I’m writing this blog post on stolen land with a laptop that is almost certainly the product of the exploitation of labor (including the labor of children). In many ways, the modern ways of life are coming to eat us. Climate change is leading to parts of Earth becoming inhospitable (as I write this, 2023 is on track to be the hottest year every, and the past 3 days have been the record hottest days every recorded), the mines required to dig up rare earth minerals are poisoning the workers, and the Western lifestyle relies on slaves to make it possible. The people most responsible for climate change are the ones the most insualted from it. It’s the global poor who make our shit that’s going to face the brunt of the consequences.

All of this makes it clear, to me, that our lifestyle is not worth it. It’s fundamentally exploitative of the Earth and all of its animals (including humans). While all of the technology is nice, would it be necessary if we never left our hunter-gatherer routes? Do I need a MacBook if all I’m concerned about is finding some great fruit to bring back to my local community? Obviously not, and I do sometimes long for living in a simpler time where I could simply hunt some animals or gather some berries, and then spend the rest of my time in other pursuits. While this vision of pre-agricultural revolution society is definitely romanticized, it’s also not like it could be worse than what we’re currently going through.

At the same time, it’s not like we can really do anything to go back to the way we were. We’re stuck with the hand our ancestors dealt us. Some fish walked out of the water, and now I’m typing about it in the greater context of a human world that’s falling apart. I wish the fish stayed in the water, but like the spirits in Pandora’s box, the fish can’t be put back into the water. We gotta play the hand we’re given. So what does that mean?

Well, it means first acknowledging that reality. The world is going to shit, we can’t really do anything about it because these problems are fundamental problems with the systems humans put in place over thousands of years. However, this reality doesn’t have to confine us. The worst thing to do is to give up on those who currently happen to be going through the shit with us. Despair is a powerful emotion, and I hope it can bring us together to make these last few generations of the human race not totally miserable. So, while I don’t need a MacBook, I’m also not going to begrudge and flog myself for having one. I can recognize the privilege I have and the suffering that went into this machine, but I can also use it to try and help in the small ways that I can. And these ways are small, but they’re the best I can do, and the best is all we can do. We can’t make corporations stop polluting the planet, but we can work on not polluting the planet ourselves. We can buy products that are meant to last rather than go in the trash after the month. And, most importantly, we can be kinder and more understanding. Some people don’t have the resources to help or even survive in the current hell we live in, and it’s those same people who feel the hottest fire. Rather than trying to police where they can sleep or what borders they’re allowed to cross, we can show empathy and try to help make material changes to their conditions.

It’s an uphill battle, and I’m not saying we can actually do much. After all, we can only put decorations around the lava pools, and we know that eventually even the things which we use to brighten the world a little will burn away. However, they’re still going to make the world a little bit of a better place, and that’s worth it. Despair doesn’t have to lead to cynicism.


  • The image of the Earth from the Moon is from NASA and available under the public domain.