June 26, 2022

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Leonardo Cafu: “From meat to digital, environmental change is impossible without understanding how much pollution we’re causing”

“The data itself means nothing if no one can interpret it. Science produces tons of data, but the interpreters of the data are human.” He has no doubts Leonardo Cafu, philosopher, thinker and author From several books dealing with topics related to the environment and sustainability, when we asked him if There is still room for philosophers Likewise at a time when the password, from Greta to the bottom, in the environmental field, but also in the health sector is “we must trust the science”.

It seems that only scientists have the right to speak up and direct collective behavior. May our salvation as individuals and as a race be in the hands of technicians. What role can the philosopher play in these issues, and what contribution can he make?

“I am totally against this view. In fact, the general change of things is not in the hands of science, but in the hands of science allied with the humanities. Specifically, in the environmental question, the interpreters of statements are philosophers, especially those who specialize in moral, political, or general questions. In sociology, the fact that we know how many processes are more or less polluting or where the emissions come from doesn’t tell us anything about what it means to explain the changes.

Obviously we must then agree on what philosophy means. If philosophy says what you have in mind then no, but there are flower philosophers who conveyed the importance of normative ethics, moral philosophy, and effective altruism. For them we must look when science gives us the numbers. Numbers are nothing more than numbers, it is the pictures we have of numbers that become interesting to us.”

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Italian Technology Prize 2031, a letter to the future philosopher Leonardo Cavo about mistakes to avoid


He recently wrote a letter to the future, titled “The Year I Want, The Year To Come,” in which he wrote among other things: “I would like a year without emissions, we will have a year with thousands of tons of carbon dioxide.”2 Released.” It introduces the topic of distance between what we know we have to do and what we are actually doing. What does 2021 hold and what are the hopes for next year?

“I bring with me, on the one hand, the increasingly pressing possibility of putting climate issues on the agenda. However, on the other hand, there is a very weak ability to communicate it with necessary conceptual urgency. For example, knowing how to sell the complexity of the question, the interrelationships, the fact That even things that seem to us like an epidemic come out of nowhere derive from our poor relationship with other animals, from our inability to shrink infrastructure.

I bring some grief with me because it seems to me that we are still here discussing clear evidence, such as whether or not plastic should be taxed, or the production of pollutants by non-environmental companies. I think that many of the results of the last climate conference have been very disappointing, and on the other hand, everything we need to do to change the indicators of the health of the planet in relation to our coexistence is clear, from the change in our food systems towards a plant-based diet, at the end of fossil fuel production, to A radical change in our ability to move through aircraft…

So, if there is a positive urgency today, obviously nobody is doing anything if it is not in a climate framework, on the other hand, there is still a lot of rhetoric, and very little dealing with the fact that the environment is a very radical and revolutionary thinking and we must Substantially change 100% of our actions, and not act in general green wash.

So, for 2022, I hope that philosophical and scientific thinking in ecology is taken more seriously and normative thinking is taken a little less, which worries us a little because environmental transformation is impossible, for example with digital transformation: digital is one of the most polluting tools we have , but very little is said about it. The real and great causes of climate pollution, digital, meat, etc. We talk quite a bit. We need to improve.”

He has a young daughter. What do you think the world will be like when you are about thirty years old? What do you want to leave her?

“My daughter is about two years old and I won’t put my hands on fire until the world in thirty years looks like we think. We’ve been given 20 years to reverse course, but we have metadata that conflict, in other words, we know what to do but we also know what to do, And the two are contradictory. And these are not “easy” contradictions, but precisely standard contradictions again. What you have to do is what I do, like we know we should administer a treatment to the patient but we don’t do it to him, on the contrary we give him the opposite treatment.

I think my daughter, like all youngsters, is at a crossroads: this system as we thought should collapse, the sooner it collapses the better for them. It is contradictory and radical, but the philosopher is neither a politician nor a scientist and sometimes has the luxury of truth.”

He has written several books dealing with environmental issues and ecology. The last one, “Four Huts, about simplicity, about returning to a simpler life. This contradicts the model that is being proposed to us every day. Given that not everyone can afford to go back to the hut, what could be the simplicity of “sustainable”, both in the ecological sense and in the sense of the “potential” of our customs and culture?

“The hut is clearly a metaphor, even if the ones I talk about in the book already exist. It has to do with the idea that the future unfortunately will not just be least is more, to which we are accustomed to architectural speculation, but this removal will be more important than the filling and we will be happier and richer and we will make progress based on the number of things we can do without, and not on the number of things we will have. Since the system has been falling apart for a long time, just look at the cost of materials, the price of a packet of paper, and how to increase the costs of raw materials.

“Everything is already here. Simplicity is the simplification of philosophy, that is, how much and what things we really need. Even secondary needs, I am not just talking about basic needs. A culture that will be able to teach in all respects will be a culture in complete agreement with progress, including its simplicity. In that technological progress. There is no gap between these two things, but the idea of ​​accumulation is over. We have already seen this with to share, in which private ownership declined, communal and joint ownership began. Simplicity is the paradigm for trying to move the environment forward. Since today ecology means not only respect for the environment, ecology also means having fewer things, a limited list of essential goods, and being able to survive in one’s environment without constantly moving around, it is a research program.”

Philosopher reading for 2022?

Graham Priest, To learn to think.