## Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) on How to Address Western Public Opinion on China: Facts, Science and Reason

[from Pekingology at the Center for China and Globalization (CCG)]

“Be open, open, and more open,” especially to businesses, investors, media, universities, and research institutions. And tit-for-tat doesn’t work, the professor says.

by Zichen Wang, Shuyuan Han, and Li Huiyan

Professor Zheng Yongnian (郑永年), the Founding Director of the Institute for International Affairs at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, on January 28 published an article on how China should address Western public opinion on China. His advice is in the last part of the article, and below is a translation.

(Emphasis by Pekingnology.)

First, we need to understand how such narratives are formed. Historically, China held a bias due to its self-isolation and limited knowledge of the West. Despite losing the two Opium Wars, Chinese intellectuals at that time still saw Westerners as uncivilized. It was not until China was defeated by Japan, a neighboring country once considered as China’s student, that they realized their ignorance and a need for reform. Before China’s Reform and Opening up, Chinese people barely knew anything about the West. They always assumed Westerners were in deep distress, repeating the same lack of understanding of the West.

Similarly, the West’s uncertainty and fear towards China’s rise stem from a lack of understanding and even fear of the country, and their ingrained ideology would lead to misconceptions.

China is the world’s second-largest economy. The externalities and influence of its economy on the West are obvious. Upon joining the WTO, some Chinese people also felt unsettled by the externalities of the West. Some said, “the wolf is coming.” Now it is the West that is experiencing such worries.

It is crucial to recognize the significant impact of the Western hypocritical narratives against China, even if they are based on ideology rather than facts. We must also acknowledge that ideology-based public opinion from the West can exert a powerful influence on their policies toward China.

Historically, the West tended to demonize others while presenting themselves as morally superior, which enabled them to apply Social Darwinism to international politics easily and thus legitimizing conflicts and even wars with other nations. Given the Soviet Union’s failure in the ideological arena during the Cold War, we should by no means ignore any ideology-based public opinion toward China from the West.

Second, to make rational responses to the Western ideology-based criticisms, we should draw lessons from the history of the world economy, such as the lessons of the Soviet Union, as well as our practices, such as the rhetorical battle with the West in the past few years. Coming up with an externally-facing public opinion based on a different ideology is not the most effective in addressing public opinion attacks based on an ideology. Empirically, tit-for-tat is ineffective and can worsen the situation. Again, the failure of the Soviet Union is a prime example, as its battle with a Western ideology failed. When faced with China-demonizing based on ideology from the West, we need to do the simplest thing, namely resorting to facts, science, and reason.

Third, and most importantly, China needs to prioritize its sustainable development, which ultimately benefits the country itself. It is important to recognize that the foundation of the government’s governance lies in its citizens, not Western praise. The support from its people is crucial for both the nation’s longevity and stability., China’s sustainable development also benefits the world economy by boosting its growth. As mentioned above, China has been the largest contributor to the growth of the world economy since it joined the WTO.

It is crucial to prioritize the building of a knowledge system based on China’s practical experiences. Regarding global soft power, we need a knowledge system based on our experiences rather than a certain ideology. While there has been a proposal for an autonomous knowledge system, continuous effort is still required.

Fourth, given the substantial externalities of our economy, we must further communicate and coordinate with other countries on economic policies, regardless of their respective sizes. Our duty is to fulfill the responsibility as a major player in the international community, which also benefits China.

After the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, China promised not to devalue its currency, and that commitment became an international public good in Asia. Similarly, after the global financial crisis from 2007 to 2008, China made similar contributions. As China re-opens its economy after the pandemic, it is important not only to take note of the hypocritical comments from certain quarters in the Western world but also to recognize the positive evaluations and high expectations from many international organizations.

Fifth, we must be open, open, and more open. Despite China’s efforts, there remains a persistent ideological camp in the West that views China through an ideological lens, a situation made worse by the past three years of the pandemic. The pandemic was so severe that it hindered travel across borders; as a result, some Western media and scholars tend to assess China through ideology since they couldn’t come here to see the facts with their own eyes.

The assessment of China through a uniform ideological lens appears to have strengthened the original Western ideological camp. However, the United States and the West have more than one ideology, and not all people believe in the prevailing ideology in the public opinion sphere. China’s openness provides a “seeing is believing” opportunity for different groups in the West. China should increase its openness to Western groups, including businesses, investors, media, universities, and research institutions. The changes in their understanding could render those ideological-based public opinions less effective.

## Songs as Another Kind of Parallel University

Meta Intelligence is a heterodox view of education where formal education (courses, diplomas, universities, fields) are incomplete and limited without adding informal education which is part of your life such as movies, songs, conversations and images (paintings, posters, etc). Your “lifeworld” (Edmund Husserl’s apt coinage) fuses all the kinds of education where the word education means thought-provoking and illuminating. Even personal experience counts such as illnesses or bad marriages! Only via this Meta Intelligence will you achieve a glimpsed “holism.” (Meta Intelligence is that meta-field outside fields, borders and boundaries.)

Take songs.

Think back to Jim Morrison’s classic tune, “Riders on the Storm” which begins:

“Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house, we’re born
Into this world, we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm”

This song (by the Doors), expresses in a simple way Heidegger’s notion of human existence as partly governed by “Geworfenheit” which derives from “werfen,” to throw. “Geworfenheit” means “thrownness.” Jim Morrison and his band the Doors are songphilosophers without (probably) being Heidegger’s acolytes. Max Weber, one of the fathers of modern sociology, uses the word “disenchantment” to describe the modern world, “Entzauberung” in German, where “zauber” means “magicality” and “ent” means “removal of,” and “ung” means “condition of being.” The magic here does not mean something like a card trick but rather sacred mysteries, perhaps like the feeling a medieval European felt on entering a cathedral.

Enchantment in the West survived in our notions of romantic love and was associated with the songs and outlook of the medieval troubadours. Such romantic enchantment which is fading from our culture in favor of sex is still celebrated in the classic Rogers and Hammerstein song, “Some Enchanted Evening” from the forties musical and fifties movie, South Pacific.

The song lyrics give you the philosophy of romantic love as the last stand of enchantment:

“Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger across a crowded room,
And somehow you know, you know even then,
That somehow you’ll see here again and again.
Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing,
You may hear her laughing across a crowded room,
And night after night, as strange as it seems,
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams.

“Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.

“Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love,
When you hear her call you across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side and make her your own,
Or all through your life you may dream all alone.

“Once you have found her, never let her go,
Once you have found her, never let her go.”

Notice that “chant” is a component of enchantment.

One could say that conventional enchantment has been transferred to the world of science and mathematics where a deep beauty is intuited. Professor Frank Wilczek of MIT (Nobel Prize) wrote several books on this intersection of science and the quest for beauty whereas Sabine Hossenfelder of Germany has argued, per contra, that this will be a “bum steer.”

You should sense that like movies, songs give you a “side window” or back door into thinking and knowledge, which should be center stage and not depreciated.

