I was reminded of this assignment when reading a recent Sustainablog article by Justin van Kleek discussing the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT). The movements position is that humans are breeding to quickly and overusing our planets resources to the detriment of all other life on the planet. As Justin describes, the movement's goal isn't to hasten anyone's death, merely to advocate for the halt of reproduction of the human species until there are no more of us.
I still feel pretty dimly about the human species and its impact on the earth and all of the other diverse life forms on it. I suspect that anyone who defends we human's right to be a part of the earth's biosphere are also opposed to capital punishment. If not, perhaps some soul searching is in order. We are no more or less valuable than any other species on this planet, and regarding ourselves as such, in planning our own demise, or defending our own right to exist is at odds with taking responsibility for deciding or acting in such a way as to imperil any other creature. As Justin points out "we have a right to live...but also to let live."
And I wonder if perhaps our run is done, and George Carlin was right, the earth needed us to create plastic, because it couldn't do that on its own, now it has plastic, and its time to pack our bags folks, we're leaving.
To respond to Justin's closing questions: There is merit to the idea of voluntary population control through reduced birthrates. We don't know for sure how many people the earth can support, but its obvious that the current systems and divisions don't work equitably, leaving many hungry and without basic needs met. Unfortunately, it also seems that some of the worst off have the highest birth rates, exacerbating the problem. Despite the draconian seeming measures of China's restricted birth system, it seemed to be a good model for addressing a critical problem. Unfortunately such a system is unlikely to work anywhere else given current political, religious and social structures.