Pope Francis waves to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Squar Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Energy for the Common Good

Aristotle famously contrasted two types of knowledge: “techne” (technical know-how) and “phronesis” (practical wisdom). Scientists and engineers have offered the techne to move rapidly from fossil fuels to zero-carbon energy; now we need the phronesis to redirect our politics and economies accordingly.

NEW YORK – The climate crisis we now face is a reflection of a broader crisis: a global confusion of means and ends. We continue to use fossil fuels because we can (means), not because they are good for us (ends).

This confusion is why Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew are spurring us to think deeply about what is truly good for humanity, and how to attain it. Earlier this month, the pope and patriarch each convened business, scientific, and academic leaders, in Rome and Athens, respectively, to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to safe renewable energy.

In most of the world today, the purposes of politics, economics, and technology have been debased. Politics is regarded as a no-holds-barred fight for power, economics as a ruthless scramble for wealth, and technology as the magic elixir for more economic growth. In truth, according to Francis and Bartholomew, we need politics, economics, and technology to serve a far greater purpose than power, wealth, or economic growth. We need them to promote human wellbeing today and for future generations.

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