[from Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center, part of Harvard University]

Thursday, July 21, 2:30-4:00 PM EDT

RSVP (Required)

The 2022 Monkeypox outbreak continues to expand with case counts mounting in many countries. This seminar will cover where we are in the global fight against monkeypox, where we may be headed as a nation, and what we need to do right now to mitigate the growing threat of monkeypox. Join Belfer Fellow Dr. Syra Madad in conversation with Kai Kupferschmidt, Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, Dr. Anne Rimoin, Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, and Dr. Jay K. Varma.

Dr. Anne Rimoin is a Professor of Epidemiology at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is the Gordon-Levin Endowed Chair in Infectious Diseases and Public Health. Dr. Rimoin is the director of the Center for Global and Immigrant Health and is an internationally recognized expert on emerging infections, global health, surveillance systems, and vaccination.

Rimoin has been working in the DRC since 2002, where she founded the UCLA-DRC Health Research and Training Program to train U.S. and Congolese epidemiologists to conduct high-impact infectious disease research in low-resource, logistically-complex settings.

Dr. Rimoin’s research focuses on emerging and vaccine-preventable diseases. It has led to fundamental understandings of the epidemiology of human monkeypox in post-eradication of smallpox, long-term immunity to Ebola virus in survivors and durability of immune response to Ebola virus vaccine in health workers in DRC. Her current research portfolio includes studies of COVID-19, Ebola, Marburg, Monkeypox and vaccine-preventable diseases of childhood.

Boghuma Kabisen Titanji (MD, MSc., DTM&H, PhD) is a Cameroonian born physician-scientist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. She obtained her MD from the University of Yaoundé I in Cameroon and worked for two years after graduation as a medical officer, before pursuing post-graduate research training in London, United Kingdom. As an awardee of the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship program, she obtained a Masters Degree in Tropical Medicine and International Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene from the Royal College of Physicians and a Ph.D. in Virology from University College London. Dr. Titanji joined Emory University School of Medicine in 2016 where she completed a residency in Internal Medicine, on the ABIM research pathway and a fellowship Infectious Diseases. She has three parallel career interests: translational and clinical research in HIV and emerging virus infections, science communication, and global health. Her clinical focus is general infectious diseases and people with HIV. Her current research focuses on chronic inflammation as a mediator of cardiovascular disease in people with HIV. She is passionate about leveraging translational research to improve the care of people with HIV, global health equity and using science to influence health policy through science communication and advocacy.

Jay K. Varma, MD is a Professor of Population Health Sciences and Director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Varma is an expert on the prevention and control of diseases, having led epidemic responses, developed global and national policies, and led large-scale programs that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives in China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the United States. After graduating magna cum laude with highest honors from Harvard, Dr. Varma completed medical school, internal medicine residency, and chief residency at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. From 2001-2021, he worked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with postings in Atlanta, Thailand, China, Ethiopia, and New York City. From April 2020 – May 2021, he served as the principal scientific spokesperson and lead for New York City’s COVID-19 response. Dr. Varma has authored 143 scientific manuscripts, 13 essays, and one book.

Kai Kupferschmidt is a science journalist based in Berlin, Germany. He is a contributing correspondent for Science where he often covers infectious diseases. Kai received a diploma in molecular biomedicine from the University of Bonn, Germany and later visited the Berlin Journalism School. He has won several awards for his work, including the Journalism Prize of the German AIDS Foundation. Together with two colleagues he runs a podcast on global health called Pandemia [German]. He has also written two books, one about infectious diseases and one about the science of the color blue.

Krutika Kuppalli, MD, FIDSA is a Medical Officer for Emerging Zoonotic Diseases and Clinical Management in the Health Emergencies Program at the World Health Organization where she currently supports activities for the Monkeypox outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic. She completed her Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at Emory University, a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Global Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and the Emerging Leader in Biosecurity Fellowship at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. Dr. Kuppalli currently serves on the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Trainee Committee and is the Chair of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Global Health Committee.

Dr. Kuppalli was previously awarded the NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Fellowship and conducted research in Southern India to understand barriers to care and how emerging infections impacted persons living with HIV/AIDS. She was the medical director of a large Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak, helped lead the development and implementation of pandemic response preparedness activities in resource limited settings, and has consulted on the development of therapeutics for emerging pathogens. Her clinical and research interests focus on health systems strengthening in resource limited settings, research and clinical care for emerging infections, outbreak preparedness and response, and policy. She has worked in numerous countries including Ethiopia, India, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Haiti.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Dr. Kuppalli served as a consultant for the San Francisco Department of Health and helped develop and operationalize a field hospital. She served as an expert witness to the U.S. Congress, Financial Services Committee Task Force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) about how digital technologies may be leveraged for exposure notification and contact tracing to improve the pandemic response. She also collaborated with the Brennan Center for Justice to develop guidelines to inform “Healthy in-person Voting” in advance of the 2020 U.S. election and testified before the U.S. House Select Subcommittee regarding these recommendations. Prior to her position at WHO, she was the medical lead for COVID-19 vaccine rollout at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) and helped coordinate vaccine education events for the staff and community and oversaw the reporting of adverse vaccine events.

Since joining WHO in August 2021, Dr. Kuppalli has been part of the WHO headquarters incident management team (IMST) for COVID-19, the clinical characterization and management working group for COVID-19, the COVID-19 therapeutics steering committee, and is the technical focal point for the post COVID-19 condition (Long COVID) steering committee. She is a member of the secretariat on the scientific advisory group on the origins of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (SAGO) which was convened by the Director General to understand and investigate the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and other novel pathogens. More recently since the development of the multi-country monkeypox outbreak she has been part of the IMST at WHO as one of the clinical management focal points. In this capacity she was part of the WHO core group that helped write the recently published Clinical Management and Infection Prevention and Control guidelines for Monkeypox and advising on the clinical endpoints for the global CORE therapeutics protocol.

Dr. Kuppalli is recognized as a scientific expert in global health, biosecurity and outbreak response. She was recognized by NPR Source of The Week early in the pandemic as an expert to follow and named to Elemental’s 50 Experts to Trust in a Pandemic. She has been a frequent contributor to numerous domestic and international media outlets including The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, The Washington Post, Vox, Stat News, San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, NBC Bay Area, BBC News.

## Climate-Watching: A Collision of Economics and History: In Pennsylvania, the Debate over Climate Is a Bitter One

### The state has both a long history of environmental action and a longstanding dependence on fossil fuels.

[from Inside Climate News, by David Shribman, July 17, 2022]

This is a state where natural gas production reached a record 7.1 trillion cubic feet in 2020, the most of any state outside Texas and more than the energy supplied by the state’s nuclear power plants. It’s a state that has 49 underground gas storage sites, more than any other in the nation.  Its coal production ranks behind only Wyoming and West Virginia, and only Wyoming and Texas export more total energy to other parts of the country.

This is also a state where voters will select a new governor and a new senator in November. No state has more vital elections this year; no state has a more complicated and more contentious political culture; and no state provides a better test case for environmental issues and for the future of the climate-change debate.

Welcome to Pennsylvania.

Don’t pack a sweater: the average temperature in the state has risen by 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the first Earth Day, in 1970, a bigger increase than the national average.

