A tale of two superpowers

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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Recent editions of Nature magazine have presented columns showing stark contrast between how China and the U.S., the top two economies in the world, approach environmental problems. Jixi Gao, director of the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences in China, relates that the rapid growth of China has caused pollution and flooding. He and "other environmental scientists were included in constructive talks with government leaders" with the result that China now plans to protect one-quarter of its land to preserve biodiversity and the ecosystem [i].

In the U.S., on June 14, President Trump issued an executive order to cut the number of advisory committees by one-third or more. There are about 1,000 advisory committees, with 60,000 members, who provide input on decisions regarding health (e.g., food-borne illnesses), safety, and the environment. 

This drastic excision of institutional knowledge was done supposedly to save money, but these advisory panels cost little, and thousands of world-class scientists donate their time gratis to advise the government. By eliminating the panels that provide the factual evidence upon which rational decisions should be based, the government is simply making itself stupid. The Trump administration's attacks on science [ii] include censoring the words "climate change, halting a study by the National Academy of Sciences, and reversing a ban on a pesticide linked to neurological conditions in children."

Our "foe," China, uses the best available information to solve its problems whereas the U.S. not only makes willfully wrong-headed decisions, but is actively dismantling its institutional knowledge base. Guess which country will dominate the world within the next decade!

[i] How China will protect one-quarter of its land.  Jixi Gao.  Nature 569:457, 23 May, 2019.

[ii] Trump's plan would make government stupid.  Gretchen T. Goldman.  Nature 570:417, 27 June, 2019.

Tom DeCoursey

Oak Park

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William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 4:48 PM

I'd feel a lot better about inveighing against the obvious tyranny China is inflicting on its innocent Muslim minorities, they're systemic government theft of intellectual property and general repression of democratic freedoms, if my own country wasn't also imprisoning innocent people and doing it's own lever best to repress freedoms here. That said, Tom really needs to check what's in that kool-aid he's drinking.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 4:00 PM

Bruce: You obviously have to be sent to Room 101 (a 1984 allusion). Mr DeCoursey will get your mind right

Bruce Kline  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 10:55 AM

Wow. This is like traveling in a time machine back to the mid 20th century. In those days left of center "intellectuals" were praising the brutal Soviet Union as a model of human enlightenment and enhancement. Hey Ramona and Nick, this piece by Mr. DeCoursey is obviously satire. You know he can't be serious.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 10:24 AM

"China now PLANS to protect one-quarter of its land to preserve biodiversity and the ecosystem " . Dr. DeCoursey, please stop praising people for "plans". Especially from the current largest polluter in the world. If you think communist China is so great and on the forefront to solve climate change, why don't you join them in their righteous endeavor? Meanwhile in China, one can only visit websites "approved" by the government. Artists, poets, journalists, activists are routinely jailed. Their mining operations wipe out entire villages, etc. etc.etc. The list of human rights violations in China is practically endless. No worries, they have wonderful leadership with grandiose plans to fix the environment, everything else is meaningless. Typical leftist praising a communist regime from the comfort of his westernized/capitalistic/ Judeo/Christian armchair.

Nick Polido  

Posted: July 29th, 2019 8:06 AM

Well that explains the build up of artificial Islands in the China sea, hostility to the Tibetan Monks, Hong Kong , Taiwan and the raping of Africa's natural resources all in the name of biodiversity? You go Jixi Gao!

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