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41415Science and Politics was Re:ggggg gobbledygook

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  • Exist List Moderator
    May 29, 2007
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      A few years ago there was a man we called President. He knew the
      power of words. He declared he would be the "Real" Environmental
      President and vowed to protect "wetlands." (We won't dwell on his
      vice-president, since that might contradict his current persona.)

      Anticipating a change, the Department of Agriculture, the Department
      of the Interior, and (separately) the Bureau of Land (mis-)Management
      set forth to define "wetland" since this term lacked an official
      definition. As a result, scientists and activists attended policy
      forums and started to get a definition of "wetland" codified. This
      upset farmers and developers, who then demanded more hearing and
      public forums. These hearings were during the presidential campaign,
      so there were sob stories from farmers who had lost their land to
      lizards and shrimp.

      In academic circles, the definition of "wetland" had been set in
      works by Tripp (1991, p. 203) and Golet (1991, 635) as "areas
      sufficiently saturated by water that only specially adapted plants
      can grow there. Saturation with water prevents oxygen from working
      its way into the soil and therefore creates conditions of no
      oxygen" (Tripp's definition).

      In 1989, under a different President (who must not have been an
      environmentalist since he was marked with the Red R), the Interagency
      Committee for Wetland Delineation published a precise manual on how
      to map wetlands and protect them from human activity. This was deemed
      good by many, but not trusted because of his Red R.

      Ah, but the "Real" Environmental President promised no net loss of
      wetlands during his administration. The scientists were happy. They
      trusted him. Unfortunately, to win an election in the United States,
      you must promise farmers in Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Minnesota,
      Illinois, Kansas, and so on, more land and more subsidies.

      Let us cut all of the boring dates and federal papers... you already
      know what happened. "Wetland" was redefined and there were hearings.
      The definition began to change. A "Revised Manual" was developed and
      "wetlands" as defined by Congress (1992) according to Francis Golet
      "disregards more than 15 years of scientific research."

      By the time the New Improved Environmental President took office,
      legislation was ready to be passed and there are now two definitions
      of wetlands: the one in academic texts and the one maintained by the
      federal government.

      Politicians don't care about science unless they can control the
      terms. Scientists are not very good at public relations, it seems --
      until there is an emergency and people have to listen to them.

      Science and politics -- without a discussion of stem cells or
      anything controversial.

      - CSW
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