Don’t breathe deeply: the state’s two major cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are among the nation’s worst 25 metropolitan areas for annual particulate air pollution

And don’t fail to note the irony—of a state whose economy and lifestyle are unusually dependent on fossil fuels but whose history is unusually rich in the love of nature and the protection of the environment. It is this collision of economics and history that makes environmental issues so emotional, the debate so bitter, the outcome so vital.

Pennsylvania was the home of John J. Audubon, who cultivated in Americans a love of bird life; Rachel Carson, whose clarion call about the environment jolted the country and shook the Kennedy administration; John Chapman, known to school children nationwide as Johnny Appleseed; J. Horace McFarland, a photographer and conservationist celebrated as the Father of the National Park Service; Harold L. Ickes, the pathfinding Secretary of the Interior during the Franklin D. Roosevelt years who shored up perhaps the least effective and most corrupt arm of government while elevating the standards and practices of the National Park Service; and Jerome Rodale, the publisher whose books gave voice to the ethos of sustainable agriculture. And it was the adopted home of William Penn, the founder of the colony that would bear his name and the author of a conservation edict requiring that 20 percent of the land in the Province of Pennsylvania be preserved as wooded. It is no surprise that Pennsylvania was one of the first states to adopt an Environmental Bill of Rights.

But Pennsylvania also was the setting for environmental milestones of an entirely different type. In Donora, a 1948 smog episode killed 20 people and saddled some 40 percent of the town’s population with respiratory disease. A third of a century later, the partial meltdown of Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Dauphin County spewed radioactivity into the Harrisburg area.

The state has had multiple mine disasters and the subsequent contamination of nearby fields and streams. As early as 1883, the explorer and adventure travel writer Willard Glazer wrote that Pittsburgh’s industry was “rendered possible by the coal which abounds in measureless quantity in the immediate neighborhood of the city”—and which contributed to the poisoning of many of the area’s waterways and the despoiling of the air. As late as 1940, 81 percent of the city’s dwellings burned coal. The emissions from the steel mills that helped the country win two world wars and build a robust mass-consumer economy only added to the environmental distress.

This duality is part of, defines all of, Pennsylvania’s natural and political history.  It is embedded in the origin story of Pennsylvania and reinforced in contemporary history. In the WPA Guide to Pennsylvania, the writers of the New Deal-era product of the Federal Writers Project spoke in 1940 of how the main plant of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company in Ford City, Pennsylvania, “extends for a mile along Third Avenue in a series of long squat units composed of red brick,” and how the state’s Red Hills were exceeded only in Belgium as “the finest farm section in the world.” Precisely three-quarters of a century ago, in his classic 1947 book, Inside U.S.A., the journalist John Gunther wrote, “To a degree the story of Pennsylvania is the story of iron, coal, and steel. Yet of its 26 million acres, almost half is forest!”

A state known for producing metals and fouling the air is also a state known for hunting grouse, pheasant, deer and bear. A state teeming with factory workers is a state loaded with farmers. A state with two major power centers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, is a state where elections often are decided in the agricultural “T” between the two. A state known for building belching steel plants is also a state where, this spring, the owners of Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, announced that they would install solar panels on the iconic house to offset the power used at the site on Bear Run in Fayette County. And when it comes to environmental issues, Pennsylvania is a state where manufacturing and banking interests have enormous influence in the stately Capitol in Harrisburg, and also a state full of climate activists determined to hold industry in check and battle climate change.

“It is particularly difficult in Pennsylvania to come to any agreement on environmental issues because coal and natural gas have countervailing pressure against attempts to deal with climate change,” said Joel A. Tarr, a Carnegie Mellon University historian who studies the effect of technology on the urban environment. “When you tell people that we have a problem with air quality here, their response is that it used to be much worse. This is a place where we won’t have a water-quality solution until we have a cholera epidemic and we won’t address climate change until we have a major catastrophe that brings it home to Pennsylvania.”

Not that there haven’t been efforts. “A generalized good always takes a back seat to a specific interest,” Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, told me in an interview for this article. “We all benefit from a healthy environment, but there are specific interests that are specifically harmed if we do the right thing. Those specific interests have a lot of power in places like Harrisburg.”

The frequent result of these countervailing impulses and competing interests: paralysis on environmental matters, even as the latest United Nations report, published in April, warned that the world was on a path to a rate of global warming more than double the 2.7-degrees Fahrenheit set as the preferred global goal in 2015 in Paris.

U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned that the result would be “unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals,” adding, “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies.”

### A City (and State) in Crisis

As man proceeds toward his announced goal of the conquest of nature, he has written a depressing record of destruction, directed not only against the earth he inhabits but against the life that shares it with him.

In many ways, Pittsburgh—once smoky, still gritty, now proud of its “eds-and-meds” economy, its edgy youth culture and yeasty locavore restaurant scene—stands as a symbol of Pennsylvania’s environmental and climate crisis.

In the past half century, the city’s average temperature has risen by 2.8 degrees, according to figures compiled by Climate Central—a jarring result for a city where the local political grandees like to emphasize how the area has moved beyond its heavy-manufacturing past. Even with the dramatic decline in the steel industry, Pittsburgh remains the 10th worst city in the country in terms of the presence of short-term particulate matter, and the Breathe Meter indicator that monitors the area’s air has found that 88.5 percent of metro areas in the country have cleaner air. Moreover, a study by Community Partners in Asthma Care found that the rate of asthma in Pittsburgh-area school children is nearly three times the national average.

For generations, no essay on the environment of Pennsylvania was complete without citing Charles Dickens’ characterization of mid-19th century Pittsburgh as “hell with the lid lifted,” or Lincoln Steffens’ complaint about the city’s “smoky gloom” and the “volcanic light upon the cloud of mist and smoke” that appeared with the periodic opening of the blast furnaces. When my wife and I bought a house in Pittsburgh two decades ago—when almost the entire steel industry had closed down in the area—we paid thousands of dollars to have a century’s worth of soot blasted from the brick facade.

All of that before the word “fracking” was introduced into the lexicon of the Pennsylvania debate.

“There is gas in the ground and people have been taking it out of the ground since before I was governor,” Wolf said in the interview. “If I could snap my fingers, we would go completely to wind and solar. I haven’t figured out how to do this. The job is to manage the transition to that energy future.”

Republicans in recent years have sought to deregulate the natural gas industry, expand drilling, ease stipulations for gas permits, open state parklands for energy extraction and open new opportunities for gas pipelines, having the state subsidize them.

“These things were not always Republican goals,” said David Hess, who was secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection under Republican Governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker. “Republicans once had environmental issues as a pretty high priority. Only recently have Republicans changed their approach. This issue is no longer bipartisan, and that applies especially to climate change. But the only way we can break the loop we are on is to do something different, and yet industry and their Republican allies want more and more. Putting all the stuff in the air from fossil fuels cannot be good, especially when we have clean alternatives.”

And yet the Keystone State has not been entirely a conscientious objector to environmental initiatives.

At a time when there was so much soot in the air that Pittsburgh kept its street lights on all day long and businessmen were forced to change their soiled shirts after returning from a walk to a lunch appointment, Mayor David Lawrence undertook a dramatic anti-smoke campaign in 1946 that greatly improved the air quality in the city. “I am convinced that our people want clean air,” the mayor said in his first inaugural address. “There is no other single thing which will so dramatically improve the appearance, the health, the pride, the spirit of the city.”

