The guilt of a travelling techie

I replaced my iPod yesterday after the total collapse of my last one. Today I read about the iSweatshops. The iPods are assembled in China by mainly female workers. The workforceâ?¦

â?¦resides in “iPod cities” with as many as 200,000 employees. Outsiders are forbidden, and 15-hour workdays are the norm. As you might expect, the wages are low, even for China. (Foreign Policy).

Tomorrow I will fly to Barcelona to participate in the GPLv3 conference besides being an event that I am looking forward to, the privilege of visiting foreign cities is one I value. Recently the discussion on environmental damage caused by flights has taken speed â?? especially with the rapid rise of cheap tickets which increases our â??unnecessaryâ?? flights.

Monbiot writes: â??Flying kills. We all know it, and we all do it.

Monbiot is referring to the environmental effects of flying. He claims (convincingly) that while most of our reliance on fuels causing carbon emissions can be reduced without a too serious limitation to our freedom â?? this does not apply to flying. Reducing carbon emissions caused by flying means reducing the number of flights we take.

Both these arguments (iSweatshops & flying) have something important in common. They both bring into question things I appreciate. The question that must be posed from this information is â?? what shall I do about it?

When bringing this information to people he meets Monbiot writes of the listeners response: â??They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.â??

The first impulse may be the ostrich approach â?? by sticking oneâ??s neck into the sand the bad news can be ignored. This approach should not be ignored â?? it works surprisingly well and is applied successfully by many. I tried this for a while â?? unfortunately it eventually wears thin. Another approach is self-denial. A no-excuses approach to technology and flights. This entails limiting everything to the bare necessities â?? without allowing for rationalisations. This involves denying oneself of many of the things that I appreciate â?? not an easy approach.

Can there be a middle-of-the-road approach? Is awareness better than ignorance? This argument would mean that our knowledge of the harm our choices entail legitimises our actions even if this has no real effect on physical events (better working conditions or environment). As much as I would like this, I cannot believe this is a solid approach to improvement.

The answer? Donâ??t look at me. I believe it is better to be aware than ignorant of the harm I do â?? even if this cannot mitigate the harm.

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