that seek to understand the universe and our place in it. Were our species to go extinct, all of that would be lost,” he also writes in praise of humanity.

May fails to commit fully to his proposition, ceding that “the issue is quite complex.”

“It may well be, then, that the extinction of humanity would make the world better off and yet would be a tragedy,” he writes. “I don’t want to say this for sure, since the issue is quite complex. But it certainly seems a live possibility, and that by itself disturbs me.”


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