Lawrence was not alone. “The advocates of the Pittsburgh Renaissance conceived of decreased pollution as a means of assisting the transition of the city from a heavy-industry to a service economy by improving, modernizing, and reconstructing its central business district,” Stefano Laconi, who teaches the history of the Americas at the University of Florence, wrote in a 1999 essay in the journal Pennsylvania History. He argued that the initiative provided Lawrence “not only with the foundation of a public-private partnership but also with the basis of a bipartisan political coalition with local Republican moguls like Richard King Mellon.”

Years later, Republican Gov. Ridge, with Democratic support, began his administration with an initiative to clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. At the same time, the legislature won national attention by reorganizing the state’s approach to these issues, creating separate departments of Environmental Protection, which concentrates on protecting the air, water and land from pollution, and Conservation and Natural Resources, focused on state parks and state forests.

“At the beginning of my administration, I issued a challenge to Pennsylvania to become a national leader in finding new ways to protect our environment while promoting economic progress, to provide for the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet needs of their own, and to think in terms of sustainability, with both the economy and our environment,” Ridge told me.

The governor was fond of quoting the adage, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” As governor, he said that,“I would often remind myself that the air we breathe and the water we drink should never be taken for granted.”

### Much to be Done and an Election That Matters

The fact that a man is to vote forces him to think.

Jonathan Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed

Ordinarily, the multi-interest collision of jobs and climate, energy and environment, might be top-shelf issues in a state that ranks second only to Texas in energy production and that had the largest increase in natural-gas production in the last decade. But that collision is a side show rather than the main event.

“All of these candidates need to speak up and tell us what they would do about the energy situation and the climate crisis that is growing more critical by the minute,” said Larry Schweiger, a former president of the National Wildlife Federation, PennFuture and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. “It is very frustrating to see candidates for governor and the Senate not making an effort to say how they would address these urgent issues. Both parties are guilty of  this, and it is a big omission and a big problem.”

Now Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Republican state Sen. Douglas Mastriano are facing off for governor and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz are fighting for the U.S. Senate seat being relinquished by GOP Sen. Patrick Toomey

The four will face questions about their commitment to climate change with new urgency—and new stakes. And the pressure may well come from a newly critical group of voters: young people.

A Harris Poll survey conducted with 4-H found just fewer than half of teenagers believe political and global leaders are taking meaningful action to protect the environment. There is reason to believe that the top tier of teenagers, eligible to vote, and their older brothers and sisters will be motivated and perhaps mobilized by these issues.

“There’s no question that environmental issues are far more critical for younger voters,” said Steven Farnsworth, the political scientist who is director of University of Mary Washington’s Center for Leadership and Media Studies in Virginia. “This has been going on since the first Earth Day. It has to do with the fact that younger people are going to be on this planet longer than older people.”

The approach that these four nominees bring to these matters is important. “It’s not about issues, it’s about values,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics and the author of the newly published How Gen Z is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America. “And the degree to which candidates can connect climate change into values, and display that they are thinking about the future, they could affect the turnout of young people and how they do vote.”

There is much to be done. Pennsylvania ranks 19th among the states in the rate of growth for wind power, according to the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, and 23rd among the states in the rate of growth for solar power. The potential is great; if solar units were placed on the roofs of Pennsylvania’s big-box stores, for example, the result could be the annual production of more than 3,000 gigawatt-hours of clean electricity. There are bills in the legislature to require the state’s suppliers of electricity to generate nearly a third of their energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to put the state on a course to having 100 percent of its energy needs provided by wind and solar energy and other sources by the middle of the century.

Much of the emphasis will be on the state level, which is why the gubernatorial race between Shapiro, the Democratic attorney general, and GOP state Sen. Mastriano is so critical.

Shapiro speaks easily about clean energy, says he believes that more electric-vehicle infrastructure investments must be made, and pledges strict monitoring of the state’s utility companies. But he has broken with Gov. Wolf over whether the state should join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, known as RGGI, which puts a price and descending cap on carbon emissions. With an eye toward the power of the state’s building trades, he believes RGGI will be ineffective and will cause hardship among the state’s energy workers and companies.

As the state’s Democratic Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Fetterman speaks of the climate issue as an “existential crisis” and argues that the jobs-versus-environment calculus represents a false choice. “We still need to make stuff in this country, you know?” A onetime advocate of a moratorium on new fracking sites, he now sees a rationale for a limited, perhaps temporary, expansion. “I have been steadfastly talking about how important it is that we retain the manufacturing jobs and the energy jobs in Pennsylvania that currently provide our energy security,” he said at a debate at Carnegie Mellon University, but added, “We also must acknowledge and recognize that we have to trend …. away from these.”

The Republican candidates in these two high-profile races take substantially different positions from their Democratic rivals. Oz, the Senate candidate, has abandoned his onetime advocacy of strict environmental regulation and calls for the “freedom to frack.” Mastriano, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, has argued that Wolf’s RGGI plan would “do far more harm than good” and this spring he submitted legislation to ban the federal government from regulating coal and gas extraction in Pennsylvania and to exempt the state’s industrial plants from the federal wastewater and air pollution rules. “We’re going to open up our energy sector like you’ve never seen,” Mastriano said at his victory celebration after he won the GOP primary.

### A Monumental Figure

Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price of misery, degradation, and failure for the progress and prosperity of our day.

If there is one symbol of the tensions, perspectives, history and impulses of Pennsylvania in environmental matters it is not the gentle Audubon, who nurtured a love of birds in the heart and mind of the nation, nor the hard-faced leaders of power plants and coal mines. It is not the passionate Carson nor the resolute lobbyists who besiege the legislative chambers in Harrisburg. All are part of the Keystone State culture, but none of them personifies the colliding interests in this vital and emotional area of political conflict.

Only one person does, and that is Gifford Pinchot.

Today, Pinchot is largely a forgotten figure, overshadowed as a conservationist by John Muir, eclipsed as a visionary by Theodore Roosevelt. Today, Gaylord Nelson, the late senator from Wisconsin and the founder of Earth Day, is regarded as the political magus of the conservation movement, a title once plausibly claimed by Pinchot. Today the world regards Wangari Maath, the Kenyan activist who founded the Green Belt Movement and won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, as the most celebrated troubadour and warrior for the environment.

All these titles once belonged to Pinchot, a monumental figure who was the 28th governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He served two terms in the Capitol and lived in a family home named Grey Towers, just outside the tourist town of Milford, Pennsylvania. The home is now a National Historic Site and home to the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, dedicated to fashioning innovative responses to conservation and environmental challenges.

Pinchot, who died in 1946, went to his grave with a green-plated resume: First chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Chief of the U.S. Division of Forestry. Head of the Pennsylvania forestry division. At one time, the term “Pinchotism” was derided in Congress by business interests the way “Reaganomics” was criticized by early 1980s Democrats—until Pinchotism, like Reagonomics, was redeemed in the public eye.

