Friday, March 31, 2006

Enron'ing the environment

I'm not sure if anyone else has used this term before, but I'd like to propose a new word: "Enron'ing".

Enron'ing: using deceptive tactics to create the illusion of prosperity in the face of severe decline or failure.

My first official use is in response to this New York Times story about how Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns were able "to announce proudly on Thursday the first net increase in wetlands since the Fish and Wildlife Service started measuring them in 1954."

An increase in wetlands for the first time since 1954? That's fantastic, right? Well, no, not if you notice what accounts for the increase. The increase came from the figures being fixed. We lost 523,500 acres of swamps and tidal marshes but gained 715,300 acres of "shallow-water wetlands" aka ponds.

In the bog of the federal regulatory code, a wetland is defined as a marshy area of saturated soils and plants whose roots spend part of their lives immersed in water. In the Interior Department's periodic national surveys, a wetland is defined, more or less, as wet.

Traditional tidal, coastal and upland marshes count, but so do golf course water hazards and other manmade ponds whose surface is less than 20 acres.

See? Just like Enron's numbers looked great on paper, right up to the bankruptcy, so to will our environment look great on paper. The Bush administration is Enron'ing the environment.

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