The failure of COP26

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By LEONARDO BOFF*

The triumph of instrumental-analytical and bureaucratic reason devoid of sensitivity and cordiality

It is commonplace to say, as on so many posters of demonstrators on the street, outside the large Assembly of the various COPs: “what must change is not the climate but the system” or even more directly:the problem is not climate change but capitalism”. In these Slogans there's a lot of truth. But we have to go further: the system and capitalism are expressions of something deeper, that is, the true trigger of climate changes that take shape within the said system and capitalism.

Behind the aforementioned system and capitalism is a type of rationality that has gained monopolistic and sometimes tyrannical features, as it has imposed itself on all other forms as the only valid one. We have to do with instrumental-analytical and bureaucratic reason without sensitivity and cordiality. Through it, the mantra of the founding fathers of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century modernity was realized: Descartes, Francis Bacon and others. settled down the “will to power” as the structuring axis of the world to be built, power understood as the ruthless domination of nature, life, continents, peoples, classes and people.

Max Weber, in his 1919 text “The activity and the vocation ofscientist” (researcher and scholar) stated: “The destiny of our time, characterized by rationalization, intellectualization and, above all, disenchantment of the world, led human beings to banish the most sublime supreme values of public life”. Indeed, today, what counts is the GDP coldly calculated by the material values ​​produced. In it, everything that is valuable and gives meaning to human life such as love, friendship, solidarity and compassion, expressions of cordial reason, is not computed. The same Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the “Spirit” of Capitalism showed that the spirit of calculation, instrumental-analytical rationality and bureaucratic domination are co-natural to capitalism. He does not consider in nature qualities, its splendor and rich complexity, but only the quantities to be exploited for human enjoyment.

The Earth is considered a treasure trove of resources to be exploited to produce material wealth. Human beings understand themselves as dominus, “master and owner” of nature and not part of it. He forgets that he also came from the dust of the earth like all beings that make him a universal brother and sister, the greatest dream of Fratelli tutti (2020) of Pope Francis: the frater as an alternative to dominus. The contemporary and cybernetic world has taken this fate to its ultimate consequences, harshly criticized in the third part of the papal encyclical Laudato Si (2015): “The human root of the ecological crisis” (n.101-114). He criticizes the indifference and lack of sensitivity towards other humans and the beings of nature.

It happens that the human being does not only have this exercise of reason, the dominant way of organizing and dominating the world. There is in it something more ancestral which is the "sensible and cordial reason”. It harbors the feeling of belonging, the universe of ethical values, love, empathy, care and spirituality. Above it, reason erupts as intelligence that captures the meaning of the whole and opens us to the infinity of our desire that seeks its adequate infinite object: That being that makes all beings be. In these two expressions of reason – the cordial and the intellectual – are found the values ​​that allow us to simultaneously hear and suffer with the cry of the Earth and with the cry of the poor, which make us perceive the network of relationships and interdependencies established between all beings. of nature and humanity.

Exactly the cordial reason and the intellectual reason (which reads inside: intus legere) are and were absolutely absent in all COPs. There prevailed utilitarian, economic reason and the ferocious interests of large corporations, whose army of lobbyists pressured representatives of all peoples not to accept measures that harm their businesses and their capital, such as the elimination of coal and the gradual overcoming of fossil energies in towards clean energy sources. It came to the shameful act that, at the very moment of the official closure of the assembly, the representative of India, supported by China, forced in extremis to change the consensus text, otherwise COP26 would end up without any resolution: instead of “abolish" the use of coal has been put forward by “gradual overcoming”, which allows its continued use and thus increases COXNUMX2. The president of COP26, aware of the consequences, let his sensitive reason come to the surface and wept.

How effective and transformative it would be if the COPs started showing beautiful images of the fragile planet Earth hanging in the dark depths of the universe. Then show the devastation we do of forests and entire ecosystems on land and at sea, in the sense of an environmental ecology. Finally, make visible the abysmal social injustice with millions and millions of poor and hungry people in line with a political and social ecology. All this would create the conditions for an ethical and spiritual ecology: committing to preserve the inherited garden and prevent handing it over to our children and grandchildren like a savannah. There would arise, I am sure, the need for an affective bond with nature, as this bond, based on cordial and sensitive reason, would lead us to take measures that save life and our own civilization. Without a heart, there is no solution for climates and for life on this small and lovely planet Earth.

It is urgent to enrich the instrumental-analytical reason, necessary in view of the complexity of our societies, with cordial reason and intellectual intelligence. We would then have the basis of a new paradigm of coexistence, better, of conviviality among all, of technique with poetry, of production with loveliness, of human beings with their Common Home, including nature.

*Leonardo Boff he is theologian and ecologist. Author, among other books by Knowing how to care: human ethics, compassion for the Earth (Voices).

 

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