And yet Pinchot does not wear an unblemished hero’s halo in history. Until recent damaging disclosures, that belonged to his chief rival, John Muir, his one-time ally and patron, though the shine on Muir was darkened in 2020, when Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club that Muir helped found in 1892, cited him for having “made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous peoples that drew on deeply harmful racist stereotypes, though his views evolved later in his life.”

But in the long-ago conflict between Muir and Pinchot that spanned the period 1908 to 1913 and spilled over into later years is a story that captures the conflict at the heart of the environmental issue in the nation—and in Pinchot’s home state.

In the perspective of today, Pinchot had an ability, in the phrasing of his biographer, Char Miller, “to maintain what might seem like contradictory impulses—the desire to live simultaneously and within nature, to exult in its splendors while exploring its resources.” But in his titanic clash with Muir, Pinchot was cast as the bête noire of the movement he plausibly could claim to have helped create.

Muir was all about preservation and Pinchot was about wise or multiple uses of the land,” Douglas Brinkley, the Rice University historian who wrote about the PinchotMuir conflict in his 2010 The Wilderness Warrior, said in an interview. “The dispute was over what was conservation. Muir became a folk hero through the long shadow of the Sierra Club but Pinchot never had a legacy organization group.”

The venue of the clash was the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, but its implications extended nationwide and the forces at play continue to collide in Pennsylvania. Pinchot, a close advisor and friend to Theodore Roosevelt, was caught in the vise created by the moral passion of conservationists and the physical thirst of Californians. San Francisco wanted water, early environmentalists worshiped wilderness. There was no middle ground, though Pinchot was caught in the middle of the struggle.

It was, as the Library of Congress would characterize it a century later, “a division between those committed to preserving the wilderness and those more interested in efficient management of its use.” The two combatants had conflicting profiles: Pinchot was an insider, Muir was an outsider. Thus Muir claimed the moral high ground as the protector of the outdoors. The battle between the two men had its origins in Muir’s evolution to a view that, as Miller characterized it in his monumental 2001 Gifford Pinchot and the Making of Modern Environmentalism, “the practice of forestry and the preservation of wilderness were incompatible, a tentative conclusion that would harden into conviction in the first years of the new century.” The result was temporarily to place Pinchot, politically if not emotionally—and supremely awkwardly—in the same camp as his traditional opponents, business executives with a lust for land and lucre.

Pinchot saw this issue as a struggle between “the extreme desirability of preserving the Hetch Hetchy in its original beauty” against the legitimate water needs of San Francisco and other communities in the Bay area. Muir, in a letter to Pinchot, said the proposal to flood the valley to provide water for “the dear people” was “full of graft,” later characterizing it as a moral outrage and a mortal threat to wilderness values. It was a classic confrontation between a master of the political world and a mystic of the natural world.

The struggle wore on for years. Later Pinchot would tell a congressional hearing that “injury to Hetch Hetchy by substituting a lake for the present swampy shore of the valley…is altogether unimportant when compared with the benefits to be derived from its use from a reservoir.”

In the end, Hetch Hetchy was flooded and, though Pinchot remained prominent in conservation circles—he was advising Franklin Delano Roosevelt on these matters as they related to the future United Nations as late as the World War II years—his reputation was no longer unsullied.

The crosswinds of the Hetch Hetchy controversy—the issues it raised, the passions it ignited, the arguments it prompted—now blow as a gale through Pinchot’s home state. They are the prevailing winds of Pennsylvania.

### A Step in the Right Direction

A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.

Coal once accounted for 60 percent of all electricity generated in Pennsylvania, a rate that has declined by more than half; today only a handful of large grid-connected coal-fired electric plants operate in the state. That represents a steep decline, though Homer City Generation said this spring that it would not follow through with tentative plans to deactivate its units in Indiana County. “This decreasing dependence on these sorts of plants shows we are going in the right direction in reducing climate-changing emissions from coal-fired plants,” said Hess, the former GOP environmental commissioner. “But it is mostly because of the competition between natural gas and coal. The problem is that we are now getting down to the point in the power sector that we can’t get additional big emission reductions. There aren’t more plants to close to give us those reductions. So we have to adopt other kinds of strategies.”

Pennsylvania has more than 86,000 miles of streams, more than any state in the lower 48. The miles of these waterways that can support brook trout are dwindling, in part because of climate change and in part because the invasion of the hemlock wooly adelgid insect has infected the shoreline hemlock trees that otherwise would provide shade for the streams.

This is only the latest incarnation of the centuries-long decline in the health of the state’s waterways. In the 18th century, the British army captain Harry Gordon pronounced the site of the confluence of Pittsburgh’s three rivers as “the most healthy, the most pleasant, the most commodious, the most fertile spot of Earth known to European people.” A century later, another British observer said that in Pittsburgh, “Man befouled the streams, bedraggled their banks, ripped up the cliffs, hacked down the trees, and dumped refuse in their stead.”

But the environmental crisis is not confined to western Pennsylvania. To take a random reading of air pollution in the state, Pennsylvania’s worst air quality on April 5 was in Mechanicsburg, outside Harrisburg, in the center of the state, followed by New Bloomfield, 23 miles away, according to IQ Air real-time figures. At the same time, Wilkes-Barre, with an average increased temperature of 3.3 degrees since 1970, substantially beats the average national rate of 2.6 degrees. So does State College, at an increase of 3 degrees.

Over the decades, the emphasis has changed from “conservation” to “stopping climate change,” with the threat of neighborhood contamination (the late 1970s), acid rain (the early 1980s), and the ozone hole (the mid 1980s) joined by global warming, a term introduced into the scientific and then the political lexicon when James Hansen, a NASA atmospheric expert warned a Congressional committee in 1988 that he and a set of climate modelers believed they could “confidently state that major greenhouse climate changes are a certainty.” He told the lawmakers that “the global warming predicted in the next 20 years will make the Earth warmer than it has been in the past 100,000 years.”

### Opposition from an Unusual Coalition

To contemplate nature, magnificently garbed as it is in this country, is to restore peace to the mind, even if it does make one realize how small and petty and futile the human individual really is.

Many of the political tensions in Pennsylvania were visible in the debate that began last year—and became even more bitter this year—over RGGI. Gov. Wolf made becoming a part of the alliance of 10 New England and Middle Atlantic states—and, as a result reducing Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions by as many as 227 million tons by 2030—one of the top priorities of his final year in office.

The result was opposition by an unusual coalition of Republicans and labor unions, who argued that the governor’s plan would reduce jobs in the state.

“The ‘jobs-versus-environment’ framework is almost always part of these debates,” said Christopher Borick, a political scientist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. “Environmental laws are for the public good—to protect the health and well being of individuals—so it is hard to argue against that. So what do you use as your argument? Jobs. It is sometimes a false choice, and often the environmentally sensitive approach can be a good economic choice. But politically, it is very powerful argument even if the reality isn’t the case.”

Last December, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a resolution that would halt the governor’s effort to join RGGI. The governor then exercised his veto, citing technicalities in the resolution and arguing that joining the group “is a vital step for Pennsylvania to reduce carbon emissions and achieve our climate goals.” When a stay issued by the Commonwealth Court expired in late April, the Wolf administration went ahead and published the regulation, and in less than a day the odd-couple coalition of coal unions and coal companies went to court to fight the order, which required operators of power plants fired by coal and natural gas to buy allowances for every ton of carbon dioxide they emitted.

