“It was very good news for me that this kind of group exists because you usually feel alone with this philosophy,” said Mario Buenfil, 73, a water engineer in Mexico City who has been involved in the movement for 20 years. flight.
Yet the words “voluntary human extinction” often evoke reactions of rattling horror, and terms like “eco-fascist” and “Malthusian” often appear in the group. John Seager, president of Population Connection, a nonprofit that advocates for population stabilization through voluntary means, likened it to a sideshow. But if the group’s provocative name and seemingly combative attitude suggest a bitter or even threatening founder, Mr Knight appears to be anything but.
Tall and gentle, Mr. Knight comes off as bright and thoughtful, like a cross between Bill Nye and Fred Rogers. While Mr. Knight may be against the creation of more people, he shows great compassion for those who already exist.
A high school substitute teacher for most of his working life, Mr. Knight is fondly regarded by students. Every Sunday morning, he spends hours picking up trash from the nearby main road. During the conversation he paused to appreciate two succulent garden spiders sunning themselves on webs of cobwebs spun between hedges and lawn chairs. The sight was cause for celebration, Mr Knight said, after so many creatures were killed during last year’s heat dome in the Pacific Northwest. The self-confessed serial monogamist lives alone, but his girlfriend lives next door and is totally into his cause.
“He doesn’t have a giant ego to contend with, he doesn’t try to argue with people,” said Marv Ross, Mr. Knight’s former college roommate and longtime friend. “He was always about humor to make his message as entertaining as possible, and I saw him do it many times. He would get upset with a joke or a smile.’
As a child growing up in a tolerant family in Oregon, Mr. Knight watched logging companies cut down the state’s forests. After being drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War (he served but was never deployed), he attended the Oregon College of Education and joined the local chapter of Zero Population Growth, which solidified his decision not to have children. “It’s always been about ecology, about the damage humans are doing to the environment,” he said.