A Quiet Country Market
It begins quietly. A couple drive into a country town to shop and look at the literature on display at the Vegetarian Festival. By accident they stumble on an outpost of The Coalition Against Civilization, an organization dedicated to an ideology called eco-primitivism. The harmless-looking vegetarians are passing out pamphlets looking for a few good species traitors, who would work towards "spreading and developing theories and practical means to bring about the destruction of civilization and defend what wilderness remains." For a real-life account, read Baron Boddisey's and Dymphna's description of their experiences in the Gates of Vienna.
Societies whose goal is the destruction of human civilization or even humanity itself have existed on the margins for some time. The Voluntary Human Extinction Project (VHEMT) argues it is not enough to reduce the population that is burdening Gaia. Humanity must disappear down to the last man, woman and child to "allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health". Theodore Kaczynski, AKA the Unabomber, a trained mathematician of extremely high intelligence, embarked upon a terrorist program whose aims were put forth in the manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future. According to Wikipedia:
The main argument of Industrial Society and Its Future is that technological progress is undesirable, can be stopped, and in fact should be stopped in order to free people from the unnatural demands of technology, so that they can return to a happier, simpler life close to nature. Kaczynski argued that it was necessary to cause a "social crash", before society became any worse. He believes a collapse of civilization is likely to occur at some point in the future; thus, it is better to end things now, rather than later, because the further society develops, the more painful things will be when the collapse occurs. If it does not occur, he says, humans will have the freedom and significance of house pets, although they may be happy, in a society dominated by machines or an elite social class.
A paperback published some years ago, Rainbow Six, wove the threads of these urban-legend type ideas together and had a plot based around an environmentalist scheme to depopulate the world with a genetically engineered virus, so that the enlightened survivors could be free to enjoy nature without the stain of man excepting of course, the environmentalists themselves.
The desire to alter the relationship between man and the world isn't confined to the Coalition Against Civilization. One concept skimming right under the surface in the ocean of internet memes is the idea of the singularity. Glenn Reynolds has posted extensively on the subject, often relating it to advances in human life-extension and biotechnology. Singularity is described in Wikipedia as
a predicted future event when technological progress and societal change accelerate due to the advent of superhuman intelligence, changing our environment beyond the ability of pre-Singularity humans to comprehend or reliably predict. This event is named by analogy with the breakdown of modern physics knowledge near the gravitational singularity of a black hole.
Such consequences were discussed in the 1960s by I. J. Good, though the first use of the term singularity to describe technological progress was by John von Neumann in the 1950s. The Singularity was vastly popularized in the 1980s by Vernor Vinge. It is disputed when or if the Singularity will occur, but futurists most commonly estimate the third decade of the 21st century.
The consequences of a singularity are the precise opposite of the goals desired by the Voluntary Human Extinction Project (VHEMT). If VHEMT purposes to resolve the tension between man and the world by removing man, singularity puts humanity increasingly in charge of the natural world. In Ray Kurzweil's words:
An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense 'intuitive linear' view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The 'returns,' such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth. Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity—technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light."
Such were the perils encountered by Baron and Dymphna at the Vegetarian Festival. Maybe they should have shopped elsewhere. There's a reason why some supermarkets are called Safeway.