“I want to give \$150 million a year to a board headed by organized labor,” the governor, referring to a trust fund to aid individuals displaced by the transition to sustainable energy sources, told Inside Climate News as the controversy raged. “What don’t they like about this?”

In a separate interview, state Sen. Wayne Fontana, the chairman of the chamber’s Democratic Caucus and a member of the Game and Fisheries Committee, described the resistance mounted by Republicans in the legislature as “a wedge to use against the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the fall.” He said the state has taken substantial steps to address environmental threats, arguing, “We have done a lot with lead in the water, we have beaten up air and water polluters.”

### A Lack of Urgency

And so we live in a time when change comes rapidly—a time when much of that change is, at least for long periods, irrevocable. This is what makes our own task so urgent. It is not often that a generation is challenged, as we today are challenged. For what we fail to do—what we let go by default, can perhaps never be done.

Rachel Carson, accepting the Audubon Medal of the National Audubon Society in 1963

Now the challenge is global warming, which dwarfs the threat from 19th century industrial pollution and 20th century acid rain.

This past year did not have a silent spring when it came to the climate change issue. Indeed, the reports were more dire, the warnings more urgent, the lack of substantial attention more dangerous. The world, and Pennsylvania, face dramatic alternative outcomes from their actions or inaction. One choice might redound to cities underwater or lower energy consumption as a result of the creation of, in the characterization of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of  “compact, walkable cities.” Another might be a continued reliance on private, gasoline-powered automobiles, trucks and buses or the “electrification of transport in combination with low-emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature.”

The April report of the IPCC, the United Nations group that assesses science in relation to global warming, was sobering if not chilling. The bottom line: Net emissions are continuing to rise. “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C [2.7°F] without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors,” said Jim Skea, co-chair of the working group that produced the latest report, “it will be impossible.”

That will require what the IPCC working group co-chair Priyadarshi Shukla described as “the right policies, infrastructure and technology…to enable changes to our lifestyles and behavior.” And it will require a combination of policies and planning.

“We are opposed to long-term planning here in Pennsylvania,” said Professor Tarr of Carnegie Mellon University. “We react to crises, and we do so inadequately. People here generally have no sense of urgency about these kinds of issues.”

David Shribman served as editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 16 years and won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on American political culture as Washington bureau chief of The Boston Globe. He now writes a nationally syndicated column, contributes a separate column to The Globe and Mail in Canada, and teaches American politics at both McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy and Carnegie Mellon University.

## Countries and Deep Patternings: China

### China’s High-Level Equilibrium Trap as a Concept

The Pattern of the Chinese Past
Mark Elvin
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1st edition (June 1, 1973)

The 1973 classic work in Sinology, Mark Elvin’s The Pattern of the Chinese Past gives the student an “exemplum” in the kind of scholarship that might be called “pattern-seeking.” Without such attempts, all of history becomes formless and shapeless and an endless parade of “routs and rallies,” and “crimes and follies and misfortunes” (in Edward Gibbon’s catchphrase).

Professor Elvin renders Chinese history through an economic perspective instead of using the common dynastic classification by attempting to answer three questions:

1. What contributed to the continuity of the Chinese empire?
2. Why was the Chinese economy the most advanced in the world from the Song dynasty (960-1279) up until the latter half of the Qing dynasty (mid-1800s)?
3. Why did China fail to maintain her technological advantage after the mid-fourteenth century while advancing economically?

In the first section of the book, the author elucidates the staying power of the Chinese empire was due to the following factors. The economics of defense in relation to the size of empire and the power of its neighbors never became an extreme burden that it rendered the state impotent for any consecutively long period of time. It was always able to reformulate itself after a short disunity or rule by a foreign power of the whole, which only happened twice within a two thousand year period (Mongol and Manchu rule). Two other factors that contributed to the continuity of the Chinese state include a relatively isolated existence from the rest of the Eurasian landmass and the important placed on cultural unity, beginning with the first emperor’s destruction of local records in order to quell local loyalties (pp. 21-22). Both of these factors had been built up over time through a revolution in communication and transportation.

The second section of the book analyses the causes of the economic revolution that occurred between the 8th and 12th centuries and the technological growth that accompanied it. The transformation of agriculture, especially in the south, was the major impetus that fueled the economic growth of this period. This revolution in agriculture had four aspects.

1. The preparation of soil became more effective as a result of improved or new tools and the extensive use of manure and lime as fertilizer.
2. Seed improvements allowed for double cropping.
3. Improvements in hydraulic techniques and irrigation networks.
4. Specialization in crops other than basic food grains (p.118).

Improvements in transportation and communications were almost as important as agriculture in growing the economy. Water transport saw big gains and led to the golden age of geographic studies and cartography, with envoys traveling as far away as Africa. Money and credit matured during this time helping to expand the economy. Paper money made its first appearance in 1024. Improvements in science, medicine, and technology also occurred during this period. However, despite all these advancements, “this period was the climax and also the end of many preceding centuries of scientific and technical progress” (p. 179). Although the Chinese economy continued to advance from the 14th century on, albeit on a smaller scale, it was not accompanied by improvements in technology.

The last section deals with this phenomenon, describing the distinctive characteristics of this late traditional period (1300-1800), and then proceeding to point out why technological advancements did not keep pace with the growth in the economy. This period sees a rise of small market towns in the sixteenth century and a decline in contact with the non-Chinese world around the middle of the fifteenth century. Also, by the eighteenth century serfdom disappeared, aiding population growth, which had reached 400 million by the mid-1800s. Elvin interestingly points out that the highly sophisticated metaphysics that evaded Chinese intellectual thought during the Ming and Qing dynasties negated any deep scientific inquiry (p. 233). In the attempt to explain the lack of technological advancement, Elvin disputes a number of conventional explanations. Contrary to popular belief, there was enough capital during this period to finance simple technological advances, also there was minimal political obstacles to economic growth.

In short, Elvin believes “that in late traditional China economic forces developed in such a way as to make profitable invention more and more difficult. With falling surplus in agriculture, and so falling per capita income and per capita demand, with cheapening labor but increasingly expensive resources and capital, with farming and transport technologies so good that no simple improvements could be made, rational strategy for peasants and merchants alike tended in the direction not so much of labor-saving machinery as of economizing on resources and fixed capital. Huge but nearly static markets created no bottlenecks in the production system that might have prompted creativity” (p. 314). This condition is what he terms as a “high-level equilibrium trap.” The term “trap” to describe the condition of late imperial China’s technological advancement in relation to the economy is similar to Escape from Predicament, Thomas Metzger’s analysis of the “predicament” that confronted Chinese intellectual thought from the Song through to the end of the Qing dynasty. Both explanations have at their core the idea of late imperial China not being able to generate real sustainable progress internally, stating that it was the Chinese response to the Western threat in the mid to late 1800s that finally brought the needed change.

## COVID-19 and “Naïve Probabilism”

[from the London Mathematical Laboratory]

In the early weeks of the 2020 U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, guidance from the scientific establishment and government agencies included a number of dubious claims—masks don’t work, there’s no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and the risk to the public is low. These statements were backed by health authorities, as well as public intellectuals, but were later disavowed or disproven, and the initial under-reaction was followed by an equal overreaction and imposition of draconian restrictions on human social activities.

In a recent paper, LML Fellow Harry Crane examines how these early mis-steps ultimately contributed to higher death tolls, prolonged lockdowns, and diminished trust in science and government leadership. Even so, the organizations and individuals most responsible for misleading the public suffered little or no consequences, or even benefited from their mistakes. As he discusses, this perverse outcome can be seen as the result of authorities applying a formulaic procedure of “naïve probabilism” in facing highly uncertain and complex problems, and largely assuming that decision-making under uncertainty boils down to probability calculations and statistical analysis.

This attitude, he suggests, might be captured in a few simple “axioms of naïve probabilism”:

##### Axiom 1: more complex the problem, the more complicated the solution.

This idea is a hallmark of naïve decision making. The COVID-19 outbreak was highly complex, being a novel virus of uncertain origins, and spreading through the interconnected global society. But the potential usefulness of masks was not one of these complexities. The mask mistake was consequential not because masks were the antidote to COVID-19, but because they were a low cost measure the effect of which would be neutral at worst; wearing a mask can’t hurt in reducing the spread of a virus.

Yet the experts neglected common sense in favor of a more “scientific response” based on rigorous peer review and sufficient data. Two months after the initial U.S. outbreak, a study confirmed the obvious, and masks went from being strongly discouraged to being mandated by law. Precious time had been wasted, many lives lost, and the economy stalled.

Crane also considers another rule of naïve probabilism:

##### Axiom 2: Until proven otherwise, assume that the future will resemble the past.

In the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, there was at first no data that masks work, no data that travel restrictions work, no data of human-to-human transmission. How could there be? Yet some naïve experts took this as a reason to maintain the status quo. Indeed, many universities refused to do anything in preparation until a few cases had been detected on campus—at which point they had some data, as well as hundreds or thousands of other as yet undetected infections.

Crane touches on some of the more extreme examples of his kind of thinking, which assumes that whatever can’t be explained in terms of something that happened in the past is speculative, non-scientific and unjustifiable:

“This argument was put forward by John Ioannidis in mid-March 2020, as the pandemic outbreak was already spiralling out of control. Ioannidis wrote that COVID-19 wasn’t a ‘once-in-a-century pandemic,’ as many were saying, but rather a ‘once-in-a-century data-fiasco’. Ioannidis’s main argument was that we knew very little about the disease, its fatality rate, and the overall risks it poses to public health; and that in face of this uncertainty, we should seek data-driven policy decisions. Until the data was available, we should assume COVID-19 acts as a typical strain of the flu (a different disease entirely).”

Unfortunately, waiting for the data also means waiting too long, if it turns out that the virus turns out to be more serious. This is like waiting to hit the tree before accepting that the available data indeed supports wearing a seatbelt. Moreover, in the pandemic example, this “lack of evidence” argument ignores other evidence from before the virus entered the United States. China had locked down a city of 10 million; Italy had locked down its entire northern region, with the entire country soon to follow. There was worldwide consensus that the virus was novel, the virus was spreading fast and medical communities had no idea how to treat it. That’s data, and plenty of information to act on.

Crane goes on to consider a 3rd axiom of naïve probabilism, which aims to turn ignorance into a strength. Overall, he argues, these axioms, despite being widely used by many prominent authorities and academic experts, actually capture a set of dangerous fallacies for action in the real world.

In reality, complex problems call for simple, actionable solutions; the past doesn’t repeat indefinitely (i.e., COVID-19 was never the flu); and ignorance is not a form of wisdom. The Naïve Probabilist’s primary objective is to be accurate with high probability rather than to protect against high-consequence, low-probability outcomes. This goes against common sense principles of decision making in uncertain environments with potentially very severe consequences.

Importantly, Crane emphasizes, the hallmark of Naïve Probabilism is naïveté, not ignorance, stupidity, crudeness or other such base qualities. The typical Naïve Probabilist lacks not knowledge or refinement, but the experience and good judgment that comes from making real decisions with real consequences in the real world. The most prominent naïve probabilists are recognized (academic) experts in mathematical probability, or relatedly statistics, physics, psychology, economics, epistemology, medicine or so-called decision sciences. Moreover, and worryingly, the best known naïve probabilists are quite sophisticated, skilled in the art of influencing public policy decisions without suffering from the risks those policies impose on the rest of society.

## Mathematics and the World: London Mathematical Laboratory

### Stability of Heteroclinic Cycles in Rings of Coupled Oscillators

[from the London Mathematical Laboratory]

Complex networks of interconnected physical systems arise in many areas of mathematics, science and engineering. Many such systems exhibit heteroclinic cyclesdynamical trajectories that show a roughly periodic behavior, with non-convergent time averages. In these systems, average quantities fluctuate continuously, although the fluctuations slow down as the dynamics repeatedly and systematically approach a set of fixed points. Despite this general understanding, key open questions remain concerning the existence and stability of such cycles in general dynamical networks.

In a new paper [archived PDF], LML Fellow Claire Postlethwaite and Rob Sturman of the University of Leeds investigate a family of coupled map lattices defined on ring networks and establish stability properties of the possible families of heteroclinic cycles. To begin, they first consider a simple system of N coupled systems, each system based on the logistic map, and coupling between systems determined by a parameter γ. If γ = 0, each node independently follows logistic map dynamics, showing stable periodic cycles or chaotic behavior. The authors design the coupling between systems to have a general inhibitory effect, driving the dynamics toward zero. Intuitively, this should encourage oscillatory behavior, as nodes can alternately be active (take a non-zero value), and hence inhibit those nodes to which it is connected to, decay, when other nodes in turn inhibit them; and finally grow again to an active state as the nodes inhibiting them decay in turn. In the simple case of N = 3, for example, this dynamics leads to a trajectory which cycles between three fixed points.

The authors then extend earlier work to consider larger networks of coupled systems as described by a directed graph, describing how to find the fixed points and heteroclinic connections for such a system. In general, they show, this procedure results in highly complex and difficult to analyze heteroclinic network. Simplifying to the special case of N-node directed graphs with one-way nearest neighbor coupling, they successfully derive results for the dynamic stability of subcycles within this network, establishing that only one of the subcycles can ever be stable.

Overall, this work demonstrates that heteroclinic networks can typically arise in the phase space dynamics of certain types of symmetric graphs with inhibitory coupling. Moreover, it establishes that at most one of the subcycles can be stable (and hence observable in simulations) for an open set of parameters. Interestingly, Postlethwaite and Sturman find that the dynamics associated with such cycles are not ergodic, so that long-term averages do not converge. In particular, averaged observed quantities such as Lyapunov exponents are ill-defined, and will oscillate at a progressively slower rate.

In addition, the authors also address the more general question of whether or not a stable heteroclinic cycle is likely to be found in the corresponding phase space dynamics of a randomly generated physical network of nodes. In preliminary investigations using randomly generated Erdős–Rényi graphs, they find that the probability of existence of heteroclinic cycles increases both as the number of nodes in the physical network increases, and also as the density of edges in the physical network decreases. However, even in cases where the probability of existence of heteroclinic cycles is high, there is also a high chance of the existence of a stable fixed point in the phase space. From this they conclude that the question of the stability of the heteroclinic cycle is important in determining whether or not the heteroclinic cycle, and associated slowing down of trajectories, will be observed in the phase space associated with a randomly generated graph.

The paper is available as a pre-print here [archived PDF].

## Education and Word and Number Hidden Vagueness

These mini-essays help students of any age to re-understand education in a deeper and more connected way.

They look for “circum-spective” intelligence. (Not in the sense of prudential or cautious but in the sense of “around-looking.”)

One of the things to begin to see is that explaining things in schools is misleading “ab initio” (i.e., from the beginning).

Let’s do an example:

In basic algebra, you’re asked: what happens to (x2 – 1)/(x – 1) as x “goes to” (i.e., becomes) 1.

If you look at the numerator (thing on top), x2 is also 1 (since 1 times 1 is 1) and (1 – 1) is zero. The denominator is also (1 – 1) and zero.

Thus you get 0 divided by 0.

You’re then told that’s a no-no and that’s because zeros and infinities lead to all kinds of arithmetic “bad behavior” or singularities.

You’re then supposed to see that x2 – 1 can be re-written as (x – 1)(x + 1) and since “like cancels like,” you cancel the x – 1 is the numerator and denominator and “get rid” of it.

This leaves simply x + 1. So, as x goes to 1, x + 1 goes to 2 and you have a “legitimate” answer and have bypassed the impasse of 0 acting badly (i.e., zero divided by zero).

If you re-understand all this more slowly you’ll see that there are endless potential confusions:

For example: you cannot say that (x2 – 1)/(x – 1) = x + 1 since looking at the two sides of the equal sign shows different expressions which are not equal.

They’re also not really equivalent.

You could say that coming up with x + 1 is a workaround or a “reduced form” or a “downstream rewrite” of (x2 – 1)/(x – 1).

This reminds us of the endless confusions in high school science: if you combine hydrogen gas (H2) with oxygen gas (O2) you don’t get water (H2O). Water is the result of a chemical reaction giving you a compound.

A mixture is not a compound. Chemistry is based on this distinction.

Math and science for that matter, are based on taking a formula or expression (like the one we saw above) and “de-cluttering” it or “shaking loose” a variant form which is not identical and not the same but functionally equivalent in a restricted way.

A lot of students who fail to follow high school or college science sense these and other “language and number” problems of hidden vagueness.
School courses punish students who “muse” to themselves about hidden vagueness. This behavior is pre-defined as “bad woolgathering” but we turn this upside down and claim it is potentially “good woolgathering” and might lead to enchantment which then underlies progress in getting past one’s fear of something like math or science or anything else.

One is surrounded by this layer of reality on all sides, what Wittgenstein calls “philosophy problems which are really language games.”

Think of daily life: you say to someone: “you can count one me.” You mean trust, rely on, depend on, where count on is a “set phrase.” (The origin of the phrase and how it became a set phrase is probably unknowable and lost in the mists of time.)

“You can count on me” does not mean you can stand on me and then count something…one, two, three.

In other words in all kinds of language (English, say, or math as a language) one is constantly “skating over” such logic-and-nuance-and-meaning issues.

The genius Kurt Gödel (Einstein’s walk around buddy at Princeton) saw this in a deep way and said that it’s deeply surprising that languages work at all (spoken, written or mathematical) since the bilateral sharing of these ambiguities would seem deadly to any clarity at all and communication itself would seem a rather unlikely outcome.

You could also say that drama giants of the twentieth century like Pinter, Ionesco and Beckett, intuit these difficulties which then underlie their plays.

All of this together gives you a more “composite” “circum-spective” view of what is really happening in knowledge acquisition.

## Education and “Intuition Pumps”

Professor Daniel Dennett of Tufts uses the word “intuition pumps” in discussing intuitive understanding and its tweaking.

Let’s do a simple example, avoiding as always “rocket science,” where the intricacies weigh you down in advance. We make a U-turn and go back by choice to elementary notions and examples.

Think of the basic statistics curve. It’s called the Bell Curve, the Gaussian, the Normal Curve.

The first name is sort of intuitive based on appearance unless of course it’s shifted or squeezed and then it’s less obvious. The second name must be based on either the discoverer or the “name-giver” or both, if the same person. The third is a bit vague.

Already one’s intuitions and hunches are not fool-proof.

The formula for the Bell Curve is:

$$y = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{\frac{-x^2}{2}}$$

We immediately see the two key constants: π (pi) and e. These are: 22/7 and 2.71823 (base of natural logs).

The first captures something about circularity, the second continuous growth as in continuous compounding of interest.

You would not necessarily anticipate seeing these two “irrational numbers” (they “go on” forever) in a statistics graph. Does that mean your intuition is poor or untutored or does it mean that “mathworld” is surprising?

It’s far from obvious.

For openers, why should π (pi) be everywhere in math and physics?

Remember Euler’s identity: e + 1 = 0

That the two key integers (1 and 0) should relate to π (pi), e, and i ($\sqrt{\mathrm{-1}}$) is completely unexpected and exotic.

Our relationship to “mathworld” is quite enigmatic and this raises the question whether Professor Max Tegmark of MIT who proposes to explain “ultimate reality” through the “math fabric” of all reality might be combining undoubted brilliance with quixotism. We don’t know.

## Education and Finality Claims

Stephen Hawking kept saying he wanted to discover the ultimate world-equation. This would be the final “triumph of the rational human mind.”

This would presumably imply that if one had such a world-equation, one could infer or deduce all the formalisms in a university physics book with its thousand pages of equations, puzzles and conundrums, footnotes and names and dates.

While hypothetically imaginable, this seems very unlikely because too many phenomena are included, too many topics, too many rules and laws.

There’s another deep problem with such Hawking-type “final equation” quests. Think of the fact that a Henri Poincaré (died in 1912) suddenly appears and writes hundreds of excellent science papers. Think of Paul Erdős (died in 1996) and his hundreds of number theory papers. Since the appearance of such geniuses and powerhouses is not knowable in advance, the production of new knowledge is unpredictable and would “overwhelm” any move towards some world-equation which was formulated without the new knowledge since it was not known at the time that the world-equation was formalized.

Furthermore, if the universe is mathematical as MIT’s Professor Max Tegmark claims, then a Hawking-type “world-equation” would cover all mathematics without which parts of Tegmark’s universe would be “unaccounted for.”

In other words, history and the historical experience, cast doubt on the Stephen Hawking “finality” project. It’s not just that parts of physics don’t fit together. (General relativity and quantum mechanics, gravity and the other three fundamental forces.) Finality would also imply that there would be no new Stephen Hawking who would refute the world-equation as it stands at a certain point in time. In other words, if you choose, as scientists like Freeman Dyson claim that the universe is a “vast evolutionary” process, then the mathematical thinking about it is also evolving or co-evolving and there’s no end.

There are no final works in poetry, novels, jokes, language, movies or songs and there’s perhaps also no end to science.

Thus a Hawking-type quest for the final world-equation seems enchanting but quixotic.